I chose "data" as one of the most important ed-tech trends of 2011, and it's one that continues to gain steam this year as well. But as it does so -- as education becomes increasingly "data-driven" -- there are numerous challenges and repercussions, many of which have a lot more to do with education politics than with education performance. (The release of the Teacher Data Reports in New York City is one recent example.)

Part of the problem with the push to become more data-driven (and there are many problems and, I'd argue too, many benefits) is that this seems to be yet another initiative that is done to teachers and students, rather than done by or done for them.

That's where Kickboard hopes to step in, making it easier for teachers to collect and analyze data from their classes -- both academic and behavioral data, in real-time not just at the end of a class period or school day. Although Kickboard can be used by individual teachers, the insights are compounded when whole schools utilize the product. As Kickboard enables the real-time capture of data (through a Web-based interface as well as via mobile devices), ideally everyone in the building will have a better sense of how a student's doing. Again, this isn't just in terms of grades, but in terms of their day -- data that can help a teacher plan accordingly.

Kickboard is highly customizable, with templates to align tracking with state standards or Common Core, as well as options to set up different objectives monitor (and consequences to kick in). This level of detail allows teachers to take a "deep dive" into how well students are performing, isolating which concepts students understand, for example, which ones have them stuck, which assignments are successful, and how students' behaviors and skills develop over time. These skills can be established by each teacher or by the school, giving control over how they choose to measure student performance.

Rosters and attendance can be imported from PowerSchool into Kickboard; assessments can be imported from EduSoft; and grades can be exported in turn to Excel and standards-based report cards can be printed. The idea is to have one tool to handle all the data -- not multiple and scattered spreadsheets, sticky notes, gradebooks, and behavior slips.

While Kickboard does offer a robust tool to help teachers and schools paint a fuller picture of what we mean by "student data," it still feels like all this tracking on all these details will be cumbersome, even with an easier interface and a mobile data entry option.  And even if Kickboard can fulfill the promise of making data more accessible, manageable and actionable by teachers, I can't help but wonder if the requirements of data-entry (and of database set-up) will make this as much a burden as a benefit. Aye, there's the rub (again) when it comes to being "data-driven."

These hesitations on my part don't seem to be reflected by others, I should note, as Kickboard just won the big prize at the recent New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. The startup, founded by TFA alum Jennifer Medbery, is based on New Orleans, a city which seems to have become an interesting hotbed for education startups lately: 4.0 Schools is helping train education entrepreneurs, and its 3 teams swept the awards at the recent Startup Weekend EDU in New York.

For its part, Kickboard is currently in beta in more than 70 schools. There's a free version for individual teachers, with basic and premium plans ($15 per user per month and $20 per user per month, respectively) for schools and districts.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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