What is Keeping Administrators up at Night?

What is Keeping Administrators up at Night?

A recent study about teacher confidence in educational technology (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) found that 99% of all teachers and school leaders are using digital technology in their classrooms. It also found that nearly 96% have seen benefits from the technology they’re using, including improvement in student achievement, cited by 32% of all participants.

But seen is a key word here. How can we gain visibility on how digital technology is improving student achievement when so many factors go into a student’s education? Hopefully this is something we’re considering when choosing technology for our schools.

We recently conducted our own study to learn more about how and why administrators are deciding upon educational technology used in the classroom. What we hoped to gain from our study was some understanding of the most effective methods administrators use to conduct research for tools and solutions used in their school systems. 

Let’s be clear — we know humans to be the real problem solvers in education, and that we can never rely too much on the method as a means to an end. But we were interested in learning more about the research behind the tools and systems that our greatest resource of all — educators — are using to solve those problems. We invite you to follow along in our findings here.

How do admins stay up-to-date on innovative instructional models in 2019?

Perhaps like us, it was no news to you that 74% of all participants cited “education conferences and meetups” as a source for staying up-to-date on innovative instructional models. We were a bit surprised at how unpopular “books and research papers” (1%) were, but not so much about the low score for “PD from the district” (1%).


Where do admins discuss new instructional models within their network?

Again, we found that meetups and conferences were very popular for discussion here. “A lot of administrators end up going to at least one educational conference/event every year. A lot of them walk away with great information, so this isn’t surprising to me,” says Amanda Glover, our partnerships lead at Kiddom.

While it’s no shock to discover educators love to share their knowledge with others, what was surprising to us were the chat groups (38%) and social communities (26%) built around such conversations.


Are admins satisfied with the effectiveness of those discussion mediums?

At 72%, the trend suggests a high satisfaction with the discussion mediums administrators are having around innovative instructional models.

Of the administrators who weren’t satisfied with said mediums, nearly half (44%) cited “lack of proactive systems were keeping them up at night” and “lack of timelines of academic performance reporting”.


What’s keeping admins up at night?

We all know working in education can keep you up at night with a million things running through your mind. But what are the top concerns?

When asked, administrators said the top three topics are “lack of human resources to improve student achievement” (56%), “lack of financial resources to meet district demand” (53%), and “lack of proactive systems to improve student outcomes” (34%).


How have admins tried to remedy the above concerns?

Our study found that nearly ⅓ of all participants are requesting more funding to address the problems keeping them up at night.

What is very telling about the current state of education is the use of creative staffing, intervention, and systems adjustment — these cost saving efforts are likely a direct result of increased budget cuts across the board.

We were surprised to see such a low effort to use tools and technology, considering the fact that technology can save schools so much time and money!  

How do admins vet technology they purchase to support their remedies and address concerns?

While it is no surprise that word of mouth is still one of the most common ways administrators vet technology, one trend evident across the board is that administrators are rarely relying on just one place to make their decisions, and are often vetting across multiple sources. 


And that concludes our study — we hope this gives you a fresh perspective of how educators are making decisions around the educational technology and systems applied in the classroom.

As educators make these decisions, we hope to see more steps towards measuring the success of the tools in place. So often this data is siloed — grading and mastery data sits in the LMS. Curriculum data sits in curriculum management systems, and even there it may be scattered across spreadsheets and hard drives. Cloud-based platforms have helped a lot here — but they’re not ultimately designed with educators in mind, with a way to calibrate and measure the success of curriculum across a school system.

We’ve designed the K-12 OS to do just that, because we believe that in today’s educational climate, many schools and districts don’t have the time or money to make decisions without data. To learn more about Kiddom Academy, book a demo with us today.

Kiddom Academy picks up where the LMS leaves off, offering an operating system for K-12 schools and districts to measure and act on classroom intelligence. If you’re ready to see what the K-12 Operating System can do for your school or district, you can book a call with one of our specialists today. 

Live at AESA: Kiddom Chats with The EduTech Guys

Live at AESA: Kiddom Chats with The EduTech Guys

Jason Katcher

Jason Katcher

VP of Sales, Kiddom

Education and SaaS technology leader with a passion for K12 edtech.

Last month, Jason Katcher, VP of Revenue at Kiddom, sat down with the EduTech Guys at AESA 2018 (Colorado Springs, CO) for an interview about what we’re doing here at Kiddom. Read the full transcript of the interview below, or listen to it here.   

The EduTech Guys: [00:00:00] The EduTech Guys present a conversation recorded from our live coverage of the AESA conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 2018. Enjoy the program.

Jason Katcher: [00:00:11] Fantastic. So my name is Jason Katcher. I lead our revenue efforts, I’m the Vice President of Revenue for a company called Kiddom, and I’ve been with the company now for seven months as we bring our product to market for administrators. 

The company’s been around for about four years, focused mostly on the classroom experience for teachers. Prior to that, I spent two years at Dropbox, where I started their higher-ed division, focused on enabling researchers globally to collaborate on large files. And prior to that, I actually spent a little bit over a decade at Google, focused all across their education components’ early-on days — disrupting the advertising industry, focused on for-profit education and helping them market to potential students.

In 2013 I wanted to get closer to schools and making an impact. So I was fortunate to join the Google for Education team, that was just starting out ChromeBooks, Google Apps. I led those efforts across the Americas from 2013 to 2015 before leaving. And it was a wonderful experience launching Classroom, but there were some other reasons why I left. I thought there were some gaps in K12 education that our companies needed to fill and sort of serendipitously I fell into the hands of Kiddom. And I’m really excited about where we’re going with this.

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The EduTech Guys: [00:01:29] So let’s talk about what Kiddom offers, what do they do?

Jason Katcher: [00:01:33] Sure. So Kiddom is building the operating system for K12 to enable classroom intelligence. And what that means, “operating system” is not your technical OS sort of Windows or IOS. It’s really about enabling all of the key constituents in a student’s success to have the ability to operate more effectively. And those key constituents for us are the principals or the administrators, the teachers, the students, and the parents. And so by enabling them to have more access to information in real time, we believe they’ll be able to access more content that’s relevant to those kids in order to provide that student with the best chance of student success.

So if you think about an LMS, that is definitely a part of our system, but we believe the operating system picks up where the LMS leaves off. And there have been a couple of companies who’ve tried the operating system; there’s Summit School, Summit Learning. There’s also some very large challenges and well-documented challenges with that model, as well as AltSchool, who tried to just build schools, former Googlers actually, and realized that that’s not quite as easy as it seems, from the outside in.

The EduTech Guys: [00:02:35] Right. (Laughter.)

Jason Katcher: [00:02:35] And you know it takes a lot more than just tech smarts to build a school, and they learned that the hard way. So we are looking to bring that same platform of not being prescriptive, enabling teachers to teach the way they want. So whether it’s blended learning or project-based or they’re focused on standards-based grading or ELL or Special needs, Kiddom is a blank canvas, much like Google Classroom was. If you think about Google Classroom actually, that was designed to help teachers operate their classrooms more effectively. It was not designed with the intent of becoming an LMS or administrative tool.

