Smata’s Story

I’m Bevan, and I started Smata in 2019 as a PLD focused entity. Formerly an ex-secondary school English teacher, in 2018 I had the honour of being a Core Education Dr Vince Ham e-Fellow where I explored the impact of play in a secondary school classroom. You can read about my research in NZCER’s SET magazine, and on the Core Education website. My work with learning stories also featured in Guy Claxton’s book, The Learning Power Approach to High School Teaching.


My education interest has always been in the questions, What is learning?, and How do we make school a place where learning’s the focus? They’re questions that have driven my PLD work.


The Smata app’s genesis is in the work I did with schools where learner agency is the focus. In those schools, the same question kept coming up due to the diversity of learning engagement the teachers saw every day: How do I keep track of it all? I saw a range of attempts to do this, either through paper or using existing technologies, and I always thought there must be a simpler way.


Because that’s it, isn’t it. Teachers are busy enough. While keeping track of learning is important, if the way of doing it is complicated and time consuming teachers won’t do it. I know this from experience!


And then one day, after being at a school and working through their attempt at keeping track, I had one of those a-ha moments. Teachers are already capturing evidence of learning in the photos they take every day. All that’s missing is the link between those photos, the learner and the curriculum. What if there was an app that allowed that to be done as it happened? Well, there wasn’t, and from that the Smata app was born.


At heart, Smata is an app for teachers. It’s designed to help them capture and respond to learning diversity, which is what you get when learners have control. It’s an app that’s simple and quick to use so that teachers can get back to teaching and growing the potential of their learners, not spend their time fiddling in the app.


But it’s also an app that helps teachers give value to learning beyond the ‘core’, and this is where the graph is important.¬†There is a gap in education at the moment as people realise that we can’t rely solely on literacy and numeracy data as indicators of learning engagement and growth. Smata enables a widening of what’s valued as learning, and in that a new picture of learning success is built.


I’m really excited about what Smata can offer teachers, and through that the impact it can have on learning. In supporting a focus on small data, all the in-the-moment relational stuff that’s so important, Smata allows teachers to focus on information for learning that’s relevant and helpful to their job.

Bevan Holloway About the author

Bevan is the founder of Smata. He is a former secondary school English teacher and Core Education e-Fellow, where he researched the adoption of play pedagogy in a secondary context. Bevan works with schools across New Zealand who look to foster learner agency, both in the primary and secondary sectors. It is that work that led to the development of the Smata app.

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