VP of Sales, KiddomEducation 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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“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
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Mr. Albrecht, High School Teacher
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