The EduTech Guys: [00:03:10] Right.

Jason Katcher: [00:03:11] And administrators don’t have a view into that. So if you think about the enabling of operating something better, or more effectively that’s essentially what an operating system, in our opinion is and is where the puck is going.

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The EduTech Guys: [00:03:22] Yeah I agree. I think that’s really cool. So I guess that’s my next question, is around filling those gaps. You know I was going to ask this — it’s exciting to know in our time that there are still areas for companies like Kiddom to come into place and fill these gaps and create jobs and create opportunities for students and teachers. That’s amazing.

There’s, you know Google… 90 percent or more of our listeners’ schools use Google. I mean, why wouldn’t you — it’s free. But you’re right. A lot of teachers always ask me, “I want to do this in Classroom, but Classroom’s not designed to do that. This is what Classroom is designed to do. And so it’s you know, “Well I want to use Docs for this, well Docs is not designed to do that. Docs is just — it’s your fork. And that’s your knife. And this is your spoon. So how did this how did this come about. I mean, what was the talk that built this.

Jason Katcher: [00:04:28] Yeah sure, so there’s a couple avenues we can go there, but really I think understanding the genesis of how Kiddom was created. Because it comes from a place of solving true pain points that are existing in the classrooms as we know them now.

Many people on the Kiddom team are former educators, administrators, so they fully understand the points-of-view of how products still have gaps in solving some of those challenges. And a lot of that’s related to the ability to coalesce data on one platform.

Our CEO, Ahsan Rizvi, actually resides on the West Coast and his concept for this was that even the wealthy districts in San Francisco had real challenges with interoperability.

The EduTech Guys: [00:05:06] Aha.

Jason Katcher: [00:06:10] And all it really did was connect the workflows that teachers were already doing — we’re not here to tell someone how to teach or how to instruct — and connect that workflow with the data. So the data that’s coming from the assessments, or the standards that they’re looking at to make sure that they are assessing properly, and bring that together in a way that makes it really easy for a teacher. And so that’s really around three different components, the classroom product is we provide them with — and it’s all free. So teachers can sign up right now, and it comes with a collaborative planner where the curriculum will live. It comes with a free reporting system that gives them these really easy sort of beautiful and simple reports that enable them to intervene or enrich, depending on where those students are.

The EduTech Guys: [00:06:53] Sure.

Jason Katcher: [00:06:53] Very quickly. And I’d say the real difference between what Kiddom has built and what other LMS’s, I mean I wouldn’t call us quite an LMS at this point, is that we have a third-party content library. So the content that is connected to assignments that teachers are putting out there can come from their hard drives, as usual. It can come from Google Drive. We have a deep integration with Google, as we speak.

The EduTech Guys: [00:07:14] Sure.

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Jason Katcher: [00:07:14] And most importantly we have third-party content that is on the site itself. So Khan Academy, CK12, Newsela, LearnZillion, IXL, and we’re adding more, Scholastic just joined, and we’ll be really adding more around OER and then hopefully the traditional publishers. But by having all of the content readily available at the fingertips all for free for those educators, they suddenly didn’t need to go anywhere else.

So it becomes an all-in-one platform for classroom experiences. And the nice thing about that is that all of the content is all standards-aligned so Kiddom comes with every standard already baked into the system, so when they’re creating an assignment, we have national standards, there are state-level standards if they’ve forked those national Common Core ones or if you have custom standards, they can implement those as well, and then there are rubrics in the system.

It’s also about having a grading scale of “mastery” or “progressing”, so very simply a teacher can see within their class which children are thriving, which children are struggling, and then quickly intervene by seeing which kids need more time to further be assessed on a standard. And they don’t need to go find more content relative to those standards, which if you think about it, a teacher says “Great, I know I need to intervene, but what do I do?” And so they maybe they go to Google, if they’re smart, and they type in the standard code and they try and find some content or another teacher —

The EduTech Guys: [00:08:30] Right, right.

Jason Katcher: [00:08:31] — (Kiddom) does all the legwork for them. We prompt them right back, we know what they’re trying to assess. We prompt them back to the content library and we take away a lot of the guesswork, and that’s really the big part of it.

And as machine learning gets stronger, we’ll be able to identify when a certain piece of content was being used for a specific standard, and now how relevant or strong that piece of content was versus something else. So that’s a little bit more the long game.

The EduTech Guys: [00:08:52] Yeah.

Jason Katcher: [00:05:06] It was really hard to plug all these various systems together. So how do we build something that can actually bring that all together into one platform? So you don’t have your content in one place, your curriculum in another, your attendance in another. At the same time, his college roommate, Abbas Manjee, who is our Chief Academic Officer, was a math grade chair in the DOE in New York, and he was working with some really challenging kids. The type of kids that need serious remediation, sometimes jail, that kind of thing.

The EduTech Guys: [00:05:31] Sure, yeah.

Jason Katcher: [00:05:31] And he was using a grade book that he had designed in Google Sheets that was working really well for what he needed. And suddenly the DOE mandated that all of the schools needed to use PowerSchool. And so suddenly he needed to do double entry. It was interfering with his workload, it made things impossible for him to do. And he saw no value in that.

So, at the same time that his frustrations were bubbling over, he started to talk back to his roommate and they said, “Well why don’t we get together and make this thing a reality. Using your educational experiences as an academic chair, and then mine on the technology side…” (of our CEOs’, on that side) “And bring that together in a way that we can really solve some problems for teachers in the classroom.” And that’s how Kiddom was born about four years ago.

Jason Katcher: [00:08:52] And now in the last few months, administrators have been asking us for last year — “How do we get the same level of insight? How do we get the ability to centrally distribute our curriculum?” which is a really big problem.

Most of that curriculum lives in Google Drive, and it’s all scattered and scope and sequence isn’t mapped out, you have no standards alignment on it… and then as we go forward we have really the platform for a true Early Warning Response System, which will enable augmentation of current MTSS strategies that these districts are using.

But our job, again, is to take away the guesswork for the administrators and the ones running that intervention. We surface the data for you, based on our platform and suddenly you can focus more on the actual intervention that happens in the classroom.

The EduTech Guys: [00:09:37] I like that you that you also include enrichment, because I think a lot of times, I think in a lot of cases, there are multiple platforms out there that don’t quite obviously get into the extent that you guys do, but that provide the intervention side of things.

I think it’s key that you touched on the enrichment side of things. So, if I’m a teacher and I’m looking through all of this and I say, “OK. This student is — you know, they’ve got this, there’s not a problem — but I still have other students who aren’t quite there yet; I still need to keep that student engaged here. I’ve got this whole list of content tied directly to the standards and things I’m already teaching, but it is enhancing and enriching what that student needs in order to keep that student engaged while the other ones are coming along,” and I think that is a very, very key point to what you bring up.

Jason Katcher: [00:10:34] I think it’s a great point. Kids get bored, and it’s important for teachers — again, we focus on At-Risk all the time, and I think what you bring up is equity, and the ability to finally start to understand and this is something we’ve heard from superintendents, is that when you take it at a high level, and you take that’s sort a 30000 foot view. And it’s a “Oh 70% of my kids across my district are at mastery level or above,” That doesn’t tell the whole story.

