By guest blogger Kevin Connors
Now, the high school math teacher-turned-computer coder is using his diverse experiences and skills to provide students access to real-time, individualized feedback through an iPad app. His startup, Classkick, just raised $1.7 million in seed funding.
Kapor Capital, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Lightbank, and Yammer founder Adam Pisoni participated in the round for the Chicago-based startup, which has a 25 percent weekly growth rate since the company’s app launched in the fall of 2014.
“Research shows that feedback has a greater impact on student learning than any other intervention, including additional homework, tutoring, or longer school days,” Rowland, Classkick’s co-founder, said in a recent statement. “But a teacher can’t be in 30 places at once, and right now more than half of all students lack that individualized support. It’s a problem I faced as a teacher and a problem Classkick can play a tremendous role in solving.”
Here’s how the app works: as students use the iPad to work on their problems, teachers concurrently use the data dashboard to monitor the class’ progress and identify individuals who need support. Rather than having to wait for hands to raise or walk from desk to desk, teachers then can provide real-time feedback through the iPad app.
Teachers in 75 countries and all 50 states currently use Classkick, but Rowland also hopes his app catches on for one population, in particular: low-income schools and students.
Referencing his time in TFA and that half of all public school students are now considered low-income, Rowland believes that Classkick can help improve student achievement by providing students access to this personalized support both in the classroom and at home. The company also made the app free for all teachers to download.
Of course, there is one major barrier to Classkick’s growth in low-income schools: the iPad itself. While there are no concrete numbers indicating how many low-income students have access to iPads, 1-to-1 initiatives, including those in urban districts like Houston and Madison, have gained momentum recently. In fact, one study forecasts that half of K-12 students will have access to 1-to-1 computing by the 2015-16 school year.
Those forecasts refer to 1-to-1, in general. How Rowland and the Classkick team adapt to the growing Chromebook market remains to be seen.
Long term, the company hopes to connect all stakeholders, including parents, teachers, and peers, to a student’s work, but for now they plan to use the funds to invest in more engineers and product development.
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