BloomBoard seems like an effective tool for educators to learn new competencies for their classroom, the concept for BloomBoard was part of your thesis project in graduate school, what influenced you to build it into what it is today? I had been working with the New Schools Venture Fund around their interest in the education tech world and had been talking to as many superintendents, principals, teachers, and CEOs as I could find. In every one of those conversations, the problem of technology would come up, as well as the potential for digital content and personalized learning. Yet, at the same time, every practitioner in that group realized that it wasn’t going to matter if we couldn’t scale high-quality instruction around that technology. The systems they had in place were pretty outdated and were entirely manual. So that became our thesis; no one else was trying to take on this problem, so let’s see what we can build to really help support and empower our teachers given the wave of everything that’s coming.
Considering BloomBoard is working in many different and diverse regions in the United States, how do the competencies in the platform reflect this diversity? It’s really around how you adapt the content, collaboration, and micro-credentials that exist. These three pillars are key to what we think meaningful growth looks like. So, while the platform is flexible enough to accommodate each of these aspects of learning, the way we structure the induction environment in Arkansas is going to look different than a social emotional learning program in Florida. We need to make sure we can accommodate the diversity of these models, and that’s built into the product.
What do you think is the most exciting part of working in education? Shifting learning from an input model to an output model, and all the implications and the empowering mechanisms that go with that is exciting. Education for the last several decades has emphasized plugging people into stuff and hoping they can consume it. Now people are challenging this model in all sorts of creative ways, and focusing more on competencies and adaptive paths - meaning that if some people can’t consume learning in the same way others can, there are different ways to accommodate those paths. If the demonstration of knowledge is what matters most, then we can be free to think differently about facilitating learning in ways that have not historically been taken into account.
You’ve spoken about the need for new models of professional development, what do you consider to be a model classroom? It varies depending on age, but the best classrooms I’ve seen are the ones where there is a level of trust between the teacher and the student that creates a really powerful learning environment. It’s a learning environment where people know that there’s accountability, but at the same time know there’s someone who actually cares about the outcomes of the students. Teachers and students in these sorts of trusting relationships incorporate all sorts of interesting modes of engagement within the classroom.
The goal of your product is to ultimately improve student achievement through teacher professional development, what do you think makes an outstanding teacher? Someone who is resilient and a life-long learner himself or herself. Teaching is a very hard profession at the moment, so being able to fight the fight and get through the pain points is important. An outstanding teacher is one who stays focused on the end game of impacting the lives of his or her students, despite the difficulties that come with the job.