When Gratitude Meets Creativity: How A Thank-You Note Inspired Marie Arturi, CEO of Buncee, to Build A Platform For Digital Storytellers

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There are thousands of people making a difference in the education world today. Please enjoy this interview with Marie Arturi, founder and CEO of Buncee. Her inspiring story demonstrates how simple acts of kindness can lead to life-changing innovations.

1. Marie, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. You are the founder and CEO of Buncee. Can you tell us the story and motivation behind the creation of Buncee?

The story behind the motivation to create Buncee is unusual. Years ago, my daughter, Daniella, passed away from treatment complications related to a very rare bone marrow failure disorder, called Diamond Blackfan Anemia (DBA). Our family's loss motivated us to find a cure for this disease and to help other children in hopes that what happened to her wouldn't happen again. We established the Daniella Maria Arturi Foundation to fund efforts to advance the state of DBA science and ultimately find a cure.

At the end of one of our medical research conferences, I was following up with everyone and wanted to send them my thanks and share the full story of our meetings. Primarily, I wanted to share a digital story of the event. I found that at the time, there wasn't a tool in existence that would enable me to combine photos, videos, research articles, and a personal message beautifully. I was looking for a media-rich creation tool with a personal touch. I wasn't a designer, nor did I use photoshop. It had to be a very easy-to-use tool. Through that journey, Buncee was born.

2. Marie, I was very touched and inspired about Buncee Gives Back, in honor of your daughter at the Daniella Maria Arturi Foundation. Can you tell us where we can go to learn more, donate and help you with this personal initiative?

It's been an incredible journey that wouldn't have been possible without the support of the Diamond Blackfan Anemia community, the marvelously talented clinicians, scientists, and our colleagues in Washington D.C. Our journey now continues to be enriched by the inspiring community of educators we've come to meet through Buncee. You can go to the Daniella Maria Arturi Foundation website to learn more.

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Thank you very, very much for asking this question.

3. Buncee is a great tool for students to create visual multimedia stories. Can you give us an idea of how Buncee can be used for the individual user as well as for full classroom use?

At the heart of Buncee's functionality is the creation experience. Anyone can sign up for an individual account to create a single or multi-slide "Buncee." Greeting cards, invitations, event flyers, professional presentations, and even digital portfolios are just some of the things that people use Buncee for, outside of the classroom.

In schools, Buncee is used in countless ways. We've seen first graders in North Carolina become digital citizens while using Buncee for a class blog, and we've seen high schoolers in Ohio use Buncee to create presentations about college admissions. We're always so delighted to hear from the classrooms we connect through Buncee Buddies, a global pen pal project in which classes exchange Buncees across continents. We especially look forward to hearing from the classrooms we've come to know well, in Bulgaria and Long Island. It's hard to describe how honored we were when we received blog posts written by students, expressing their enthusiasm for Buncee. We could go on all day with anecdotes of amazing student and educator projects.

4. As digital learning continues to grow rapidly, storytelling and interactive learning have become more important than ever. These skills are incredibly important for 21st-century learners. How do you see Buncee playing a role in this space now and as you continue to grow?

We are committed to enabling students to acquire these skills in a unique and fun way, so we've purposefully designed Buncee to be easy enough for learners of all ages to use it. With Buncee, students are beginning to acquire 21st-century and digital citizenship skills, even at a very young age. The technology helps educators achieve Media Arts Standards, as well as other national and statewide education standards.

I can see us continuing to make learning fun and empower student voice. Our goal is largely to help students become creators, and deeply engage with what they are learning. I want students to feel that they can truly own and share their story. As we continue to grow, we have larger ambitions to take these functionalities to the next level by enhancing our interface in a way that further enables students to communicate creatively.

Also, Buncee is primarily a tool for "creatical" thinking, which is a mashup created by Dr. Jason Ohler whom we've been delighted to come to know. Dr. Ohler is a professor emeritus of the University of Alaska and a Media Psychology professor at Fielding Graduate University. His work on digital storytelling and digital citizenship is quite extensive. As mentioned above, Dr. Ohler is the genius behind "creatical" thinking, which suggests that we should combine creative and critical thinking instead of separating the two! We met after I watched a talk given by him about critical and creative thinking-hence the word "creatical."

Please enjoy this Buncee below.

