There are no limits to the applications of technology, and savvy startups are creating products and services that are altering fields as diverse as medicine, finance, travel and communications in permanent and significant ways. One area that can certainly use all the help it can get is education, as teachers continue to work harder for less pay, even while American students lag behind those from other developed countries in the world. Thankfully, technology is coming to the rescue. But while digital interaction between teachers and students is probably the wave of the future, there is still a significant learning curve. Right now all this tech is actually causing more work for teachers instead of easing the load. Enter Clever, an educational technology startup that is bringing $3 million in initial capital to the task of bridging that gap.
According to Clever’s founders, Harvard graduates Dan Carroll, Rafael Garcia and Tyler Bosmeny, the goal is to help teachers get quickly up to speed on tracking student’s online work, even if the teachers don’t have the requisite IT knowledge. Dan Carroll discovered this issue when he was working within a school district as the director of technology. He noticed that educational software that was intended to streamline and modernize the process, phasing out paper workbooks and chalkboard examples, was actually making his teachers’ jobs more complicated.
Carroll refers to the situation as ‘blended learning’. Basically, technological innovations have made possible whole sets of software that can truly assist students. This software improves test scores and information retention, but none of that helps the teachers if it can’t be integrated with existing methods. Instead of creating all new software, Clever works alongside software developers in the educational space to make sure that each new program can seamlessly drop into a school district’s system. Clever has only been around for six months, but it has already connected with forty of the best educational technology companies in existence. And that work has directly impacted more than 600,000 students across 2,000 schools.
That sort of expansion would not have been possible if the Clever team hadn’t taken part in the Y Combinator. That’s a program designed to help technology startups accelerate their growth while attracting high-end investors. More than a few partners in Y Combinator stepped in with their own money, but the $3 million raise also included contributions from Google Ventures and Ashton Kutcher. Y Combinator also pushed the Clever team to get involved with individuals and companies already working in online learning, and that has also reaped significant rewards. The Princeton Review’s John Katzman and Matt MacInnis, CEO of Inkling are also supporters of their work.
Carroll and his partners will use the funding to expand what the company is capable of. Eventually they want to be involved in every piece of educational software that goes to market. It remains to be seen if they will focuses solely on primary school, or if they will also lend their talents to a continuing ed or online MBA program as well. Regardless, thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of students around the country will be touched by their work, which should leave a lasting impact on the country as a whole.