The start and end of 2020 may, on the surface, appear to be a complete dichotomy. January and February seemed to be the beginning of a promising year, then March happened. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forced all of us to change how we view and make choices about health and safety, education and work, and recreation and travel. For millions of us, there were countless “What now?” moments.
On March 20th, as educators were first struggling with transitions to virtual and hybrid learning, I accepted the position as CEO at Boxlight. I previously served as President of the company since July 2015 and helped guide Boxlight through several business acquisitions, an Initial Public Offering in 2017 and subsequent industry growth. I’m grateful for the confidence of our Board of Directors, employees, and shareholders to entrust me to lead the company through our next phase. We have a tremendous base of talented employees and a comprehensive suite of award-winning solutions. I am committed to strong growth as we continue to deliver our solutions to education and business environments with an aim to be the leading provider in our industry.
Before I reflect on this unique and momentous year, I want to thank all of those who have helped Boxlight remain a positive force, particularly in education technology. I am proud of who we are as a company and how we provide educators the products needed to do the amazing work that they do. Without further ado — 2020.
At FETC in Miami, Florida, we introduced the ProColor Interactive Flat Panel to attendees, showcasing its Touch 360° interactivity and accessibility to Microsoft Office 365 and Google Drive cloud storage systems, on a LED-illuminated 4K UHD display. We also exhibited our Mimio MyBot and ShareSpace Giant Moon Map™ and Giant Mars Map™ bundles. Educators could watch and try the programmable Mimio MyBot rovers equipped with sensors to explore the giant maps. This was STEM interactivity and skills boosting at its best!
At BETT in London, we debuted the MimioDisplay3 interactive touchscreen with features such as palm erasing, Infinite Sketch, Unplug’d mirroring for devices, and Windows Ink support making this an easy-to-use digital board for teachers and students. We also demonstrated the lesson creation and delivery tools of our OKTOPUS software, the simple-to-use MimioMoovly video creation software, Mimio MyBot for helping students learn programming basics, and the innovative uses of the Mimio MicroCloud Server.
We continued to feature our ProColor Interactive Flat Panel, Mimio MyBot and ShareSpace giant map bundles, and MimioMoovly video software at TCEA in Austin, Texas. We also exhibited the MimioClarity™ Classroom Audio Distribution System which amplifies learning with a networked audio system so that every learner in the classroom can hear what the teacher is saying, regardless of distance or ambient noise from outside of the room. Attendees were impressed with the easy set-up, 60-watt amplifier, and teacher and student microphones to help boost engagement while learning. In addition, our professional development division — Boxlight-EOS Education — spoke about the many training choices we have made available to educators to help them continue to integrate technology in their teaching practice.
Nederland ISD in Texas chose Boxlight to update their learning spaces with our 75” ProColor Series Interactive displays complete with MimioStudio™ classroom software. Cynthia Laird, Director of Instructional Technology at Nederland stated, “We pick our education partners carefully, and we make sure our partners have professional development, product support, and user-friendly interfaces. The fact that Boxlight’s interactive touch panels are ‘plug-and-play’ and easy to use goes a long way toward ensuring teacher adoption and student usage.” What an awesome win for all those involved in this multiyear installation contract.
We were proud that our Mimio MyBot and ShareSpace Education’s Giant Moon Map™ and Giant Mars Map™ programs were chosen by Union County Public Schools in North Carolina to augment their STEM learning. Students in six 6th grade classes developed a plan to work with 10 programmable Mimio MyBot rovers which are equipped with sensors that can read information from the ShareSpace vinyl floor maps which then sends the information back to robotic controllers. Students were then to use the data to formulate and test hypotheses about Mars and the moon.
As I previously mentioned, this month I also accepted the position of CEO. At the time, I shared my optimism and commitment to work alongside our tremendous Boxlight employees, partners, and other stakeholders as we grow our footprint in the education technology market. I am as dedicated today as I was then to further the company mission to become a leader in providing interactive technologies.
With most of the world closing schools and switching to distance teaching and learning, our Boxlight team created Boxlight Together, a collection of free multimedia resources to help teachers transition to a remote learning environment. Resources and support included free G Suite for Education and Microsoft 365 Education webinar training to help teachers grow their skills with these platforms, as well as access to self-paced online PD, webinars on demand, Boxlight Quick Learn recordings, and our team of Digital Learning Specialists.
To broaden our STEM offering, we acquired Robo3D and MyStemKits. Robo 3D is a leading brand of 3D printers and MyStemKits is the largest online collection of primary and secondary STEM curriculum for 3D printing. With these additions, we now have a more comprehensive suite of STEM solutions that can support educators as they incorporate STEM education.
