My name is Kris Parmelee and I am one of the co-founders of DCODIA. When he was in first grade, my middle son Sam was diagnosed with dyslexia. My response was totally fear-based and born out of ignorance. Someone had to have had this one wrong; it couldn't be right; I mean, he's so smart and talked at such an early age. How could this be?
Well, it was. And truth be told, I knew in Kindergarten when the other kids were learning there sight words--and my kid was not--that something was going on. I just never imagined dyslexia. Oh, and for our family, throw ADHD on top of that.
Now, Sam is in fifth grade. It's been a hard road to travel, no lie. But I have learned so much and have built the most unbelievable sense of respect and admiration for my son.
You really cannot know what it's like to have a child with a learning disability unless, well...you have one. Every time my phone rings, I look down and cross my fingers that it isn't school. Another call, another missed assignment, more falling behind, more concerns over achievement. He's a great kid and he has come a long way thanks to the Orton-Gillingham method, educators dedicated to seeing him succeed, our child psychologist and thanks to the amazing moms I have met in my support network. We have all come a long way.
But I kept wondering. Why were there not more options for him to use in school? Why couldn't someone, something just read that one word in the instructions he couldn't read? Why couldn't he just stay in the classroom with his buddies and follow along silently and get help when he needed it? Why--given the current state of technology and the use of cell phones in our society--why wasn't there a solution that just let him self-select text on the fly and have it read allowed?
I searched high and low. I tried every assistive technology out there. Most assistive technology available was designed for adults with visual impairments. This was a kid who could see and actually wanted to read every word he could. It was just sometimes, a word or two would trip him up or he would need someone to read instructions on a test. Most assistive technology required a stationary PC. He was now a kid in fifth grade, moving classroom to classroom. Most assistive technology is bulky and screams "I need help!". He cares about what people think about him-he always wants to appear cool (just look at his collection of Axe hair gel to confirm).
My exhaustive searched for a solution kept turning up the same thing: nothing. No solutions on the marketplace that met our needs.
So, we created it. Necessity is the mother of invention and I am the mother of a child with dyslexia. In addition, I am also a consultant in the field of innovative technology. I hang out with smart people who are changing the world every day. I asked around, shopped the idea and finally found a partner who was intrigued enough to investigate.
Mark LaFay and I came to the same conclusion. I am not the only parent out there who needs a solution like this for my child. I am not the only one searching for something to support my child's efforts in reading but give them the extra help they need-when they need it. We were going to solve this problem. I have the passion and connection to the issue and Mark brings the technical know-how. We are both natural entrepreneurs with a crazy determination to make DCODIA a reality.
So, What IS Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is defined as a neurological disorder in which there is, despite conventional instruction and adequate intelligence, an unexpected failure to read. Dyslexia similarly affects boys and girls; an estimated 9.9 of the U.S.’s 58 million school agd children (K-12) have dyslexia or similar language-based learning disability. There is no pharmacological treatment or cure for dyslexia.
Every day, children with dyslexia fall through the cracks in the classroom environment, struggling to read at grade level, follow along in textbooks and to understand instructions on worksheets and tests. Challenges persist in the public and private as well as rural and urban school settings. As students with dyslexia age, they become less and less inclined to seek help for decoding and reading in the classroom.
Assistive technology can provide a cost-effective solution and keep the student in the classroom. However, there is currently no technology designed specifically to meet the needs of students with dyslexia. Most technology is expensive, requires a stationary PC, is limited in its dictionary and does not accurately translate text from the average student worksheet because of graphics, symbols and format (multiple choice, etc.).
DCODIA Fills the Gap
Introducing DCODIA. DCODIA is a discrete mobile solution designed to help students with dyslexia read without the assistance of a tutor, parent or teacher. DCODIA is a subscription-based software product (SaaS). Parents, tutors or teachers will be able to sign-up and create a free account with limited functionality so that they can test the service. Upgrading to the paid account will remove feature limitations and unlock additional features.
