Additional elementary articles:
TPN: The Pitsco Network
MB: Marie Barr, head of business development, TTS
Introduction: TTS Head of Business Development Marie Barr has worked at UK education leader TTS for more than 13 years. During this time, she has covered many global regions as her roles and responsibilities have evolved. Her current focus is to identify and onboard new opportunities and markets with particular focus on North America and Asia-Pacific regions. She’s quick to add that her excitement and passion about education are as strong today as the day she started with TTS.
TPN: I noticed a phrase on the TTS website, “Helping children to learn and love learning.” What does this mean exactly?
MB: This phrase leads to our mission statement of “Giving every child, every day, a reason to love learning!” Like Pitsco, the TTS focus is all based on helping children’s positive learning outcomes. We know that happy learners are more engaged, more receptive to new learning opportunities. Children are more likely to develop a lifelong love for learning using inspirational, fun, innovative resources. Our wide range of resources is designed and developed alongside education practitioners and in-house design experts helping to create the wow factor!
TPN: Explain in a nutshell how, during the past 30 years, TTS has grown to reach learners in 87 countries, providing new reasons for children to love learning.
MB: In a nutshell, well, it has been a long inspirational journey of time, dedication, and a vast amount of learning along the way . . . and many, many miles traveled. Hundreds if not thousands of conversations, listening, research, and, most of all, building highly valued relationships.
TPN: Testing, exploration, invention, dedication, resources, collaboration, innovation – how does TTS intentionally hit all these markers for its thousands of educational products?
Simply, we have an amazing team that enables us to evolve as a business and respond to the global education marketplace that is evolving at pace. Our experience and desire to embrace new innovative approaches will hopefully continue to serve the education sector well into the future.
TPN: How has the current pandemic affected the creation, availability, distribution, and use of TTS products?
MB: Our company, like many, has had to become very agile during the pandemic. It is true to say our development strategy has always been to respond and develop resources that support changing school needs as quickly as possible. The pandemic has added new challenges and school needs. TTS responded quickly, supplying a range of free downloadable activities, within a few short weeks, to support teachers and parents educating children at home, and we continue to develop and supply more downloadables as the lockdown has continued. We also quickly developed and supplied a range of social distancing products and materials to help schools navigate through new pupil safety requirements. In the background, our new product development projects have continued – it’s been amazing teamwork!
TPN: What percentage of product ideas come from educators with firsthand classroom experience, and how does TTS encourage sharing of such ideas, collect them, and act upon them?
MB: Impossible to quantify, hundreds if not thousands of conversations take place every year. The design and product realization is based on collaborative discussions between both internal and external education specialists in the UK and overseas. The investment in prototypes and continued consultation lead to the manufacture process. The delivery, the reaction, and, most importantly, the benefit to children’s education completes our cycle of product development.
TPN: Why did TTS opt to work with Pitsco as its primary US distributor of STEM products?
We recognize many company synergies, and we have a very similar story. Pitsco is a market leader, has students at the heart of its business, and is innovation focused. We relate closely with your mission statement. Pitsco’s core mission is one it shares with teachers: student success. We want young people to grow into confident, thoughtful leaders in whatever career or pathway they take in life.
TPN: It’s obvious TTS was created similarly to how Pitsco came to be – in a basement, launched by three educators filling a desperate need for hands-on exploration (STEM) materials. What do you believe the potential is for two companies coming together with this same student-centric focus?
Together, TTS and Pitsco create a continuum of hands-on STEM solutions that extend from early learning through to 12th grade. The TTS assortment fills age-level product gaps that existed across several portfolios. The product portfolio now better meets the needs of all educators and districts, a complete K-12 proposition. Together, we will transform the ordinary into something extraordinary.
TPN: What are a few of the common characteristics of successful early-learning programs and products regardless the country in which they are being used?
Most countries want to enhance children’s learning, provide a wealth of educational opportunities, and help develop skills for their future world. Providing a wealth of quality educational resources that inspire, excite, and bring joy to the learning environment is a common goal worldwide.
TPN: What are a few of the more overlooked aspects of early-learning education that TTS has discovered across the globe over the past decade or so?
Early-learning education all around the world has a lot of synergies and commonality in children’s developmental needs. The introduction and availability of technology varies tremendously from nation to nation with varying degrees of technological advancement in education. I would say not so much overlooked, just at different stages of introduction and evolution.
TPN: How does TTS address student needs based on diversity, especially internationally with so many cultural/ethnic/religious differences?
MB: Inclusive learning opportunities are available via a wide range of TTS open-ended resources that lend themselves to a wide variety of applications, learning activities, and environments for all children.
TPN: How are parents’ needs and involvement taken into consideration when products are developed?
Children’s educational development is at the heart of all our product development and products are created primarily for use in educational establishments, designed to be used by many children and repeatedly. We developed a range of “Take Home” learning packs designed specifically to help parents support their child’s learning at home. The packs have a series of books and activity suggestions to help parents to help their children.
TPN: Education MUST GO ON during this pandemic. What advice does TTS pass to educators and even parents working remotely to ensure student growth at each critical stage of life that cannot be put on hold?
We absolutely agree. It is so important for children to continue and maintain their learning at home and educators supporting via remote learning. A common piece of advice for parents is you don’t have to replicate the classroom environment and timetable at home. Plan the day or week with learning goals, but remember to include activities that are fun and creative, and spend time outdoors if possible too. Make the most of the school support programs and their support groups.
TPN: Looking ahead, how has TTS ensured it is prepared to address the changing needs of education?
Communication is paramount to understanding the changing needs. We will continue to have the plethora of golden conversations with education practitioners and specialists all around the world – and, most importantly, engage with our customers to ensure the children’s developmental needs are met.