Edtech Companies Foresee Boost from New K-12 Standards
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creates a quiz targeted at the specific skill a teacher is trying to get across in a certain week, but also generates multiple versions of that quiz, says Kevin Jenkins. On test day, students in the same class may receive different questions, which thwarts any tendency to peek at another child’s answers, he says.
Multiple quiz versions also make repeat testing more effective, Edmodo’s Jenkins says. The teacher can give a quiz before the lesson, then schedule follow-up quizzes a second or third time after the lesson to check whether each student understands. The Edmodo system keeps track of which questions each individual student has already seen, he says.
“We make sure no student sees repeat questions,” Kevin Jenkins says.
Teachers may also like Edmodo’s invitation to give their blue pencils a rest, says Hutter. “It grades the quizzes,” Hutter says.
Snapshot presents the results to the teacher through graphs and charts. These display each student’s individual performance, and also show the percentages of students that have mastered the skill, those with a borderline understanding, and those falling well behind. Based on the results, teachers may decide to review concepts in the classroom, or to coach individual pupils. But the new Edmodo feature also suggests specific online lessons, drawn from a variety of edtech company apps, which can be assigned as follow-up exercises for each student who needs more instruction in a certain Common Core skill.
While the teachers are monitoring their students, administrators can monitor the teachers’ performance with Snapshot for Schools. The officials can create online groups for teachers who need some help conveying particular Common Core skills, and encourage master teachers to contribute tips. Snapshot even formulates diplomatic messages that invite teachers who are not doing well to take part in a group.
“Go find your next great idea,” the message might read, Kevin Jenkins says.
Edmodo’s platform works with Android, iOS, and Windows, so students can use it both at school and at home on their own devices. Teachers have the option to assign quizzes and other digital work outside classroom hours, Kevin Jenkins says.
By contrast, Edmodo’s fellow Bay area edtech firm Education Elements assumes that all digital learning must take place inside the classroom, Amy Jenkins says. Within the schools it advises, 60 percent of students are eligible for free or subsidized lunches—and they may lack their own mobile devices or reliable Internet access, she says. As a result, teachers are intensely focused on making the most of the time in the classroom.
Education Elements helps schools and individual teachers structure that time, and find digital learning apps that match up with that allocation of minutes. This could mean that a 15-minute interactive worksheet wins out over a 25-minute online lesson, Amy Jenkins says. Time is also an important element in the data Education Elements provides to teachers, through its digital platform, Highlights, on student performance in online exercises. The company found that teachers wanted to know how long each student took to work through each unit, in addition to the number of correct answers.
For those reasons, Education Elements revised the data summaries it provided to teachers, which were formerly tied to achievement of Common Core Standards or various state criteria, Amy Jenkins says. But the Common Core standards are still the goals underlying Education Elements’ services—to make students “college and career-ready.” The company tries to do this by using technology to relieve teachers of mundane chores, such as the intensely time-consuming task of grading worksheets, thus freeing them to give students more individual attention, she says. For example, one popular classroom pattern would divide students into three groups that would each rotate through three different activities: a stint in a computer-based learning lab that delivers lessons and generates performance data; a small group session with the teacher to work through questions and problems; and a student peer meeting that develops critical thinking skills as members work together on a joint project.
The Education Elements platform also loops in third-party educational content chosen by each school. This can include Edmodo or its competitors such as Schoology, which can be defined as “learning management systems.” Both Edmodo and Schoology feature social networks that allow teachers to collaborate with each other as well as communicate with their students.
Whether many districts and teachers are ready to make full use of Edmodo’s microassessment tools tied to specific Common Core standards remains to be seen. The company is offering an added inducement to schools and districts to try out its premium service, Snapshot for Schools. That lure is a sneak preview of another new feature, Edmodo Practice, which will include a set of educational apps with “premium functionality,” developed by Edmodo itself. These will be available to premium Snapshot customers. The full launch is planned for the fall.
Edmodo maintains that its proprietary apps will not conflict with the aims of the Edmodo Store, the one revenue base the company has already established. The online marketplace offers more than 600 free and premium apps from third-party developers. Edmodo earns a percentage of each sale of the premium apps, which make up about two-thirds of the offerings. Users of Edmodo Practice will see recommendations for both third-party premium apps as well as Edmodo’s own applications.
While school districts are seen as the ultimate source of substantial revenues for edtech companies, so far teachers are the source of most of the Edmodo Store’s earnings. Although teachers use the Edmodo learning platform for free, they also make most of the purchases of premium apps through the Store, the company says. Edmodo, a private company, doesn’t disclose revenue figures. To date, Edmodo has raised $87 million from investors, which includes a recent $30 million round led by Index Ventures.
Although the apps Edmodo is developing for Edmodo Practice are geared toward set educational standards, students will be able to choose among them and customize their use, the company says. And Edmodo has further plans in the works to make classroom learning even more personalized—like providing apps tailored for students with particular learning styles, such as those who absorb visual information more readily than text or speech, Kevin Jenkins says.
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