Our learning tools should supercharge teachers and enable them to support every student. With thoughtful design and modern tools, we can help teachers design unique experiences and scaffolds for different students and empower all students with a variety of ways to demonstrate learning.
Students deserve for school to be real, and for their learning to have a purpose and audience. We can leverage digital tools and online networks to give students access to a broader community that is invested in what they learn and create.
One of the barriers to systemic change are the accountability systems that measure students and schools. By democratizing authentic assessment and enabling new sources of data around student capabilities, we have the potential to shift away from standardized assessments to ones that allow all students to shine.
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In early 2016, Aatash Parikh and a couple of his colleagues set out on a journey we called the Self-Guided Education Masters. We wanted to learn about innovation happening in the education sphere as well as the history of education reform, all with ultimate purpose of deciding how we might make our impact on the education system.
One way we captured our learning was by designing a new high school model and applying to the XQ Super School Competition. A core element of our high school design was using technology to help document our best practices and build a portfolio-based alternative to the high school transcript. We knew that having a innovative learning model would require new ways of measuring and showcasing success.
As part of our self-guided learning journey, we found High Tech High (HTH), a project-based K-12 school in San Diego and a shining light in the global education landscape. In 2016, Aatash enrolled in High Tech High's Graduate School of Education, and became a resident at the High Tech High Chula Vista high school campus. As part of his research at High Tech High, Aatash studied digital portfolios and alternative assessment practices. He saw the painstaking work that went into (1) designing and managing rich project-based learning experiences for students and (2) collecting and sharing data and stories about the effectiveness of their model. It was clear that the available learning tools and technologies were not designed to support project-based and student-centered teaching and learning practices.
As an example, while every student at High Tech High had a digital portfolio showcasing their projects and learning journeys, many teachers and students found it hard to keep their portfolios up-to-date and document learning while it happened. This is when the first version of Inkwire was born:
In its early stages, Inkwire was a tool for students to capture their learning as it happened, leveraging technology to give teachers, mentors, peers, and families a window into their learning journey and the ability to provide immediate feedback.
In Fall 2018, Aatash began teaching computer science at West Oakland Middle School. His first time having his own classroom and students and working in a more traditional school environment, Aatash had to find his own ways to engage students and build quality learning experiences. One of the major "unlocks" in his teaching practice was finding ways to open up student learning beyond the walls of the classroom. This often meant inviting professionals into the classroom to give feedback on student work or allowing students to present projects at local workspaces. To borrow from the PBL literature, the big discovery was that giving students an authentic audience helped them show up and shine in ways that school often did not allow them to.
As Aatash picked up development on Inkwire again, the emphasis of the tool was placed on helping teachers facilitate this type of learning and sharing. In fact, technology could provide tools for students to share their learning beyond the classroom more easily and frequently than ever before. With a click of a button, students can get feedback on their work
The lockdown and shift to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic brought on an increased sense of urgency for better digital tools for learning and assessment..
In collaboration with veteran educator Ted Cuevas at High Tech High Chula Vista, Aatash accelerated development on Inkwire and incorporated a variety of new assessment tools. We rolled out a pilot to five different schools across the country and collected a lot of feedback in advance of a public launch in 2021.