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October 3, 2019

2 min

Mark Holley

Even in Virtual Schools, Teachers Make the Difference

I'm not a teacher. I've never been a teacher. But this is my 20th year in K-12 education in finance, marketing, and product development, and I've had some thoughts lately about how education has changed in my time and what it will look like in the near future. While there have been some changes to how students are taught in recent years, schools operate in relatively the same way as 100 years ago. But change is accelerating due to the proliferation of school choice, online learning, and other technology advances.

One continual roadblock is the propensity of the local, state, and federal government education offices focusing on inputs rather than outcomes. Another is the reliance on measuring student proficiency and growth using arbitrary and inaccurate standardized tests. But that's another blog topic altogether. And another is resistance to change, and specifically, school choice. How anyone can be against school choice in 2018 is difficult for me to understand, and it's a form of discrimination that has to be fought at all levels to ensure future generations have access to the personal learning they deserve.

One thing that hasn't changed, and probably won't, is the need for great teachers. Today's effective teacher is part data analyst, part social worker, part public relations specialist, and part learning facilitator. Effective teachers aren't resistant to change but rather embrace it. Framing change management like this sounds like the usual jargon that can be found on oversimplified and overplayed memes that circulate on Linkedin. But it's true.

Countless studies have been conducted, including our own at Method, showing that the teacher is the biggest determinant of student success - at least on the school side of things. A supportive home structure that emphasizes learning and education probably plays the most important role. But in the classroom, whether online or in person, the teacher is key. We built SmartFox with this in mind.

We consider SmartFox a working project. It's evolving based on student and parent feedback, performance, and teacher recommendations. And it's getting better. Every day we make progress on our goal to make it the ultimate teacher tool for success. For example, today we just finished a new way to show progress on the student dashboard, and to communicate results in real-time to students and parents. This is just one example of the many "10,000 steps" we're taking to make SmartFox, and of course Method, work for students. Combining teachers who fit today's model of education with software that empowers them - and their students - is our mission for this project.

I'm looking forward to the next several months as we add more features and dial in our curriculum, giving our teachers the best possible resource, besides themselves, to help students succeed. There has never been a better time to be involved in K-12 education, and I'm grateful to be playing a small part in the revolution.


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