The EduTech Guys: [00:10:57] Right.

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Jason Katcher: [00:10:58] We need to start peeling back the onions to understand to haves and the have-nots. What are the things you’re going to do differently for the kids that are actually having a tough time, based on a variety of factors, because you really can’t get to the root of it without having context of that child. So, the teach the whole child conversation.

The EduTech Guys: [00:11:14] —Yes!

Jason Katcher: [00:11:14] And then, on the kids that are doing really well and are getting bored, you know that’s really where we need to think about you know, how to move them faster. It’s not about everybody moving at the same pace anymore, and finally we’re at a point where I think we can start to deliver some of that. So enrichment and intervention are both key, but it’s also key for superintendents to rely on partners and companies who can help them surface that data and coalesce it. And I think one of the most interesting parts of our company is the content library because if you think about it, most curriculum providers are not transparent in terms of who is using my curriculum and if so what are they using it for —

The EduTech Guys: [00:11:50] Sure, right.

Jason Katcher: [00:11:51] — and if it’s effective. So you think about that, and it’s hard to do because the curriculum lives in one place and the LMS lives in another. But the fact that we have this content living on our site enables finally you as a administrator to say “This piece of content was attached to this assignment, which was assessing this skill, and it led to this outcome.”.

The EduTech Guys: [00:12:09] Right.

Jason Katcher: [00:12:09] And so if you think long-term about the ability to sort of break open the curriculum model, much like Google did when I was there in the early days around advertising, it was just sort of an accepted fact that you didn’t know which advertising dollars were working and which… You know it’s like half works and half doesn’t. I don’t know which one, how to optimize anything, right? They used to throw us out of the agencies, and agencies didn’t care because they were getting paid a commission regardless. But now if you’re a marketer you can even think about running an advertisement because Google AdWords brought transparency and accountability. B,ut in the curriculum world or in K12 it’s sort of understood that for 50 years you just use it and keep on moving.

The EduTech Guys: [00:12:46] Right.

Jason Katcher: [00:12:47] We think that’s not OK. In 2019, you should start to really know what’s being used because you’re paying a lot of money for it, in many cases. Now we know that there’s a better ROI to be had. So long term, we’re going to be able to help prove for schools the efficacy of those dollars that are being spent, as well as the stuff that’s free because you also don’t want to just use something for free if it’s not effective.

The EduTech Guys: [00:13:07] Right, exactly.

Jason Katcher: [00:13:07] So if all we are is fantastic but not if it’s not creating the results you want… So this sort of all-in-one platform is is where, you know, it seems like we’re headed now.

The EduTech Guys: [00:13:15] That is awesome. Well a one stop shop. That’s what I’ve been preaching for 15, 20 years. That’s what’s wrong with my teachers down at school level.

The Evolution of EdTech — and What’s Next

We explore 6 waves in the evolution of edtech to understand why the time is right for school systems to adopt their own “operating systems”.

The Case for a K-12 School Operating System

A K-12 school operating system is the next step in the evolution of education technology. Interoperability matters in schools and districts now more than…

Jason Katcher: [00:13:24] And it’s you know the challenge with getting to that point is that it’s really hard to know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. So I actually just posted a blog for Kiddom on the evolution of Ed Tech, and thinking about the waves of transformation that have been happening in technology where you first had these closed ecosystems in Microsoft or Apple.

The EduTech Guys: [00:13:41] Sure.

Jason Katcher: [00:13:42] That’s where you lived in education. And you picked one, and that was your poison, and those were the ecosystems you went into, and that lasted for a long time –.

The EduTech Guys: [00:13:48] A long time.

Jason Katcher: [00:13:49] — and then Google Apps finally released Google domains in G-Suite and all these things it’s now become Docs, Sheets, Slides, and that created the ability to move to the cloud, and you were accessing it from either Microsoft device or an Apple device — but devices were still expensive.

The EduTech Guys: [00:14:04] Right.

Jason Katcher: [00:14:04] And then ChromeBooks was the third wave, which drove price points way down, we had the secure, sharable model.

The EduTech Guys: [00:14:10] Platform agnostic, exactly.

Jason Katcher: [00:14:11] Yes, and then that enabled a one-to-one experience to start to be seen in the last several years. And then you had applications, which now, if you think about it, they used to only run on you know, Android apps, iOS apps, now you run Office apps on Android, you can run Docs on–

The EduTech Guys: [00:14:24] Yeah, we’re running Open Office on ChromeBooks. So I mean, it doesn’t really matter at this point.

Jason Katcher: [00:14:28] Exactly, it doesn’t matter and that’s the beauty. So the fifth wave is where we are now. Which is around data unification. Because, if you can not bring all of that data together then you can not build a holistic profile of a student, and therefore you are kidding yourselves if you think you’ll get to a personalized learning experience. Yeah. And then wave six will ultimately be around machine learning and artificial intelligence to enable this stuff to be more supplemented. And so it’s a really exciting time and that’s where we’re Kiddom is coming in and kind of really skating where that puck is headed.

The EduTech Guys: [00:14:55] Yeah. That’s very cool. Tell our listeners how they can get in touch with you.

Jason Katcher: [00:14:59] So our website, and this is important because it’s not a dot com, it’s a dot co — but it’s Kiddom, K-I-D-D-O-M-dot-co, and as a teacher you can register for a free class on there now, we’ve got a demo class that will populate and show you exactly how to utilize the system. And if they want to get in touch with me, you know personally, they can reach me on Twitter at @ J Katcher 74, that’s J-K-A-T-C-H-E-R-7-4.Be ready for some provocative tweets, if you’re okay with that, then come visit. (Laughter.) But overall, the website would be the best place where we can have demos and whatnot.

The EduTech Guys: [00:15:31] Well I’ll throw out the social media too — Kiddomapp, kiddomapp is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, you can type it and you’re there.

Jason Katcher: [00:15:38] That’s right. We’re all over Twitter, Facebook, we love to provide great resources. (Laughter.).

The EduTech Guys: [00:15:42] Awesome.

Jason Katcher: [00:15:43] It’s been awesome, thank you.

The EduTech Guys: [00:15:44] Well Jason, thank you so much. What a great conversation. It’s been a pleasure.

The EduTech Guys: [00:15:46] You’ve been listening to a recorded conversation from our live coverage of AESA 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Remember to visit us on the web at W-W-W-dot-Edu-Tech-Guys-dot-com. 

Want to learn more about Kiddom Academy?

What People Are Saying

“Kiddom is great for assessing data and then assigning appropriate work based on individual student performance. I love that it’s very easy to attach standards and rubric to every assignment.”

Jackie Curts, Middle School Teacher

“Using Kiddom has made me stop and ask ‘Am I just letting this student repeat what they already know or am I really challenging them?’”

Ann Leghorn, High School Literacy Specialist

“I can see where my class and any student is at any moment in their educational journey. This way I can take action to assist them to work towards mastery.”

