What’s your background, and how did you get started in education?
I actually remember the day when I decided to become a teacher. I was in preschool, painting a juice can, when I thought to myself, “I want to do what she does.” The only thing that changed over the coming years was the grade level.
Most of my teaching experience has been with highly capable elementary students. I loved challenging them and seeing the interesting places that their minds go. In later years, especially, many of my students were “twice exceptional” meaning that in addition to being academically exceptional, they also had one or more challenges such as ADHD, dyslexia, or another learning disability. I enjoyed finding creative ways to differentiate to meet their needs and to keep them excited about learning.
After I had children of my own, I took a job running the computer lab and teaching technology. Those were relatively early days, but even then I could see how computers were changing education, how quickly the kids picked things up, and how excited they were to learn and create.
What’s your favorite memory from your time as an educator?
I think for me, it is often that “ah ha” moment when a student finally understands something that has been frustrating them. You can see it in their whole face when something that has been a source of hardship becomes a source of success and pride. Of course, not all learning is like that. Most often it is building one small skill upon another, but every so often everything just comes together in a student’s mind. I also really love class projects where everyone contributes to make something amazing that they are all proud of. Even better when there is a way to share it with the greater community outside our classroom.
How did you first hear about Boom Cards?
Well, fun story. I am the inspiration behind them. One day back in 2012, I was talking to one of my friends about how I wanted to make an app for my task cards. She said that I needed to meet her friends Eric and Mary, and she set up a meeting. Eric loved the idea, but instead of creating an app for just my task cards, he made a creation platform and marketplace for the entire community. In the early days of Boom, I acted as an advisor, giving suggestions about what features teachers and students would and would not want. Later, I recruited the first Beta group of sellers. I have also presented for Boom at conferences and generally helped to spread the word about how awesome the platform is for sellers, teachers, and students.
How has your understanding of “online learning” evolved in recent years?
Clearly, the pandemic has shown us all how essential it is to have an online option. But we also saw many kinds of online activities fail either because they were too difficult for students to navigate, they did not effectively address the skill or standard being taught, or they failed to keep students engaged. One thing I love about Boom Cards is that they address each of these challenges. Boom Cards are easy to use, can be targeted to almost any skill or standard, and they are fun for students.
How did Boom Learning change the way you were thinking about technology in the classroom?
I really love how easy it is to create Boom Cards. The tools are intuitive and easy to learn. Not only can teachers target specific learning objectives, but they can also easily differentiate. One of the best things about technology is that it can be interactive, which keeps students engaged. And of course the gamification helps with that too.
When did you realize that you might be really good at designing curriculum with Boom Cards?
I have always enjoyed creating task cards and since Boom Cards are basically digital task cards, it was easy to make the switch. Many of the cards I had already created could be easily adapted as Boom Cards. Then, as the Boom tools continued to evolve, we were able to add more features like moving pieces and audio.
Who is your audience when you design new decks?
Our core audience is 3-5 teachers. I tend to focus on ELA and reading, while my partner, Cassi, does a lot of math Boom Cards. We have also noticed that a lot of our cards are used for students with special needs or for differentiation.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get noticed as a publisher on Boom Learning?
I think two things are important. First be creative. Anyone can make a basic multiple choice set of cards. Find a way to use the tools to make your cards stand out, whether that is a unique use or game, a subject or standard that is underrepresented in the marketplace, or stunning design. Ideally, all three. Second, you can’t just put your decks into the marketplace and expect buyers to find them. You need to bring the buyers to your products, through your own emails, blog posts, social media, ads, etc.
What was the biggest surprise you’ve had while making and selling Boom Cards?
I think one of the biggest surprises is how varied they can be. There are so many tools you can use and so many ways to customize. Boom allows a publisher’s creativity to flourish both in content and design. I am constantly amazed at what I see on the site.
What trends in EdTech do you find most interesting or exciting?
At this moment, I am most excited about Chat GPT and all the many ways it might be used in the future. It, and other AI platforms, will change the face of education. It will change how we teach, and how students learn. As educators, we must learn to harness its power and teach our students to use it. Just like the calculator, it is a tool. A really big and powerful tool, but still, a tool that we all need to learn to use effectively.
What are some opportunities you see for new publishers that are just getting started?
Honestly, I’d start playing with that Chat GPT. It can save you a ton of time. Personally, I still edit fairly heavily, but it gives me ideas and it gives me a place to start. It can write sentences, and passages, it can proofread and create answer keys. Blog posts, social media posts, some people are even using it to program.
Can you really make money from selling Boom Cards?
Absolutely. But like anything else, it takes time and dedication. You need to create the cards that the educators in your niche want and need. But it doesn’t stop there. Through your own email, blog, social media, videos, etc., you need to bring those teachers to your Boom Store and show them why they need what you have created. Even if we never go back to full-scale at home learning (and we very well might have to again some day), online learning is not going away. If done correctly, online learning is easier for the teacher and more engaging for students than worksheets. Show teachers how Boom can make their lives easier and their students’ learning more effective and more fun and you are golden.
Have you always considered yourself to be an entrepreneur?
I kind of think I always have been. When I was a kid, I used to love selling Campfire Girl cookies, lemonade, etc. As a teen I had a pretty profitable babysitting business. Later, I had a side business reselling used children’s books on Ebay while I was teaching. But everything came together when I found Teachers Pay Teachers and then later with Boom Learning.
Any last words of wisdom?
Always keep a list of ideas. Some people call it a brain dump. Add to it whenever something pops into your head—which is often at the oddest times. I keep mine in categories. I have product ideas, marketing ideas, ideas for potential businesses, and just a random assortment of things I might want to try someday. When I am feeling at loose ends, I look at my list and pick something to work on. This will also keep you from dropping your current project to work on an exciting idea that you just came up with. If you know the new idea is waiting safely on your list (you can even circle it in red and put a star next to it), you can finish what you are working on first.
Check out some of Rachel’s decks in the Boom Store.