We have had the opportunity to chat a number of times over the last year. He is an inspiration to us on various levels.

5. Students are driving a great deal of their own learning, while parents and teachers now have the ability to provide guidance along their learning journey. As education can be slow to adapt to this type of pedagogy, can you share the best way Buncee is getting the message across as a leader in the industry?

We've actually had parents excited about the impact this style of learning has on their kids. I have to say; I sincerely wish I had this tool when my children were younger.

Often, the student guides the teacher when using Buncee! We witness this frequently when we visit classrooms, and teachers are usually elated to find their kids so immersed in their learning. Our goal when building this tool was to try to "think like a third grader" to eliminate any learning curve for all ages.

So I'd say, the best way to get this message out is by sharing stories. Through social media, blog posts, conferences, and word of mouth, we make a concerted effort to communicate with our users to share the impact this learning style has on students. Of course, more can always be done; which is why we greatly appreciate you taking the time to write about Buncee!

6. Marie, you have a very fun and engaging tool. What seems to be one feature that kids appear to like most about Buncee?

There is no doubt that the stickers, animations, and the ability to record their voices excites the students. They like getting creative with the graphics and narrating a story, even practicing pronunciation for language lessons. Educators have also shared Buncees with us that their students have created for them on the weekends-just for fun.

7. At this time, how many schools currently use Buncee and what seems to be the most typical age/grade level of users?

We've been in the education space with our new creation experience since last year; we released the new build in beta at the 2015 ISTE conference. We now have 180,000+ using our tool and over 200,000 using our apps across more than 8,000 schools in the USA. Internationally speaking, we host users in 127 countries worldwide.

Our eduBuncee Plus account has been most popular in K-8 classrooms. But since the very recent launch of our newest tool, Buncee for Schools & Districts, we've added functionality that has expanded Buncee across the K-12 spectrum. Our latest version offers test and quiz functionalities, community and privacy management, and the ability to customize the media library.

8. How can individual(s) and schools sign up for Buncee?

Individuals and schools can sign up on edu.buncee.com for a free account, or a 30 day trial with the full educator dashboard through the paid account; but if an individual wants to learn more about each plan, they can feel free to contact us or attend one of our weekly webinars. By taking advantage of our webinars, you can learn more about Buncee functionalities, and decide which plan fits your needs. District administrators and educators can request a Buncee for Schools and Districts webinar.

9. Congratulations Marie! Buncee has won a tremendous amount of awards in the education technology world. Can you tell us what's in store for 2017?

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Thank you very much. We've been honored to have been recognized by several organizations this year. Receiving the award from The American Association of School Librarians was incredibly rewarding. It was also great to receive the Cool Tool Award from EdTech Digest. I have to thank the dedication and hard work of the amazing Buncee team for our success this past year.

We just recently launched an all-new build of our iOS apps for iPhones and iPads, further enabling learners to create and share multi-slide Buncees on-the-go and outside of the classroom. Next year, we aim to launch the app on Android as well. You can visit our mobile app page today!

The Buncee experience offers a lot of opportunities for students to become real-world-ready and thrive as lifelong learners. So as we make our way towards 2017, some of our top ambitions are to continue building our network of partners and to take our functionalities to the next stage. Stay tuned!

We've recently added the ability to share Buncees to Google Classroom

About Marie

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Marie Arturi is the CEO and Founder of Buncee, LLC, an edtech startup company, as well as the Executive Director of the Daniella Maria Arturi Foundation, an internationally recognized medical research organization. Maria founded the organization in 1996 to support research for Diamond Blackfan Anemia (DBA), a rare bone marrow failure disorder that took the life of her young daughter, Daniella. With over 30 years of experience in startups (from IT consulting to medical research), Marie's recent venture, Buncee, was built with the intent to create an easy ­to­ use creation tool.

Buncee has become what is is today with the help of educators who saw the power of this creation tool for the classroom; with education in Marie's family, she saw it as well. Working side by side with educators, Marie and the team have developed a creative, fun 21st-century tool for students of all ages.

Based in New York, Buncee has developed a suite of education tools that empower student voice, strengthen 21st-century skills, and enhance creativity, all while making learning fun.

To learn more, you can follow Buncee on Twitter and Facebook too.

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I am also an EdTech Thought Leader at LinkedIn in the education technology and management channel; you can find more interviews there as well.