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I have had "Review Knack for Teachers" on my To-Do list for a while now. And I want to apologize in advance to app creator Jarrod Drysdale, because I just looked at the date of the first time he emailed me. And ooof. I am slow.

And looking at that email, I am reminded now why I starred the email for further follow-up in the first place: he makes it clear in his pitch why I should care about his project. "I built Knack as an attempt to help out teachers, who seem to be bearing a lot of the blame for the issues in our school system. The app focuses on daily tasks for individual teachers instead of enterprise functionality for an entire district. My hope is that Knack can be a sort of backup for teachers to prove their efficiency and protect their careers."

It's an argument that Drysdale makes in more length in a post on GOOD today in which he describes some of the pressures teachers face in terms of performance evaluations based on students' test scores. With Knack for Teachers, Drysdale wants to give teachers their own tracking and evaluation tool. "With Knack, teachers can be transparent about what happens in the classroom and defend their work with data. One web application isn't the solution, but it can be one step towards improvement."

Launched last month, Knack for Teachers allows teachers to monitor their class assignments and activities. There's a daily tracker as well as a gradebook, so you can assess activities both qualitatively and quantitatively. The tool is pretty open-ended so teachers can customize it to their needs. There's an analytics function, so you can get an overview of students' grades and activities. It's important to note here that this isn't an enterprise, administrative tool as much as a personal system for teachers.

That might be a barrier to adoption for some teachers, who will feel like they just have to duplicate the record-keeping in multiple places. But some teachers might really like the insights they're able to glean from the analytics. And while the open-endedness of Knack for Teachers is good, the site might be daunting for some teachers as this beta version lacks a good set-up guide or walkthrough.

But alongside working on the instructions for how to use the app, I'd encourage Drysdale to make sure the website really features his mission and the vision he's articulated in the GOOD blog post. It's compelling, and I think that because of it, he could find many teachers willing to give the product a try and give him feedback as he further develops Knack.

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Audrey Watters


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