Zoodles Blog Learn and Play Every Day

August 28, 2009

Introducing our Education Team

Filed under: Zoodles Blog — Erin @ 9:51 am

One of the great things about starting a company like Zoodles in Silicon Valley is the proximity to Stanford University.  Stanford students and graduates are incredibly bright and hard working, so when it came time to build our education team, we knew we wanted to fill it with graduates from Stanford who focused on education.  Before telling you a bit about each member of the team I want to share with you a little bit about the work the team does.

One of the first tasks the team took on was to dissect and understand both national and state educational standards.  We infused these standards into the Zoodles product which means that we are able to appropriately target games to children based on their age / grade level as well as their specific abilities (e.g. – ability to read).  With this understanding of educational standards the team then scoured the web finding the best games for children and tagging them appropriately.  In short, this team is responsible for ensuring that Zoodles has the most fun & educational content possible for children!  As you will see, we have an incredibly talented and highly qualified team for this task and reading through their bios should give you both a sense of comfort about who is screening content for your children as well as a sense of how seriously we take our role as curators of your child’s internet experience.

Rachel YongRachel Yong started working at Zoodles back in January while also enrolled in Stanford’s Masters Program in Learning, Design, and Technology.  After five years at Stanford (including her undergrad), she is glad to say that she’s finally graduated!  With a passion for using technology to help kids learn, you can imagine what a perfect fit Zoodles is for her. Working on the Zoodles Education Team has been a huge pleasure, both because she’s had the privilege of meeting Debbie and Nicole – extreme content experts – but also because she’s had the chance to start building her own expertise in the domain.  For example, she can confidently say that she now knows the national and state standards better than the back of her hand!  Even more importantly, she’s had the chance to really think about how to structure Zoodles so the games kids play can truly adapt to them and complement their natural cognitive and emotional development.

It’s hard to choose her favorite games after poring over so many great ones, but she can easily say which games she has personally spent playing – “off duty,” of course! – and those would be Fantastic Contraption and Untangle.  For kicks, she’ll also throw in the Most Grating Branded Characters (Based on Laugh), and they would be Dora the Explorer and Curious George…by a LANDSLIDE.

debbieDebbie Heimowitz has been part of the education team at Zoodles for the past seven months. Her background is creating educational films (including the Adina’s Deck series), as well as working at Disney Channel and Warner Bros. She loves discovering new games and videos that are both fun and educational! The most important thing is that kids are having fun while they are learning, which is her favorite part about Zoodles (and, of course, the amazing team!). The ratings and educational features are custom tailored to each child and parent- how cool is that! Debbie holds a Master’s degree in Education from Stanford University and Bachelors degree in Film Studies from UC Berkeley. In addition to Zoodles, Debbie creates & works in children’s films/tv, and teaches 5th/6th grade at a performing arts school. She hopes you are enjoying Zoodles and that you will check back frequently for new updates!

Holthuis FamilyNicole Holthuis has many years of experience as a teacher (high school biology), teacher educator, curriculum developer, educational researcher and evaluator.  She did her undergraduate work at UC Davis in Biology and then continued on at Stanford where she earned a Master’s degree and PhD in education.  She has had the opportunity to apply her skills to classrooms and non-profit programs around the Bay Area, with a focus on improving science curriculum and instruction in heterogeneous classrooms.

Nicole joined the Zoodles team about six months ago and is having a blast switching gears from a focus on learning that happens in the classrooms to learning that happens at home on the computer  She has three children, ages 8, 10, and 12, so she has first-hand knowledge of the challenges of finding safe, quality content on the web that her children will enjoy and learn from.  “One of my favorite things about working at Zoodles is the opportunity it gives me to discover some amazing websites.  There are some really poorly developed educational games and activities out there but there are so many real gems that are fun, stimulating and incredibly educational.  In particular, I tend to get completely caught up in the logic,  problem-solving, and spatial reasoning games that I have been reviewing.  Don’t tell Mark but I’d probably get more work done if some of these sites weren’t so darn challenging yet fun.”  You can check out some of Nicole’s favorites: Stained Glass and Line Rider on Zoodles.

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