Transformative Learning Powered by Tech

This piece was written in response to the DOE’s Office of Ed Tech article written by Joseph South, “What do we mean when we say, “Transformative learning experiences powered by technology?”.

It all started about five years ago at Waipahu High School in room E6. Mr. Briel had been schema mapping concepts with his students, while taking an LSAT prep course in the evening. The prep course had been sharing different literacy strategies, when the lightbulb went off to combine the two into a fluid system. He wondered what would happen if he gave his students his schema map as a note-taking tool for them to define and explain the relationships amongst algebra concepts.

Image of an algebra schema map that a student created in room E6 circa 2011 with Mr. Briel.

What did Mr. Briel notice after just a few months? His Algebra I repeater students were able to correctly and confidently solve the math problems with ease. In fact, his classroom pass rate went from 12% to 71% after the implementation of this new study strategy!

Comprendio’s co-founder Sean (Mr. Briel) in class with his algebra students circa 2009.

Mr. Briel (Sean) soon found a teammate and fellow teacher to join him on this journey — Dan Nash. The two of them used this study strategy in class with their math students daily. They continued to see success with their students and even had the opportunity to present at TEDxHonolulu. As time went on, they started to wonder: how can we make this teaching and learning process even more efficient and effective?

Fast-forward to today and you’ve got yourself Comprendio. The duo ended up taking off their teacher hats to put on a couple of startup hats. They’ve been working tirelessly to turn the dreams from their own classrooms into a reality for classrooms all over the world.

They’ve worked together (with the help of some exceptional web developers, investors, advisors, friends, and family members) to create a cloud-based platform that allows teachers and students to communicate with one another more efficiently and effectively than ever before. Comprendio allows students to share their thoughts and observations instantly during class. Students’ thoughts and observations are analyzed to generate feedback related to how aligned their observations are compared to the teacher’s desired learning outcomes. Students and teachers now know instantly where the knowledge gaps are in every part of the learning unit, at any point in time.

Once the Comprendio team laid its eyes on the DOE’s 2016 National Education Plan (NETP), they couldn’t help but pinch themselves. Why? Because they realized instantly how aligned Comprendio was with the NETP. The Office of EdTech’s most recent article about the NETP concentrates on the premise of the plan: technology must serve as a powerful tool for transformative learning experiences. The article goes on to describe the four key characteristics of transformative learning experiences powered by technology:

  1. Technology can help affirm and advance relationships between educators and students.

2. Technology can reinvent our approaches to learning and collaboration.

3. Technology can shrink long-standing equity and accessibility gaps.

4. Technology can adapt learning experiences to meet the needs of all learners.

Below, I’ve gone ahead and noted how Comprendio hits the nail on the head for each of the four characteristics of technology-powered transformative learning experiences.

1. Technology can help affirm and advance relationships between educators and students

Communication is an integral component of any sort of relationship — whether that be a relationship between a student and teacher, two best friends, an employer and an employee, or even highly esteemed superheroes like Batman and Robin. There are already a good amount of tech tools to support communication for relationships; for two best friends it’s cell phones; for an employer and employee it could be Slack; for Batman and Robin it’s definitely the super micro secret bat radio.

But what about for students and teachers? Email? Cell phones? The super secret bat radio? Any of these options sound like they could be feasible, but the issue is that one teacher generally has 25–120 students to communicate with.

Teachers and students need an easy way to communicate with one another, and Comprendio does this. Teachers are able to communicate with the entire class what the current and future learning goals are, and the students are able to communicate directly to the teacher their thoughts and observations throughout class on the daily. You might be thinking — well, the teacher would still need to take the time to go through all of the students’ observations, so this really isn’t any more efficient than normal class notes are. But here’s where Comprendio is different — our patented text-analysis algorithm makes it easy for teachers to instantly see where the knowledge gaps are. You can think of Comprendio as the efficient student-note checking device: it scans through the students’ notes and highlights the areas where the students need to focus on and where they’re ready to move on. Students also receive personalized feedback from Comprendio so that they always know how they’re doing. When a simple two-way communication system like Comprendio can be used in the classroom, teachers have more time to invest in working with students instead of spending time trying to figure out what to work on with their students.

GIF of student receiving instant feedback in Comprendio.

2. Technology can reinvent our approaches to learning and collaboration

Comprendio is reinventing the approaches to learning and collaboration by making it effortlessly easy for teachers to learn and collaborate with one another. Comprendio’s platform allows teachers to plan, teach, and assess with just one tool — a Comprendio Plan. This means that when a teacher shares a Comprendio Plan with another teacher, a teacher is sharing her planning, teaching, and assessment tools with just one button! Just like Joseph South learned that “working with others to find solutions was not cheating, and was, in fact, the only way [he] could possibly accomplish [his] learning goals”, teachers need more opportunities to work together to do the same.

GIF of teacher sharing Comprendio Plan with another teacher.

Teachers can receive a Comprendio Plan from another teacher, tweak it however they see fit, and then use it instantly. As teachers continue to share, adjust, and execute Comprendio Plans, the content will naturally develop into even stronger resources that can continue to be used by teachers and students.

3. Technology can shrink long-standing equity and accessibility gaps

Comprendio’s platform can support all teachers — whether it be a National Board Certified educator whose been teaching for 15 years, or a teacher in his first year. If new teachers want to give Comprendio a try, they will soon be able to find Comprendio Plans to use in their classroom aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS). If experienced educators want to give Comprendio a try, they are empowered to leverage their own teaching experiences and knowledge to develop some really stellar planning, teaching, and assessment plans on their own!

4. Technology can adapt learning experiences to meet the needs of all learners

“One of the most powerful and difficult aspects of teaching is personalizing the learning experience to a wide variety of student needs and interests. Teachers who lack tools and training to help them accomplish this find themselves “teaching to the middle” which is unsatisfying for both educators and learners and does little to close achievement gaps.”
Schools “can use technology to connect students to peers and mentors who can provide them customized, real-time feedback or provide access to adaptive learning programs that can track their specific areas of mastery and needs and provide customized feedback based on this data.”

Comprendio personalizes the learning experience by providing real-time feedback to every student whenever the student wants to know how he/she is doing. Teachers no longer need to teach to the middle because the robust data that Comprendio provides to teachers makes it clear where the knowledge gaps are and aren’t, which students are succeeding and which ones aren’t, and which specific instructional strategies have been effective and which ones haven’t.

Screenshot of heatmap data from teacher dashboard. Teacher can instantly see the knowledge gaps present and will focus on guiding the students to understanding more about mammals next class.

Are you an educator looking for technology that can help transform the learning experiences in your classroom? We’d love to help support teachers as they start aligning with the NETP. For those interested in giving Comprendio a try, we have a pilot program* available for educators to opt into for the remainder of the ’15-’16 SY. Click here for info and to opt into our Teacher Pilot Program.

*To participate in the pilot program educators must have access to 1:1 computers for their students to use. Comprendio is currently a cloud-based platform that works with any web browser.

Lizzy Schiller is the author and serves as Comprendio’s Director of Community Operations.