I'm writing this from Calgary today, having flown here to speak at the International Association Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions World Congress (a.k.a. IACAPAP). I was invited to present Brili and insights derived from our platform's data that we hope will help parents soon.
That, and I'm visiting my dad.
My father was an educator his whole career, starting as a teacher and working his way up to school principal, board superintendent and eventually to a professor at Laurentian University's teacher's college. He even ran that for a few years. My late mom was a teacher. My little sister Adèle teaches high school now.
I'm proud to say that through Brili, I now have an opportunity to carry on the family tradition.
We knew from the many educators and parents who use Brili that helping kids stay on task in classrooms is a very real challenge. "Can you make Brili for schools?" We heard this a lot.
In February, Ontario Centers of Excellence announced AdvancingEducation, a program conceived to solve real-life problems in the education sector by funding partnerships between Ontario public education institutions and private sector technology companies.
So for the last few months, while Brili has continued to serve families at home, we've been quietly building a formidable partnership that will bring our real-time, gamified assistive technology into schools.
Early on, we obtained the enthusiastic support of Mariane Sincennes, a friend of my sister's and vice-principal of Ecole Secondaire Publique Omer-Deslauriers in Ottawa. She and principal Dominique Vielleuse, being courageous, innovative and progressive educators of the very best kind, officially joined their school to our project.
We also received a pledge of support from the leadership of Conseil Scolaire Viamonde, Southwestern Ontario's French-language public board. (Once again, through Adèle's network. Thanks, Sis!)
Of course, Brili's real-time, multi-kid architecture makes it a natural fit for classroom activities, so we're excited to extend our home-based product to meet the needs of educators. It's even localized for French so we can serve our partner schools' teachers and students in their working language.
As many of you know, Brili has been benefiting from IBM Canada's hospitality and support since January, so they also joined the partnership. They are generously contributing in-kind expertise, software and even space for our team. The intrepid Andrew Safranko did the hard work of corralling IBM's resources and getting all of the necessary approvals.
Our partnership with Dr. Rhonda McEwen and the Semaphore Research Cluster at the University of Toronto also provided a great opportunity to develop the best possible solution for schools. Rhonda and her team would bring research rigor to the project, not to mention specialized expertise and resources. We were absolutely over the moon to have them join in on the AdvancingEducation project.
With this amazing team, we were feeling very confident indeed. That said, there was much work ahead and some very stiff competition from accomplished ed tech companies (you've probably heard of them).
The application process for AdvancingEducation lasted several months and included an "expression of interest" to get on the short list, then a formal application and live pitch to a very large selection committee in mid-July.
On July 25th, OCE informed us that our project had been selected for funding, but we couldn't officially announce it until all of the contracts had been executed by all parties –lots of fun– and the project became active.
This last piece finally fell into place last week.
What Comes Next
This is, of course, awesome news for Brili because it lets us continue doing what we love to do: designing and building cool technology that solves real problems for people.
Great things are going to happen for our users, too. We'll continue to offer the current version of Brili, but over the next few months as we work on the project, families will see many of the improvements we develop for schools appear in their updates, too. We also plan to offer integrations between the school and home versions as soon as possible.
For educators and students, we're going to start by listening to you and doing our best to understand the challenges we can help with. We'll be testing incremental releases in classrooms at our partner sites and incorporating their real-world feedback. In addition, we also plan to provide a public beta as soon as it's feasible.
On behalf of Team Brili, I'd like to extend our warmest thanks to our customers, to our partners, to OCE, our families and to all of our many kind supporters for helping us get to this very important milestone. We couldn't have done it without you.
I type these last few sentences in my dad's pickup truck, waiting as he completes a hang gliding lesson. (I'm not kidding.)
Though I may not follow in those footsteps any time soon (he leaves none if he's airborne, right?) it would seem that with every passing year, I'm otherwise becoming more and more like my dad.
And that is something I'm very proud of.