I’m a technologist by training and experience. I worked in Silicon Valley for a number of years before moving out to the east coast for my PhD. In 2009, after finishing my doctoral work in engineering, a good friend of mine and I started a company, Kno Inc, in education technology (commonly referred to as ed-tech). We set out to make content more engaging and fun for students and give them insights into how they are interacting with the content via our data pipeline and analytics. One of our core ideas was that engagement – not grades – is a leading indicator of how well a student is learning.(Some will argue that grades are not an indicator at all, but that’s a subject for another post). Our first customers were college students and eventually we moved into the K-12 space to serve schools. While we were growing our customer base, we partnered with publishers as well as tech giants like Samsung, Google, Microsoft and Intel. It was a space that everyone was excited to work on. To make a long story short, Intel acquired us in 2013 and our team of 95 joined Intel’s education division. I stayed on for a year and a half integrating the product and the team into a bigger group at Intel and we did some big international implementations of our solutions. It was an exciting time.
I loved what we were accomplishing at Intel, but I was itching to work on something that would truly inspire me and in the middle of last year, I decided to leave. As a technologist I had the good fortune to work in any vertical I wanted to. And I did dabble in a few areas before realizing that I am passionate about education. I took a few months off to think about how I could make the biggest impact in this space.
The more I reflected on my years at Kno and then at Intel Education, the more I realized that innovation in education is hard not because people don’t want it – believe me, there are teachers, and administrators who are trying their best everyday – but because our schools are structured in a way that makes it impossible to do so. Our school system based on a 124-year-old industrial culture, in which every worker needed to know the exact same thing and had to be trained in a similar fashion. That’s just not the case anymore. Information is in everyone’s pocket now (thanks to smartphones). So pouring more content into students is not important in this day and age. What’s more critical is how you apply that information and what do you do with it. Moreover, competing with your classmates to get a better grade shouldn’t be the educational end goal; collaboration, communication and leading by influence should be the aim of spending time with your peers and mentors.
As I watch my one year old daughter, Sophia, learn something new literally every few minutes of every day, I realize we owe it to her and her generation not to take the joy of learning away from them. Studies show that by 3rd or 4th grade the current education system starts to erode the joy of learning significantly. My team and I are working to precisely change this experience.
Our core belief is that each child is an individual who learns in her own way, and our goal is to provide an environment where they can pursue their interests, curiosities and passions.