Mr. Albrecht, High School Teacher

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The Evolution of EdTech — and What’s Next

The Evolution of EdTech — and What’s Next

Jason Katcher

Jason Katcher

VP of Sales, Kiddom

Education and SaaS technology leader with a passion for K12 edtech.

I have great respect for the past. If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.

-Maya Angelou

How many times have you already looked at your phone today? You might’ve sent a few texts. Maybe you opened some emails. Perhaps you shared a document, or viewed a presentation. It’s easy to forget that just over ten years ago, none of these actions were simple or ubiquitous — the iPhone wasn’t launched until 2007, and most devices in the office (or classroom) were tethered to a desk, as the “cloud” had yet to take shape.

texts a day sent on average (Source: Text Request)

hours a day spent on smartphones (Source: Hackernoon)

To understand why the time is right for school systems to adopt their own “operating system,” let’s explore how technology has evolved over the past thirty years across six major waves.    

Wave 1: The Closed OS

When people hear “operating system” they might think back to the early days of educational technology, when the ecosystems were closed; back then, you were either a loyal Microsoft or Apple user, and those were pretty much your only options.  As classrooms only had one option or the other, the computers subsequently ran Windows or MacOS. It was a binary landscape, to say the least. As a result, Apple and Microsoft dominated the education market for years.  During this time, most schools used on-premise servers to store all of their data (many still do). But this created numerous issues, including but not limited to limited collaboration, restricted mobility, and increased security risks. This lasted from the 1980s through the early 2000s. However, something called “the cloud” was brewing in the sky.


Wave 2: The Early Days of the Cloud

In 2004, something outrageous happened: you no longer needed to store emails in a local server. This was thanks to the release of “Gmail” by Google, a relatively new company then. One year later, Google purchased a company called Writely, which would ultimately become what is now known as Google Docs. With the ability to create and share content, Google secured a place to store it all in 2007. Originally called Platypus, this would later be known globally as Google Drive. These three pieces were built on the belief that the future was about the cloud — the ability to access anything, from anywhere, on any device — and it had a tremendous effect on the way education systems operated, from the classroom to the district. 


Wave 3: Enter Devices

The cloud was a disruptive force, but it wasn’t easily accessible, as laptops and computers were still rather expensive. While the original 2007 iPhone changed the game for what one could do on a phone, it was challenging to be productive, no matter how “smart” the device was. It wasn’t until 2012 that Google began to develop the first Chromebook, which caused the first major shakeup to the laptop ecosystem in years. Meanwhile, Apple stuck to their guns on a premium price point for Macs and iPads. During this time, Microsoft often stressed how much students needed to learn how to use Office, since that is what they would use in the “real world”. In the end, they were both impacted by an evolving market. Chromebooks delivered 90% of the functionality at a fraction of the cost, and by 2014, schools began to purchase them in bulk. Over the last four years, both Microsoft and Apple started to change their education model. Google’s lower price point for school devices significantly drove prices down and made them affordable to nearly everyone. This gave more and more school systems the opportunity to consider how technology might transform learning experiences with the goal of providing greater equity and accessibility. When any technology becomes a commodity, the end user wins.


Wave 4: Workflows

Years later the foundation Google has established paved the way for Google Apps for Education (now G-Suite). In the process, they effectively solved a major interoperability challenge: the offering was completely free, which challenged other players in the edtech space. While Microsoft and Apple ignored this paradigm shift for years, they were forced to evolve or be forgotten in the K-12 space. Office 365 was eventually launched, and although it was “free,” schools still needed to license Office, which was expensive. Apple’s iCloud simply never gained the traction it needed and as a result, Google continued to flourish and eat up more of the K-12 market share.

The one major challenge still facing Google was that the combination of GAFE and Drive together offered a clunky experience. This is likely because they were developed and housed in different parts of Google. They didn’t “talk” to each other well — a problem that often persists even with today’s apps. Teachers needed to ask their students to create an assignment in Docs, download a copy of that to a local folder on their desktop, upload it to Drive, and finally, move it to the teacher’s folder. That’s a lot of steps to take for every single assignment, not to mention, a lot of room for error.

While Microsoft and Apple were consumed with their device strategy, Google was solving this workflow problem. The answer soon arrived via Google Classroom: a way to enable Drive and GAFE to “talk” to each other directly. Classroom condensed those four steps into one seamless action and worked across all devices and operating systems. This simple solution simultaneously saved teachers time and helped us move towards classroom interoperability.

Microsoft has tried to launch their own version of Classroom, as has Apple, but both are inferior (and quite frankly, late-to-the-game) offerings. This is where the evolution and innovation of the LMS really hit a wall. The key advantage Canvas had, as it began to steal market share from the incumbent, Blackboard, was simply that they built a pure-SaaS product first and foremost. Blackboard got too comfortable and believed their loyal customer base would never leave.

Keep in mind as well that Classroom was never meant to be an LMS, or provide visibility for admins into the classroom. It was created to enable teachers to operate their classrooms more effectively. While this workflow was a huge value-add over the last four years, not much has happened since for K12, leaving the door open for new players.


Wave 5: Cross-Platform Applications

The next interoperability challenge was how to enable the various apps to run on any device in order to reduce the friction in schools who just wanted to teach and learn, and not worry about which device enabled it. For those who remember what happened with LAUSD in 2014, when content and curriculum cannot be accessed and used easily, technology fails. In the past few years, we can now operate Windows apps, like Powerpoint, Notes, et cetera, on a Chromebook or Android device. We can operate Android apps on Chromebooks, and we can even use Dropbox with Google or Microsoft as people seek their own custom, best-in-breed solution. We have now seen this convergence of enabling all types of applications to run across any device and OS. The focus on applications reduced the amount of friction for the end user, who just wants to access the content and does not care which OS or device they are using. It should just work.


Wave 6: Data Unification

The most important question for us today is, how does the data living across different applications speak to one another? And how do we make that data useful and meaningful for end-users of education technology? Schools can continue to work towards “personalization,” but the reality is that developing a holistic profile for every student across applications will be an absolute necessity to support individualized instruction. If classrooms are utilizing a learning management system, most of the achievement data will probably be with Google, Microsoft, or Schoology, to name a few. But regardless of any LMS’s collaboration features, their tools do not offer the ability to aggregate achievement data across applications for schools to make informed decisions about curriculum and instruction or resource allocation. As a result, the data necessary to make timely decisions and improve student outcomes currently lives scattered among a plethora of learning apps that don’t “speak” to one another. And this is where Kiddom comes in.  We approached the challenge by building for interoperability from the start. We considered all of the major stakeholders in the K-12 environment when we designed our analytics. Because Kiddom connects the dots between curriculum, instruction, and assessment, we effectively streamline the workflow necessary for educators and administrators to build student-centered instructional models.

Kiddom picks up where the LMS leaves off, offering an operating system for K-12 schools and districts to measure and act on classroom intelligence. We define a K-12 operating system as a set of interconnected tools to enable schools to operate more productively, increase student outcomes, and improve upon their respective instructional models. If you’re ready to see what the next wave of education technology can do for your school or district, let’s talk. As a former “Googler” who led the Chromebook initiative into schools and districts, I’d be happy to connect with you and your colleagues to address any challenges, fears, or questions you have about our incredibly useful tool for K12 education.

