VP of Sales, KiddomEducation 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.
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)
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.
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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