Partners Josie Jordan and David Lipkin launched SchoolHack Solutions to re-orient education around individual students.
Take one successful personalized learning program and evolve it from excel spreadsheets to a sophisticated web application while building out a set of virtual tools for greater distribution.
SchoolHack Solutions is leading the "quiet revolution" towards student-directed and community-supported education with cutting edge software for personalized learning.
Founder and Creative Director
Vermont has been a leader in the movement for personalized learning for ages before the State made it official in 2013. That year, Vermont Act 77 [pdf] required all secondary schools to encourage “flexible pathways” to graduation. Josie Jordan, SchoolHack’s President and a longtime teacher, knows this legacy well and is using SchoolHack technology to bring the Vermont vanguard into the future.
Without crucial technological tools, personalized learning approaches suffer from disorganization. Luckily enough, tech provides just the right supports to backbone personalized learning plan (PLP) approaches.
Founded officially in 2013, SchoolHack Solutions draws upon a rich history of Vermont-made innovations in education.
From the teacher side, personalized learning can be difficult to practice due to the sheer amount of information one must retain and then orchestrate on behalf of each individual student. And yet, PLP's are necessary—they tailor education to individuals by giving students the reins to steer their own course through learning.
How would Green River’s technology organize that data and still allow for nuanced engagement? How could SchoolHack's strong theoretical model be translated into a technology-focused business venture? Thanks to years of practicing personalized learning as a teacher herself, Josie Jordan could anticipate the needs of students and teachers embarking on the PLP path. She envisioned the platform, and Green River helped her and her team pursue a path to market.
Building the classroom experience and curriculum around student-authored personalized learning plans is a new endeavor for many educators. In creating a tool to do this at scale, SchoolHack wanted to harvest the effectiveness of teacher-led assignments while activating student initiative. They would encourage students to find the work they wanted to do and then employ teachers to plot a roadmap through that work. As such, PLPs allow the students themselves to identify the work that will help them achieve key proficiencies and realize the school's, teacher's, and student's goals.
What online tools best support student-teacher collaboration? The SchoolHack team had a vision for the look and feel of the LiFT platform––advocating for something fun and warm that wouldn't feel bloated and boring like the spreadsheets of yore. The initial platform delivered on this vision, and immediately the SchoolHack team started working with teachers to understand the features that worked best for them and enhancements that would make them and their students more successful.
We worked with the team to identify answers to questions such as: How does a student assess their overall progress when working from a PLP? How can teachers use LiFT to get a bead on how their class is doing as a whole?
To provide for those discovered needs, we added dashboards that present aggregate information for both the teacher and student interfaces. The student’s progress tracker serves as a live report to keep the student accountable to their own goals. The teacher’s dashboard serves up notifications when a student has logged activities, as well as communicating classroom-wide statistics and the average amount of progress made.
The LiFT platform is a living and breathing tool that keeps students continuously engaged in furthering their educational pathways. Instead of coaxing students through lessons and assignments that don’t feel relevant to them, LiFT involves learners in the proficiency process––requiring them to buy into assignments, tasks, and assessments that will get them closer to the goals they've set for themselves. By focusing on achieving results articulated by the student, LiFT takes the chore out of school days.
The SchoolHack project allowed our working methodologies to really shine. When startups like SchoolHack come to Green River, they are rapidly defining and refining how they are going to make their business work. Green River works with them during this high octane time and adapts quickly to their learning and their success throughout our development cycles.
So many startup founders are full of admirable passion and enthusiasm, and sometimes this wealth of energy urges them to build everything at once––a risky impulse ameliorated by iterative software development. Green River works with driven clients like SchoolHack to help them identify the best phasing of builds and feature releases so time and resources are not wasted on “too much too soon.” Combined together, the visionary bird’s-eye view and the developer’s granular focus make for software that works beautifully and effectively in every molecule. As we have learned repeatedly, we ground the founders' full-steam-ahead approach within a development process that gives each feature the time it needs to mature.
Startups require nimble adjustments in pacing and scope, more than most other businesses. For example, we might need to mock screens a few release phases ahead of development so they can be shown to potential clients or funders. We helped steer SchoolHack through many new business situations. In addition to coding, we assisted their search for funding, navigated contracts and licensing, helped them find new clients, established IT support, and helped recruit technical staff. Green River strives to be an important partner in realizing their goal of transforming education into a more student-centered model.
Today, LiFT functions in support of (and not in competition with) a classroom's human capital.
As more and more schools, states, and districts adopt LiFT, SchoolHack is becoming the caretaker for data that's critical to the personalized learning movement. Information on what kids want to learn (video game design or nature poetry) and how they learn it best will go on to inform what teachers and communities can do to support them. Data, believe it or not, will help keep students accountable to their dreams.
That data will allow SchoolHack to remain a dynamic startup; employing information to carry out continuous improvement in schools and on their own platform will keep them steering towards their vision.
More importantly, SchoolHack's work is laying the foundation for a quiet revolution. With LiFT and more, they make it easier than ever to build the educational system around the student. In a world where state and federal standards threaten to de-individualize learning, SchoolHack is pushing back with the power of tech.
On their dashboard, teachers can view notifications of recent activity and progress on assigned steps, goals, and rubrics.