What People Are Saying

“Kiddom is great for assessing data and then assigning appropriate work based on individual student performance. I love that it’s very easy to attach standards and rubric to every assignment.”

Jackie Curts, Middle School Teacher

“Using Kiddom has made me stop and ask ‘Am I just letting this student repeat what they already know or am I really challenging them?’”

Ann Leghorn, High School Literacy Specialist

“I can see where my class and any student is at any moment in their educational journey. This way I can take action to assist them to work towards mastery.”

Mr. Albrecht, High School Teacher

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Initiative Fatigue for School Administrators: Webinar Recap

Initiative Fatigue for School Administrators: Webinar Recap

Hello, and welcome to our recap from last week’s Change Management Initiative webinar with EdSurge and Kiddom! Our very own Melissa Giroux, School Success Lead at Kiddom and contributor to our Change Management Guide, sat amongst the four panelists.

In this insightful discussion led by EdSurge CEO and Founder Betty Corcoran, you’ll hear from current and previous administrators who have been there and survived to tell the tale. Listen to hear their success stories, tips, and even a few educational failures encountered while rolling out new tech initiatives at the school and district level. Please watch the video here or view a partial transcription below.

Webinar Transcription start:

Betty Corcoran: [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to today’s webinar, which is about making edtech initiatives stick. My name is Betty Corcoran, and I’m the founder and CEO of EdSurge. We’re really, really pleased to be here with you today. Just a quick note before we get started; this webinar will be recorded and the recording made available to you and others via e-mail. After the live event, we also really encourage everyone to ask questions using the Q&A button in the Zoom webinar window, and we’ll answer those as we go along. So please feel free to jump in, join the conversation, and be a part of it.

I’d like to start by thanking our panelists for joining us today. We have four terrific people here: Kyle Pace, who is director of technology at the Grain Valley School District in Missouri. Kyle has led technology initiatives as an instructional IT coach, starting with implementing Smart Boards, to today when he’s rolling out 1,100 Chromebooks to middle school teachers. Melissa Giroux is the school success lead at Kiddom in New York City. She’s been a teacher in New York, she’s been a founding teacher of an alternative school, and now she works with Kiddom to support teachers. She is also an EdSurge columnist — I hope you read her stories, talking about a wide variety of schools implementing technology.

Mikkel Storaasli is the superintendent of the Grayslake High School District in Illinois. Mikkel got his start as a math teacher in Leyden High School and rose through the ranks serving as an assistant principal and now is obviously superintendent for the high school district which has two high schools and almost 3000 students. And Pam Moran, Executive Director of the Virginia School Consortium for Learning, has really done it all. She’s been a teacher and one of the country’s top administrators serving at the Albemarle County Public School District in Virginia, and she’s the co-author of a new fantastic book called Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools. And I’m really pleased to say she’s also a featured speaker at our Fusion Conference, which is going to go on next week. Yay. Thank you all for joining us.

So, broadly speaking, you know what? Newton was right. It takes more energy to make a change than it does to keep things going as they are. And yet our world is continuing to change — that pace of change is accelerating — and that means that we have to figure out how to make change something that our communities; our staff, our students, our families, can embrace and welcome. We’re going to talk through ideas of what has worked with leading practitioners, and of course invite anyone who’s on this webinar to weigh in with questions and thoughts.

So a couple of things to start off: Studies do suggest that most educators feel overwhelmed by the number of new initiatives. They get ahead of a lot of them, but it is challenging. And let’s take a look at how technology reforms compare to other school reforms. 36% of teachers felt that technology reforms in the last two years had a pretty large impact on them. That’s a third of all of our teachers. And on the other side of the coin, only 59% of educators feel that they have the support that they need to implement reforms — that really should be 100%. So before we ask the panelists to weigh in and share some of their experience, we’d like to ask anybody who’s out there who is tuning into this webinar to answer a very short poll and give us some thoughts about your own experiences….

1. Has your school implemented a tech-based initiative in the last two years?

I’ll take a second for you to just click yes or no.

2. Do you feel that you have the support that you need to master the initiatives that are being implemented in your district or your school?

So just take a second and fill those out. We will come back to that poll in a couple of minutes and give you the results.

I’d like to start this conversation by asking each of you a question. Kyle, let’s talk about that Chromebook initiative; 1,100 Chromebooks! Take us through how you’re doing this rollout. So much of getting people to embrace change is building on trust. So what are you doing to get all of those middle school teachers who are saying “Oh my God, here comes 1,100 Chromebooks!” — How do you build trust with that community?

Kyle Pace: [00:05:10] Yeah absolutely, that’s a great question. Literally a month ago we brought one-to-one to all of our middle schools and gave every student a device. So that was a huge initiative just right here at the start of the school year that we added on to all of the devices that we already had in our district. So it takes a lot of planning and preparation and an outstanding team to build that trust for sure. We didn’t just drop in 1,100 devices and say “OK, teachers: here you go.” You know, we had already been introducing the devices for a good two years prior to this moment to get teachers comfortable with, “What does this look like with my teaching, and what does it look like for student learning? And how does this enhance teaching and learning?” And that all came through our two instructional technology coaches that worked a lot with all of the teachers at these schools to build that trust; to build that system of support, to show them what’s possible, to help them when things don’t work, to be there and celebrate the things that went awesome with them as well. And so our district’s commitment to that looked like… you know, we started out with just one instructional technology coach. Then we got two instructional technology coaches, and created a concrete plan of not only how we’re gonna support teachers and how we’re going to continually work with teachers, but also how we’re going to work with and support our administrators in all of this “new” that’s coming along, as well.

Betty Corcoran: [00:06:56] So before we let go of this, maybe just take us through those numbers and that timeline, because you said that you were working on it for two years, you now have two IT coaches. Remind us, how many teachers and administrators are these folks supporting and can you give us a couple of milestones on that ramp up?

Kyle Pace: [00:07:15] Yeah, absolutely. So this began at… we started with our high school actually, so our high school is in the third year of being one-to-one. So we started there and we started very small, created some pilot groups…

Betty Corcoran: [00:07:33] So that’s one teacher? Two teachers?

Kyle Pace: [00:07:34] Yes, so it was about half a dozen or so teachers.

Betty Corcoran: [00:07:38] Okay, So start with about a half-dozen teachers, that’s great. And they did it for a semester or a full year?

Kyle Pace: [00:07:44] They did it for the entire second semester of the year prior of what this would look like with the students fully supported.

Betty Corcoran: [00:07:54] How did that how did that ramp go?

Kyle Pace: [00:07:57] So then we ramped up to giving all of our high school students the device the following year, so that was approximately 1,300 devices that we rolled out three years ago to our high school students. Lots and lots of communication and resources and support had to come out ahead of that; we wanted to keep our parents in the know. Parents were also being asked to pay a Chromebook insurance fee for the first time, so that was something new that parents weren’t used to. So we had to make sure we were communicating the why behind this very regularly and very carefully. We wanted that to be very purposeful.

