By Danielle Nelson | Grand Rapids Business Journal

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Since March, when schools were ordered to close in Michigan, families have turned to the web for educational content for their children. 

One of the places they’ve turned is Anywhere Teacher, a yearlong online educational platform that was created by Grand Haven-based School Zone Publishing, which has been around for 40 years.

Subscriptions for the program have doubled since March, said Barbara Peacock, managing director of School Zone Publishing.

Anywhere Teacher is for children ages 2-8. With the surge in demand, Anywhere Teacher will accommodate more families with the launch of the kindergarten guided path portion of the program in July. The online platform already has content specific to preschoolers and first graders.

“Anywhere Teacher is a solution to support parents looking for educational resources to keep their children engaged at home,” said Jonathan Hoffman, president for School Zone Publishing. “The content available to families has been created in tandem with leading education professionals, is easy to use and is secure. With so much uncertainty surrounding schools and the likelihood that many questions will remain over the next several months, families will need access to additional resources to enhance at-home learning.”

The platform has been available for three years. It serves as a curriculum for children and provides more than 2,000 activities, including books, flash cards, games, songs and a Play Zone. Kindergartners will be able to learn their colors, numbers and sounds of letters, among other things. 

“They say summer brain drain is 20% of what they learn they lose, and it happens every summer. It doesn’t matter whether it is during a pandemic or not,” Peacock, said. “What is great about Anywhere Teacher it can be used on any device. It is browser-based so you can get on a phone or a laptop and multiple kids can be on at the same time.”

Peacock said the curriculum for Anywhere Teacher is constantly being updated. She said School Zone Publishing has been able to work with teachers locally to help align the activities with the national educational standards. Some of the teachers are from the Grand Rapids area, including the Kenowa Hills and Spring Lake public school districts, and the company also uses a local preschool teacher for assistance.

“It is nice to have local teachers to work with because we also get to go inside the classroom and observe children using our product so that we can improve what we make,” she said. “It is really important with digital products. With Anywhere Teacher it is really important to understand how quickly they are able to navigate the interface to play the games, see what they learn from the games, how they are enjoying it and just to really watch them interact. When we go into the classroom, we try not to give them any help. We are just there to observe how they use the product.”

The publishing company, which was founded by educators James Hoffman and his wife Joan Hoffman, has been on the front line of technological change. Anywhere Teacher is just the latest program launched by the Grand Haven company.

A School Zone app was part of Apple’s first-generation iPad debut in 2010. In 2013, School Zone introduced the first in its new flagship Little Scholar product line — educational tablets for kids — which eventually included the “mini,” a tablet for smaller hands that was preloaded with 70-plus apps, eBooks, songs, videos and more, according to the company website.

“School Zone has always been innovative in our approach to education,” Peacock said. 

Educational platform caters to new audience

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