“We’ve got to be intentional about subjecting ourselves to the scrutiny of third-party evaluators to make sure that parents and teachers don’t think they’re martyring their kids just by adding technology to their learning experience,” says DreamBox Learning CEO Jessie Woolley-Wilson. “A Harvard study that we published proved that it was efficacious. If kids used DreamBox for just five lessons a week, that’s less than one hour, they could get a 60 percent increase in their learning.”
There’s An Acceleration In Schools Going 100% Online
We have a goal to unlock the learning potential in every child regardless of what zip code they’re in. We think the way to do that is to personalize the learning experience so that it’s engaging, it’s effective, and it’s highly personalized. We developed an intelligent adaptive learning engine that was pioneered in 2006 to actually track how kids are thinking. It matches the curriculum to exactly where they were so it would never be too difficult or too easy. It would always be engaging and kids would struggle productively and learn and master skills.
We really didn’t know what to expect (related to schools closing), we just knew we had to embrace change. Schools were asked to change and parents were asked to change and we changed too. So we opened up our platform for free through the end of the school year just to make sure that parents and teachers didn’t have to worry about mathematics. We saw over two million kids join the platform in less than six weeks. That’s great growth but it also means it strained the organization. When you grow that fast i like to say you get stretch marks, so we’re managing through our stretch marks. That means that we have a lot more students and a lot more volume to manage in a much smaller piece of time.
We thought we would get some relief as schools would go back to school in live classrooms. What we’re finding now in the last couple weeks is that there’s an acceleration in the the number of schools and districts that have decided to remain in a distance 100 percent online learning mode.
Teachers Cannot Be Replaced By Technology
The (technology gap) is a big concern and challenge and I would say an opportunity for everyone involved in blended learning. At DreamBox, we never believed and don’t believe that teachers can be replaced by technology. We have developed a technology that was designed to complement the live instruction, to complement the art and the magic that happens in a live classroom. We think that there are things that technology can do better. Technology can understand what each individual child is doing moment by moment and then can tee up predictive insights to a teacher so that they know what they can do and how they can change their live instruction.
Over the time of COVID, we think that the gap between the haves and have-nots has grown larger because there are some kids that are permanently disconnected. They don’t have access to broadband and they don’t have devices. We need coordinated strategy, national, state, and local strategy, to make sure that these disconnected kids are connected and they can leverage innovative learning technologies that complement what they get in the classroom.
Adding Technology To Learning Is Not Martyring Your Kids
One of the adaptations that we actually made during the time of COVID was we added a capability in the platform that will allow teachers to send notes to kids. I don’t think that all technologies are the same. There’s no monolithic online learning experience. Many kids are not experiencing a positive online learning experience. We’re thrilled that at DreamBox, our kids are engaged. They think they’re playing a game but they’re actually engaged in rigorous meaningful deep thinking mathematics. That’s why they love it and that’s why parents trust it.
We saw exponential growth in the number of parents who actually signed up for DreamBox as well. Parents need relief. Children need engaged reliable learning experiences. I think it’s incumbent upon companies like DreamBox to open themselves up to the scrutiny of third-party evaluators. A Harvard study that we published proved that it was efficacious. If kids used DreamBox for just five lessons a week, that’s less than one hour, they could get a 60 percent increase in their learning.
On the other side, in terms of student privacy, Common Sense Media has given us their highest rating. These are hard goals but we’ve got to be intentional about subjecting ourselves to the scrutiny of third-party evaluators to make sure that parents and teachers don’t think they’re martyring their kids just by adding technology to their learning experience.