Betty Corcoran: [00:08:42] So now you’ve got the 1,300 high school kids using it, and as you said you started to get the middle school kids, so overall then what’s what’s the ratio? You’ve got two IT folks and they’re serving how many?

Kyle Pace: [00:08:54] Yes so we’ve got two Instructional Technology coaches that are supporting approximately 200 teachers, maybe just shy of that, that are teaching with a 1-to-1 environment.

Betty Corcoran: [00:09:10] Terrific. Well we’ll come back to those stories, but that’s a great start. Melissa, you’ve seen initiatives go well, and you’ve seen them stall. Tell us a little bit about a time when you started to see those early signs of “Oh my God… we’ve had enough initiatives!” And then, what did you do when you addressed that?

Melissa Giroux: [00:09:29] Yeah, absolutely. One of the key signs for me, from both an administrator perspective and a teacher one, is around that Why? and that trust that Kyle was speaking about. When I go into a school for the first time, one of the things that I’ll ask both the admin and the teachers, whether or not they’re in the same room, is “Why are you using our platform? Why are you using technology in the classroom?” That Why question and the variance of answers that it generates is often a really big warning sign. And for people focusing often on the products and the solution instead of the Whyand goals for the solutions —

Betty Corcoran: [00:10:04] Instead of the pedagogical reasons.

Melissa Giroux: [00:10:05] Exactly, the objective for implementing anything new, whether it’s technology or not. And so seeing teachers’ blank stares at that question, confusion, looking around at each other, or immediately kind of disengaging is a pretty scary sign. And from the administrator point of view, one warning sign I’ve seen is that fatigue. I think most admin have really good intentions, but they hold so tightly to initiatives. The freedom that tech specialists in these pilot teams that Kyle’s describing had to kind of play around in a low-risk way… this kind of takes the pressure off that head admin who’s leading the charge. It’s exhausting to try to be the sole driver of a new change, and so when I see an admin who already looks fatigued at the idea of pushing a new initiative, that makes me a little nervous, that they’re holding out a little too tightly, instead of building that trust and a little bit of experimental freedom.

Betty Corcoran: [00:10:59] Cool. Is there anything that you’ve done that actually is just kind of a great, sort of, almost a warm-up exercise or a scaffolding to try to deal with that kind of fatigue?

Melissa Giroux: [00:11:14] Yeah, absolutely. I think breaking people into smaller groups, where they have the chance to talk amongst each other, if they don’t have an answer to that “Why a new piece of tech?” question, whether breaking them into their department teams or their grade teams. Letting them sort of grapple with that in an open-ended way before I jump into anything technical has been a great way for me to be able to on-the-spot tailor materials as I hear things bubbling up in conversation. Teachers don’t get an awful lot of time just to talk to each other about the work and take a step back. So often those 37-and-a-half minutes of PD time are go-go-go, and then everyone leaves, and we don’t know what happened. So investing that time, and pushing my partners at schools to invest that time, into just a little bit of discussion to give me a fertile idea bank of ways that I might support them moving forward helps.

Betty Corcoran: [00:12:08] Mikkel, I’m sure that what Melissa said really resonates with you, because as a district leader you have had to kind of coordinate and connect all of the various pilots and initiatives and really try to help people answer that “Why.” How have you tried to do that? How do you make people see things as a unified whole, not “just another initiative.”

Mikkel Storaasli: [00:12:34] Yeah I mean as a district administrator I think a lot of times we’re the ones maybe at fault you know, for initiative fatigue. You know, we’re the ones that are seen as…

Betty Corcoran: [00:12:43] Thank you for saying that! I’m sure your teachers appreciate that.

Mikkel Storaasli: [00:12:47] Yeah, hey I’ll cop to it, absolutely. You know, what I think we have to do is exactly as Kyle said and exactly as Melissa said, you start with the “Why.” You have got to use that Simon Cynic idea of “This is why we’re doing this.” I don’t have a great answer. You know, it’s difficult to communicate why we’re doing all these things or how they all fit together. What I would say is we just have to be relentless about communicating why we’re doing it. Having some sort of framework, whether that’s a mission statement or a strategic plan, or a well-articulated set of goals, and communicate to people this is why we’re doing it. We may be doing all of these different initiatives, whether it’s a tech initiative or reading, or math, or PBL, or blended, or what have you. But they’re all pushing in the same direction. And again, just being relentless about communicating that “this is why we’re doing it, this is how it fits into the grand scheme of things, and this is why overall this is the direction we’re going and how it’s going to benefit our students.”

Betty Corcoran: [00:13:47] And just out of curiosity. In, say the last initiative that you’ve really started to rollout, maybe something that you’ve started to do this September, how have you framed that “Why” for your community?

Mikkel Storaasli: [00:14:02] Well you know like I mentioned we just rolled out a new strategic plan and a new mission statement — that’s why it’s on my mind, I guess. One key line, so to speak, of our mission statement is “relevant, engaging, authentic learning” and really pushing that — and it’s part of our goals. It’s really something that we’re trying to make sure teachers understand, no matter what you’re teaching, that’s what we need to be pushing toward. So we’ve got a couple of blended learning pilots, for example, where students are maybe in C in class three days a week and somewhere else in the building. Two days or a week, or what have you. And really communicating why that’s that’s important for students why we think allowing them or helping them learn how to manage their own time is important, and they gets into like technological issues and things like that. But it really gets to, again the relevant, engaging, authentic learning. Not just the use of their time but if and when they decide to go to college, they’re probably gonna be taking a blended course and are gonna have to learn how to manage their time regardless. So again, trying to to communicate how it fits into the grand whole.

Betty Corcoran: [00:15:12] Yeah. And Pam, in your book you have a really big important observation, (a lot of big important observations), but one of the ones that I really liked is that we have to realize that teachers themselves are at very different developmental stages, and you summed up with an idea you call squash, which I really like. Take us through an example of what these stages mean and what squash has to do with it.

Pam Moran: [00:15:39] Well I think that I’ve learned as an elementary principal for 10 years, which was part of a journey to being a superintendent for 13 years, that we live in a world where change is coming at us all the time in schools, for a variety of reasons. It was true in the 80s, it was true in the 90s, and it’s true today. What I think was absolutely critical for me, as an elementary principal, is that we were going through a process of trying to reinvision what we wanted curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment to look like, just for a principal. The teachers worked really hard on it. I was really working on it, and we had some support from the University of Virginia, in an educator who was in the Curry School of Education. And what we were trying to do was to build the integrated model around in firing the arts and writing as a set of pathways to getting at what we didn’t call at that point time, “deeper learning”. But I think we call it deeper learning today. Sometime right before the Thanksgiving holidays, teachers came and sat down with me and said “Gosh, we’re feeling really squashed here.” There was so much coming at us from so many different places. And what really emerged from that, is that they were overwhelmed even though they embraced the world and they wanted to be doing the work, but when you were trying to balance teaching kids, trying to invest in professional learning at the same time, and doing all the things that the division also expected us to do, that sense of being overwhelmed cause them to feel like they were squashed.