A student (or parent/teacher/tutor) establishes a DCODIA account online (dcodia.com) and syncs their iOS-, Android-supported device(s)—including the soon to be released Google Glass—to their account. Immediately, the child with dyslexia can begin using DCODIA. As he/she is reading and comes across a word they are unable to identify, they simply use their device to take a snapshot of the word, sentence or paragraph in question. Next, they use familiar finger motions to crop the picture to include only the words they want to know and click “send.” Within a second, the device reads the word to them either out loud or into their ear buds.
DCODIA also includes a unique feature (on a monthly subscription basis) which tracks each word the user selects to be read. Statistics can then be assembled into reports for viewing online or exporting and emailing to parents, teachers and tutors.
This feature will equip the student’s support team with the information needed to identify patterns, sounds, rules and word structures that students are struggling to decode. In response, tutors, parents or others can provide remediation in decoding strategies, Orton-Gillingham rules or tricks and suggestions on how to navigate that word—and similar words—in the future.
DCODIA will be a subscription service and will be priced at $25/month or $255 annually. With a subscription, you will be able to have DCODIA on multiple devices, scan unlimited words, access analytics and advanced reports and new features as they are rolled out!
Here is how we are going to finish building out the application!
In developing an application of this size, we have to anticipate and plan for several different components. We have a website that will drive account creation. There is a web application that does all of the data processing in the cloud and then serves the info up through a web portal. The web app also handles all of the mobile app processing. There is a mobile application (on multiple platforms) that have to integrate with all of the web services so that we can manage users and usage. We also have to take "SCALE" into consideration as well. This is a very broad stroke of what is involved, but here is how we plan to tackle the project.
Proof of Concept: As you can see in the video above, we have a proof of concept. The application is ugly, clunky and rudimentary, but it works and so far on a limited scale, we've been able to prove it is useful. Developing the proof of concept served as the beginning stages of our discovery process. In discovery we identify what we want to do and then how we can get there.
Discovery / Mechanical Phase: We will revisit the discovery stage and begin formulating flowcharts that will visually outline the flow of data between all of the moving parts. We will re-establish all of the features needed for the minimum viable product. We will create wireframes that will communicate functionality, user experience, navigation, etc. within the mobile apps, the web app and the website. Once we've worked out the wireframes and flowcharts, we will review with our human interaction expert, Dr. Bolchini (PhD, School of Informatics, IUPUI), revise based on his suggestions and then progress into the design phase.
Design Phase: Once we have approved the wireframes, we will bring a team of designers (right-side-of-the-brain-people) to assist with the creative components. This is where the UX is taken to the next level by implementing visual design and intuitive design. Steve Jobs said, "that design is just as much about how something looks as it is about how something works." We couldn't agree more. Once we've landed on approved designs for the consumer-facing web and mobile applications, we will then begin development of the application(s).
Technical Phase: In this phase we will take the wireframes, flowcharts, discovery documentation and designs and begin building the applications on Android and iOS all the while building the website, web application and all of the web services. As we approach the end of the technical phase, we will begin sourcing a small group of alpha testers to help shake out bugs, quirks, glitches and all other undesirables. Our alpha testers will feed information back to us so that we can revise and prepare for the beta launch.
Beta Launch: Once we are satisfied that the application has been tested rigorously enough, we will move forward with our beta test group. This will be a soft launch to a small group of YOU; families with loved ones living with dyslexia. We will gather your input and insights over the course of 30 days. We will then distill all of the feedback and begin revising and moving toward the public launch of DCODIA.
