Celebrating Four Years of Expanding Equitable Access for All Students to EdTech That Works

Original+SXSWEDU.jpg

There has been a lot of celebration and reflection around the Lea(R)n office this week, as our team marked the four-year anniversary of our mission to help schools and districts expand equitable access for all students to edtech that works.

That’s been four years gathering data and insights on thousands of edtech tools and sharing them with our community of more than 100,000 educators nationwide. For many of us on the quickly growing Lea(R)n team, these accomplishments have been shared, rather than experienced personally.

So to really get a sense of what the past four years have been like, we wanted to speak to our founders — the ones who have been here since the beginning, who started the company and built it into the industry-leading edtech management and rapid-cycle evaluation system it is today.

Below, you’ll find reflections from Wesley Burt, our Chief Product Officer, Dr. Daniel Stanhope, our Vice President of Research & Analytics, and Karl Rectanus, our fearless leader (aka our CEO).  

What are your favorite moments from the past four years, as the company and LearnPlatform have grown?

KR: Without a doubt, my favorite moments are when we get to work with individuals who are making decisions to help learners. Whether it’s with our team, our partners or the educators and policy makers with which we get to work, the leaders and professionals who are making strong decisions to expand equitable access and improve learning for students are the ones I enjoy working with most. Often times, those decisions they’re making are new ways of doing things, thanks to data and insights they didn’t have before, and might be contrary to the way things have traditionally worked.

That’s the definition of learning and growing. There are so many examples, but one I’m reminded of is a district leader in Utah who, over the holiday break last winter, analyzed the impact of the district’s math intervention on students’ first semester growth — during his vacation. When break was over, he shared with his team that he’d found a significant positive effect for their English Language Learner population, but not for some other populations. For the second semester, they changed a bit of their implementation, shifted some professional learning and enhanced their math intervention efforts with THOSE students specifically, not just randomly chosen students that were similar to those populations. Just those students who needed it most. That is just one of my favorites!

WB: I very much enjoy solving problems for folks, so my favorite moments have been those when our team has designed an innovative solution to a hard problem. Sometimes these moments come and go quickly, and other times they take a while to develop, but eventually something clicks and we create something awesome and new to help educators. One of my favorite examples, that I will always remember, is the whiteboard session in our tiny windowless office in HQ (downtown Raleigh) that spawned what would eventually become IMPACT™ Analysis. At the end of that session, all we had was a concept, but my general feeling was that we’d just solved a huge problem.

In all honesty, my feeling was more like, “holy crap, this is going to be awesome.” Of course, it took some time and a lot of work from a bunch of people to turn that concept on the whiteboard into the IMPACT that we know and love today. It’s gone through a bunch of iterations, and will continue to do so, but schools and districts have now run thousands of IMPACT Analyses to help drive decision-making and I can’t help but think back to that whiteboard session. I look forward to more and more of these moments as we continue to grow and solve problems for educators.

DS: The people. It is immensely rewarding to work with a great team of people who are all fighting for the same mission of making results matter for all students and teachers. We set out to build something that heretofore has not been done with the aim of societal impact, so it has been exciting to step back every once in a while and pat each other on the collective back for making continuous progress throughout this fun, albeit arduous, journey.

How has education technology changed in the past four years?

KR: In the early days, people would look at us like we were creating and selling unicorn poop. The idea of easily getting control of and figuring out which tools were working best for students at a grand scale seemed mythical and impossible. My favorite moments have been when our team, partners and educators and administrators have the lightbulb moments — when they see, believe and make decisions for a brighter future.

WB: I think the edtech market, in general, has become more thoughtful about the technology decisions that are being made for students. I believe that we’ve played a part in that shift. Early on, the conversations taking place treated edtech management and rapid cycle evaluation like a far off utopia that the market may never reach. Over the years, the conversations have started shifting from “what if” to “how to,” and this team and our partners are certainly a driving force behind that.

DS: There has been an increased demand for evidence with which to make better informed, data-driven decisions. Being on the forefront of that movement, I would like to think that Lea(R)n is at least partly responsible for increasing that demand by building an intuitive, user-friendly tool that helps build the capacity of schools and districts to turn data into insight, insight into information, and information into knowledgeable decisions that improve the lives of teachers and students. I can only hope evidence-based educational practices will continue to expand as we move forward in our quest to make data accessible and actionable with rigorous, yet practical, research.

While the journey to reach four years of service has been fun, challenging and incredibly rewarding, we know there’s still a long way to go and a lot of work to do before we fully achieve our mission. But with our team of educators, researchers and technologists, as well as the education stakeholders all across the country who we partner with to achieve our goal, the future of Lea(R)n is looking bright. Here’s to another four years (and many more). Cheers!

LearnPlatform