Teachers have truly shown their hearts this year and this month was just the beginning of expressing our appreciation for all that they have had to do since schools closed. In the United States, National Teacher Day was officially May 5, but this year ‘Teacher Appreciation Day’ is every day considering what they have had to navigate this year. #thankateacher
Boxlight-EOS developed two teacher training courses specific to remote learning. The Platform Essentials Course is designed for teachers and students to get started with Chromebooks and G Suite, and Windows 10 and Office 365 tools for teaching and learning. The Distance Teaching Essentials Program is a more structured path for teachers to learn the G Suite or Office 365 tools, enabling them to deliver quality instruction for remote and hybrid learning environments.
We closed out this month with the webcast “Home on the Moon!” facilitated by Jim Christensen from the ShareSpace Foundation and Hannah Olson from MyStemKits. Jim shared activities for transforming the home learning environment into a ‘moon base’ while Hannah walked attendees through 3D modeling and designing the moon base. What a fun treat for all the learners at home!
We were privileged to expand our partnership with Clayton County Public Schools (Atlanta, Georgia), Georgia’s fifth-largest school district. CCPS will continue to work with our Professional Development Services division, Boxlight-EOS Education throughout the 2020-2021 school year, which includes online, onsite, and consultancy training with the Mimio Whole-Class learning solution. In addition, Boxlight-EOS will support the district’s Extended Learning Beyond the Classroom platform via professional training to help teachers incorporate G-Suite as part of the CCPS initiative to strengthen student achievement and engagement face-to-face and online.
Already in development, but officially launched this month, was our MimioConnect® Blended Learning Platform. MimioConnect is a cloud-based teaching and learning platform that helps teachers streamline lesson delivery in any learning environment, including remote and hybrid. This groundbreaking platform combines innovative lesson building and instructional tools to create an active learning environment, wherever the teachers and students are connecting from. Not only can teachers integrate with most commonly used platforms in education such as Google Classroom, Microsoft 365, Schoology, and Canvas, but it can also import a variety of resources and materials including interactive lessons created using SMART Notebook, Promethean ActivInspire, MimioStudio, and OKTOPUS. To further help teachers gauge student progress, there are polling tools and real-time feedback monitoring so lessons can quickly be adjusted to meet learning needs.
The confidence schools and districts have about our solutions speaks a lot about our relationships with these institutions. Atlanta Public Schools, one of the largest districts in the United States, extended its original 5-year contract for an additional year. The APS 21st Century Learning Bundle is a complete suite of classroom technology (ProColor interactive panel and MimioStudio classroom software), professional development, and warranty support. The additional year will support the APS goal to increase student engagement and accelerate learning with a transformational 21st Century Learning Environment designed to improve critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration.
This month also saw the announcement of Tech & Learning magazine’s 2020 winners of its annual Awards of Excellence. According to Christine Weiser, Tech & Learning Publisher and Content Director, “For this year’s contest, our judges looked for stand-out products that are helping schools navigate these challenges by solving problems and driving innovation.” Among the winners were the Boxlight-EOS Distance Teaching Essentials professional development course and MyStemKits K-12 standards-driven, 3D-printable curriculum with over 300+ lessons and 30+ 3D modeling design challenges.
Boxlight UK opened an online store for the purchase of accessories, professional development, and software. By providing customers and partners with a convenient way to purchase new and replacement products, learning for all is continuous and without disruption or delay.
This was an exciting month as we were thrilled to announce a strategic partnership with Samsung Electronics America to provide education technology bundles consisting of Samsung interactive or digital displays, classroom software, and self-paced, online professional development. The Samsung Classroom Bundles provide teachers with a complete solution that can be easily adopted to create an engaging learning environment for students. Samsung Electronic America’s Chris Mertens, VP of Sales, Display Division, stated, “Through our partnership with Boxlight, Samsung is proud to usher in the next generation of education tools. Samsung and Boxlight solutions offer educators endless productivity possibilities by condensing multiple tools and innovations required for lessons as part of the education bundles.”
We are confident that the Samsung Classroom Bundles will allow teachers to stay focused on teaching, encourage students to accelerate learning, and provide district leaders confidence that their ed tech investments are making a difference.
Further expanding our reach into the education technology market, we acquired Sahara Presentation Systems PLC, a leader in distributed and manufactured AV solutions with world-renowned brands such as Clevertouch and Sedao. Headquartered in the United Kingdom and founded in 1976 by brothers Kevin and Nigel Batley, Sahara is a multi-award-winning distributor and manufacturer of touchscreens and digital signage products. Mark Starkey, former CEO of Sahara and current President of Boxlight, stated at the time, “I am very excited about the journey ahead as we join Boxlight. The global footprint and infrastructure of Boxlight, with their experience in delivering comprehensive education technology solutions, paired with our extensive experience and expertise in AV technology and products, will position us to provide our customers across the world with solutions for advanced and collaborative working environments.”