Here is an estimated production calendar based on a theoretical FUNDED date:
Week 0: Funded
Week 1: Project Prep
Week 2-3: Technical Discovery
Week 4-5: Wire framing
Week 6-7: Design
Week 7-12: Development
Week 13: Alpha testing
Week 14-18: Beta Testing
Here is how we are going to spend the money we raise! (anything raised beyond our goal will go toward the marketing component of our phase 2 of the rollout)
Application Development: $65,000.00
Beta Revisions: $15,000.00
Hosting / Data Center Infrastructure $1,000.00 (3-6 months)
Focus Groups $10,000.00
Interface Design Consulting (Dr. Bolchini School of Informatics, IUPUI) $5,000.00
Feasibility Study $2,000.00
Kickstarter Fees + CC Fees: $12,000.00
Awards + Award Shipping: $15,000.00
Marketing: STRETCH GOAL
Your Reward for Contributing
Earbuds, t-shirts and other consumables will be shipped to supporters within two weeks of the close of the campaign. Any level of contribution will qualify you to participate in the 30 day beta test period. Staring at the $250 level, all contributors will receive a subscription (ranging from six months to five years depending on contribution level). And, if you don't need the subscription, you can gift it to someone you love who needs it--or we will help you find a child with dyslexia that will benefit from your subscription.
We want to keep you in the loop. If you want to be in the loop, join our newsletter list to receive updates on progress. You can join here: www.dcodia.com
Risks and challenges
Our extensive research and careful preparation of a go to market strategy have demonstrated risks associated with this project are minimal. Some risks may include:
Technology not developed rapidly enough: We are working hard to raise funds fast to deploy the beta. Once the beta is released, DCODIA will focus on a tight user feedback loop to quickly gather user feedback and insights so we can complete software iterations to ensure the product is meeting customer needs.
Reluctance by parents to replace existing solutions with a new solution: Research in our target market indicates that parents of children with dyslexia are early adopters of technology that has the potential to impact their child's learning. Our go to market strategy includes targeting champions of change and thought leaders in several consumer circles to encourage adoption. Social media will also be an important way for those champions of change to share their positive experiences and the impact of DCODIA on their child(ren)'s learning and tutoring experience.
Opposition to classroom use by schools: Believe it or not, dyslexia is not recognized as a learning disability by most states in the U.S. There is an extensive grass roots parent-led movement underfoot to change this (Decoding Dyslexia) and they are making significant progress. However, school systems may be reluctant to introduce this technology in the classroom. This challenge will be overcome by building meaningful relationships with large and leading school systems to test implementation and seek approval for the use of DCODIA in the classroom. This restriction is only expected in the public school level. There are tens of thousands of students in the U.S. at private schools serving students with learning disabilities and adoption at these schools is expected to be widespread.
Our undying gratitude. And, the gratitude of tens of thousands of children (and adults) with dyslexia who will benefit from DCODIA. Not to mention the undying gratitude of their parents. I mean, homework time in a household with a child who has dyslexia isn't always a walk in the park.
1 year subscription to DCODIA (transferable to someone you love or someone we love who needs it) and public acknowledgement on the DCODIA website for one year. A superstar, that's what you are (or will be). Think about that! All those kids...all those parents...all those tutors seeing your logo as they log in and access their information. You da bomb.
One DCODIA Kickstarter special t-shirt, Four one-year vouchers for DCODIA ($1020 value)! Use this for your child, or gift it to anyone that can use it! Public acknowledgement on the DCODIA website for one year. A superstar, that's what you are (or will be).
1 iPad mini, Twenty one-year vouchers for DCODIA ($5100 value)! Use this for your child, or gift it to anyone that can use it! That's 20 kids using DCODIA for a year! You will also get your name/Logo on the mobile application loading screen for one year and public acknowledgement on the DCODIA website for one year. Okay, I know we said that one guy above was the bomb, but you are killin' it my friend!
1 ipad air, forty one-year vouchers for DCODIA ($10,200 value)! Use this for your child, or gift it to anyone that can use it!
A dinner date with Sam and the DCODIA team (transportation to Indianapolis not included) and name on the application loading screen and the website for one year. Does it get any better? Forget all the pomp and circumstance associated with your name on the website and the incredible deal on the subscription. The greatest thing about this level of contribution is dinner with Sam (and the rest of the DCODIA team). There is nothing more we would like in the world than for you to experience dinner with Sam, the amazing inspiration behind DCODIA.