What we did, and I came back to the idea that sometimes you have to relieves the pressure and take a break. Let’s step back and take a break. And the way we got to the take a break conversation was interestingly by having a parent at school who worked at a local restaurant and worked with us to prepare a menu that was served on a day right before the Thanksgiving holidays, that was a professional development day, and the theme was squash. Literally that day had every single part of the meal was made from some version of squash, including the bread pudding. But what it did was it just caused everybody to sit back and say, “You know, what we’ve got to be able to do is to take small bites of this work, versus taking big bites, to use the food metaphor. And we need to maybe be more invested in doing a slow meal versus a fast meal.”

Betty Corcoran: [00:18:40] I love that point.

Pam Moran: [00:18:41] And it was interesting because, one of the things that caused us to think about that metaphor more is that one of the teachers said, “You know schools should be run like a great restaurant. Where you have really good service, where the food is then really cooked to perfection, where you take your time and you enjoy your meal and before everybody gets up, that you realize that you had a really fun evening. And if our work isn’t like that, if we can’t run like a great restaurant, then one of the things that we have to do is to ask ourselves the question, “What are the barriers to doing that?”

The other thing that I learned as the superintendent was that change can come from a lot of different places, it can come from the grassroots, it can come top down. But the reality is, when you embark on change, if you don’t have a process to do what I call somewhat of an aim small, miss small model, where you actually are not trying to create change that’s going to cut across the full organization, but rather to start with almost a prototyping space, so that you know you can always make mistakes. And we see it rolled out in the front of EdWeek every time there’s some big division that’s had a national fail in terms of rolling out an initiative, that if you aim small, miss small, and you really think about how can you test out this, then you get some people who know that they’re in it to help you figure out what the barrier’s going to be, where the mistakes are going to happen, and how to fix those before you take it out to the bigger audience of the entire staff, so I think that would be the two things I would offer up.

Betty Corcoran: [00:20:30] Those are some amazing points. I’d love to come back to this aim small, miss small point again. But we do have that poll ready, so just going to pause for one tenth of a second to show the polls. So of the people who are currently on this webinar… Yes, 81% have had some kind of tech initiative. And we’re kind of running neck-and-neck here about whether they feel that they have the support. So that makes this conversation incredibly timely.

To hear the rest of the webinar, please watch the full video on ourYouTube channel here, and we also encourage you to check out our free guide on Change Management to learn more about successful edtech implementation for your school or district.

Large Districts: Take a Page Out of Smaller Districts’ Playbooks

Large Districts: Take a Page Out of Smaller Districts’ Playbooks

Abbas Manjee

Abbas Manjee

Chief Academic Officer, Kiddom

Abbas Manjee is Chief Academic Officer at Kiddom. Before Kiddom, Abbas taught high school math serving at-risk youth in New York City. 

Listen to Classroom Teachers to Solve Interoperability Problems

According to a recent EdWeek Market Brief, K-12 district leaders rarely adopt solutions for use based on teachers’ suggestions. While this won’t be surprising to educators teaching in large districts, it illuminates one of the reasons for major implementation hurdles as large district leaders roll out major initiatives with good intentions but poor grounding.

When I taught math at an alternative high school in New York City, I had a set of mandated tools which I had to use, but some of them didn’t meet my classroom needs. To better serve my students, I patched together a bunch of disparate edtech tools to ensure the materials were appropriately differentiated and accessible anywhere at any time. This meant devoting an inordinate amount of time copy-pasting achievement data from one system to another to ensure compliance with our set of mandated tools. Maybe my use case might have better informed other learning communities serving a similar student demographic. Maybe this information would have created an opportunity for school and district decision makers to more effectively evaluate the technologies they had purchased.

Why aren’t teachers considered a source of truth for large districts seeking product solutions? Teachers are on the front lines for our children, playing coach, mentor, counselor, and mediator before, during, and after the school day. They pour their blood, sweat, and tears into writing curriculum that guides students in making meaningful connections across concepts. They explore and incorporate new tools and instructional models in the name of student achievement, even when that means working late into the night and on the weekends.

There is some good news. According to that same EdWeek Market Brief, about three out of five small district leaders proactively seek teacher recommendations before procuring education products. Of course, smaller districts are inherently set up to be more responsive because they can have less bureaucracy. At Kiddom, we see this very clearly, as our K-12 operating system is gaining the most traction in small-to-medium sized districts, where leaders have their ears to the ground (and their eyes in the classroom). They recognize that any major new instructional initiative requires staff buy-in first, and to do that, you need to understand the tools your teachers have already chosen for their classrooms.

According to a report by SETDA entitled, State Education Leadership for Interoperability: Leveraging Data for Academic Excellence states continue to face massive challenges in making data readily available for use by decision makers, teachers, parents, and students.

The report illustrates how interoperability can help states and districts better achieve student learning goals, in that “interoperability can allow for a balance between high quality information and local use of that information to support teaching and learning.”

If half of K-12’s large district leaders continue to ignore teacher recommendations, and we assume that those teachers will continue to use tools that work best for their classrooms, how can we solve the interoperability issue in education?

What Large Districts Can Learn From Small Districts

To institute change and ensure decisions are made using high quality information, large district leaders should take a page out of their smaller peers’ playbook and create meaningful opportunities for pilot programs to report results directly to district leaders. If they don’t, they will only perpetuate the interoperability problem plaguing all of us in education, from students and teachers to district administrators to education technology companies.

If you’re the leader of a large district, you might remember LAUSD’s infamous $1.3 billion 700,000 iPads-for-all initiative. This blunder could have easily been avoided by engaging classroom teachers in decision-making processes, making critical improvements to the plan, and then building authentic buy-in.

When we started Kiddom more than three years ago, we first focused on building tools needed to enhance the experience for individual teachers and students. By focusing on classrooms first, we discovered a disconnect between teachers and their administration bodies. So we listened and worked closely with public school administrators to understand how to connect school systems from the top-down and bottom-up.

At Kiddom, we recognize the need for change management when implementing new initiatives such as personalized learning, blended learning, and/or instructional models that are more student-centered. Our team of success managers are former educators focused on acting as thought partners for administrators, and connectors between school communities tackling similar challenges. We work alongside you to provide contextualized, targeted resources to guide teachers through long-term changes.

If you’re interested in learning more about how we’re helping schools and districts measure and act on classroom intelligence, we’d love to chat.

By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer

P.S. We’re obsessed with designing and implementing technology that enables all students to learn via pedagogy and pacing optimized for them. Are you an administrator seeking to build buy-in to a new initiative to support your teachers? We’d love to learn more about your goals.

The School Operating System is the Latest Stage in Educational Technology.

 Learn more about how Kiddom Academy connects the district to the classroom.

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The Case for a K-12 School Operating System

The Case for a K-12 School Operating System

Abbas Manjee

Abbas Manjee

Chief Academic Officer, Kiddom

Abbas Manjee is Chief Academic Officer at Kiddom. Before Kiddom, Abbas taught high school math serving at-risk youth in New York City. 