As we continue to provide educators with solutions that will help them teach effectively, Boxlight-EOS launched the Educator Essentials PD package to help teachers make the most of their technology to deliver meaningful synchronous lessons no matter their students’ locations – in-class, remote, or hybrid. The courses were designed to help teachers build confidence with ed tech, including Best Practices for alternative learning environments.
Clevertouch, now a Boxlight group, launched the LYNX Whiteboard to help support distance learning with features such as content sharing options using Google Drive, One Drive, and Dropbox to best support a digital learning ecosystem. Shaun Marklew, former COO at Clevertouch and newly appointed Chief Technology Officer with Boxlight, made this statement about the LYNX Whiteboard – “More than 90 percent of the world’s learners are being impacted by school closures. Education professionals are rising to the challenge to build and deploy distance learning programs. LYNX Whiteboard is designed to create effective digital learning content with the tools to better enable teachers (to do this).”
As we worked towards closing the year on an upswing, this month was one of the busiest! MyStemKits, a part of our MimioSTEM division, developed Virtual STEM Kits in response to the growing need for incorporating quality STEM instruction in student learning. Initially designed for distance learning, the 10 Virtual STEM Kits can be scaled up or down depending on student grade or ability level, work with MyStemKits lessons, and can be adapted for use in any learning environment.
We also had opportunities to talk more about the strengths of two of our solutions via podcasts through Equity and Access. First up was Mario DiAntonio, Sales Director for Strategic Partnerships for Samsung Electronics America. He spoke with Larry Jacobs from ace-ed.org about the benefits of using display technology in the hybrid learning environment. Then Braydon Moreno, Director of Boxlight STEM Solutions, spoke with Jacobs about the critical need for STEM education in schools, especially with the transition to hybrid or remote learning. (To listen to these podcasts, click here and scroll down to Podcasts: Voices of Education.)
Because of the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in, and the importance of keeping everyone safe, annual education conferences were facilitated virtually including GAETC, NYSCATE, and the popular ISTE conference. Members of our Boxlight team were busy showcasing many of our learning solutions at these conferences, including MimioConnect, MimioClarity, MimioSTEM, and Boxlight-EOS Education teacher PD. Attendees at GAETC and NYSCATE had the chance to win a MimioView document camera for visiting our virtual booths or attending a live demo presentation. At ISTE20 Live, visitors to our virtual booth had the opportunity to win a 3-year licence of MimioConnect. We look forward to announcing winners soon.
This month started with a great podcast chat between Darin Beamish, our VP of Software Development, and Larry Jacobs of Equity and Access. Darin talked about the thinking behind MimioConnect and how it was designed to help teachers navigate through the challenges of remote learning so that it is seamless and continuous.
Then (drumroll, please) we had the extreme honor to announce that THE Journal awarded MimioConnect with Best Remote and Distance Learning Program, and MyStemKits Virtual STEM Kits with Best STEM/STEAM Program/Curriculum and Best Robotics System/Curriculum.
Darin Beamish stated, “We are excited to be on the forefront of the categories of remote, distance, and hybrid learning, and to deliver market-learning, easy-to-use solutions that solve real problems. The MimioConnect blended learning platform helps lighten teacher workload while keeping students actively engaged both inside and outside the classroom.”
Hannah Olson, MyStemKits co-founder and Product Manager of STEM Solutions at Boxlight said, “MyStemKits has always focused on creating engaging hands-on learning experiences, but with many schools moving towards hybrid or remote, we knew we needed to create solutions that would allow teachers greater flexibility. With our new robotics curriculum and virtual STEM kits, teachers are now able to engage in their favorite lesson plans no matter where their students are located.”
Additionally, we were notified that we won three Tech & Learning Best of Show Awards at ISTE20 Live for our MimioConnect Blended Learning Platform, MyStemKits and Robo3D, and Boxlight-EOS Education Teacher PD. I am incredibly proud of our hardworking software development, STEM solutions, and professional development teams.
This year has been unprecedented in so many ways, yet our Boxlight family has persevered and pushed through to continue to provide educators quality and state-of-the-art learning technology solutions. I am sincerely grateful to our many supporters and partners in education — teachers, tech directors, education specialists, and administrators. Your clear and enduring vision for education has helped to get our children through a difficult year that, at many times, seemed almost impossible to navigate through. Your heart has truly shown in this year, more than any other, what it means to be an educator.
As we step into 2021, I also want to express my appreciation to our tremendous customers, partners, employees, and shareholders. I look forward to what this year — and beyond — will bring.