Nearly ten years ago, I started my career in education as a math teacher at a new alternative high school serving over-age, under-credited youth in New York City. My students were labeled “at-risk” of dropping out because they were 16–21 years old and previously unsuccessful in high school. Many suffered from chronic absenteeism, caused by factors such as homelessness, family responsibilities, and/or incarceration. If we, the educators, were going to serve our students well, we were going to have to get pedagogically creative.

One of the first curricular tools I built to share — on the first day of school — was a public, student-friendly gradebook on Google Sheets. (Yes, this was before Google Classroom existed!) Students could track their progress and identify which skills needed extra work at any time. Little did I know this experience would eventually propel me to help develop a school operating system that tackles technology issues plaguing educators and supports them with more opportunities to offer individualized instruction.

Creating a Toolbox — and Filling It

After creating the gradebook, my colleague and I developed a curriculum aligned to New York state math standards. We scoped and sequenced the curriculum according to a set of power standards representing scaffolded skills. If students mastered a power standard, they could move on and didn’t need to wait for others. This competency-based system made sense; if students were chronically absent, holding them accountable to a pacing calendar would prove futile.

To supplement in-person support offered during class and lunch periods, I published a simple Google site to house my lessons, assessments, and other resources. If students missed class or needed additional help, they could go to my website and access the day’s lesson as well as videos and digital exercises from YouTube and Khan Academy.




As my students submitted work, I tracked everything in my gradebook. My goal was to minimize the information asymmetry that tends to exist between what teachers know about their students and what students know about their performance. At the time, I had no idea this system was called “standards-based grading.” I was so green at this point in my career that I probably assumed every classroom in the 21st century operated this way. I didn’t realize what we were trying to build was innovative.

The following year, I wanted to ensure that when students did come to class, they could participate and engage — or at the very minimum — access the content via a class set of iPads. I stepped up my game by adding even more videos and assessment exercises to my class website, mining resources from IXL and CK-12. I generated logins for my students and started “blending” instruction using the free content from these publishers. This worked nicely for my students, who felt like I was carefully attending to their learning pace and providing them with targeted learning materials.

By the end of year, more than half of my students passed the Algebra 1 state exam. For context: in years prior, every one of these students had failed this exam at least once. Of those who failed again this time around, many had never come so close to passing and looked forward to retaking it in the summer.

Enter the LMS

I was proud, but also exhausted. The time required to maintain the number of tools I was juggling was eerily close to the time I used to spend working as an investment banker. I dedicated hours every week copy-pasting student achievement data from multiple systems into one gradebook, analyzing each student’s progress and assigning work based on need. The last thing I needed was another system to maintain, but that’s exactly how my third teaching year started: my school administration decided a centralized system for grades was necessary to assess how all classrooms were doing. They bought a learning management system (LMS) and asked us to start using it.

Procuring the LMS was purely an administrative decision, fueled by a desire to monitor school-wide trends to make resource allocation decisions. I couldn’t fault school leadership for this, but I still hated using it. I didn’t want to change the way I’d set up my class because my model working for my students. Now, in addition to importing data from IXL, Khan Academy, and an adaptive learning program called Carnegie Learning, I had to transfer the achievement data from my gradebook into another system. It felt like every tool I used in the classroom was inherently designed to work in isolation.




By the end of that year, my patience had grown thin. I stopped updating the LMS on a regular basis and wondered how long it would take before somebody noticed. My colleagues had mixed feelings about it too. Because the LMS was designed to contain a lot of tools for teachers in a single view, it was clunky and cumbersome to use. For example, it didn’t integrate with Google Apps, which we had spent the last three years using. Nor could I customize features to align with my class set-up, or remove certain features altogether.

Building and Brainstorming

After three more years teaching in alternative high schools, I left the classroom to join Kiddom and address this interoperability problem. In an ideal world, teachers would be able to access a set of tools driven by their classroom needs and aligned to an instructional model of their choice. Administrators would be able to measure and take action from macro-level trends, manage and review curriculum, and enable educators to incorporate the instructional models and technologies that serve their classrooms best.

Unfortunately, teachers are constrained by tools that are ineffective or redundant. Many education technologies are not interoperable. School and district leaders continue to spend an inordinate amount of time piecing together data to understand what’s really happening. When that takes too long or doesn’t work, they resort to classroom observations — because they’re easy to do.

During my time at Kiddom, I’ve had the opportunity to apply my teaching experience and work with a team of designers and developers to tackle these problems head-on. At first, we focused on teachers and learners and the tools needed to enhance a singular classroom experience; this led to a simple, visual standards-aligned gradebook. Next, we connected this gradebook directly to digital content publishers like CK-12 and Khan Academy so that teachers could access teaching resources in order to differentiate instruction efficiently and save time.

Because every classroom experience plays a role in the larger ecosystem within a school, we designed a set of collaboration tools to help teachers work together, share, and learn from each other more effectively. We then focused on the information asymmetry that exists between classrooms and their respective administrative bodies. Working with and listening closely to public school administrators, we brainstormed various ways we could support school systems from the top-down and bottom-up.

A K-12 School Operating System

The result of this work is Kiddom Academy, a K-12 school operating system supporting collaboration and individualized instruction. Using Academy, administrators can identify and act on aggregate achievement trends, manage curriculum and assessment, and efficiently integrate other tools they’ve come to rely on. They can set up frameworks for a range of pedagogies in line with their organizational goals. Classrooms gain access to a comprehensive library of standards-aligned resources and curriculum development tools. Beautiful, actionable reports help students, teachers, parents, and administrators monitor progress and take action.



Kiddom Academy, our K-12 school operating system for schools and districts


A K-12 school operating system is the next step in the evolution of education technology. Interoperability matters in schools and districts now more than it has ever before, because we’ve come expect it everywhere else. For example, I can purchase a pair of concert tickets using my EventBrite app, and then export the information directly into my iPhone calendar. So too should teachers be able to use a variety of learning apps in their classroom and expect them to work together seamlessly. As we see more content and pedagogy-specific tools in the market, we can expect increasing numbers of teachers to find and patch together the tools that work best for them; administrators will be no different.

My teaching experience helped me understand that I didn’t need to buy a blended learning or personalized learning product. I had a process and practice in place, and needed a set of interoperable tools. I can’t imagine how much more passion and creative energy I might have offered my students and colleagues if I wasn’t staying up late every night copying and pasting data to differentiate instruction. “Personalized learning” might be trendy, but it isn’t new. Teachers have been trying to enhance and individualize learning using the tools at their disposal for a long time.

That’s why at Kiddom, we’re hell bent on designing and implementing technology that enables all students to learn via pedagogy and pacing optimized for them. We’re betting big on the idea of building a system for other learning apps to run on — rather than in — to help schools plug and play the tools they find most effective. We can’t wait to see how schools will use Kiddom Academy to execute their vision for teaching and learning.



By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer


P.S. Are you an administrator seeking resources to support your teachers? Book a 1:1 walkthrough with a member of our team.

Originally posted on EdSurge