As a school leader, one of the greatest challenges I face is in tracking student performance beyond the traditional summative academic assessments. In truth, I care more about who the student is becoming then what they happen to know at a particular time. I know that the long term development of “soft skills” such as problem solving, perseverance, teamwork, and critical thinking will serve my students much better in the long run than the 300 AP Chemistry terms they can memorize.
Given this, one of my goals as a classroom teacher was to encourage and affirm students are who making the right decisions. I did this through traditional “Positive Behavior Instructional Support” systems such as student of the week, classroom points, star stickers, and the like.
Having had the privilege of launching my own technology-focused charter schools, I knew there had to be a better way.
And that is how I discovered Kickboard, a web-based platform for tracking nearly anything you would like to track in the school when it comes to students.
Founded by a middle and high school classroom teacher with a degree in computer science, Kickboard is the kind of EdTech startup that gets my instructional technology heart beating.
The most intriguing part of Kickboard is not the ability to log in from any Internet connected device (including mobile phones and tablets), nor the grading system that rivals other cost-prohibitive options available. What makes Kickboard so fascinating is the focus on behavior monitoring and tracking. In real-time, teams of teachers can add data that tracks the soft skills educators truly value, from being on task to “not giving up.” Better still, schools can easily modify descriptors to fit their school mission and culture.
Jennifer Medbery, the founder of Kickboard explains that a mindset of “always growing” is the key to this young EdTech startup’s success. And this is a mindset to which I can attest. As we contemplated implementing Kickboard into our school, we weren’t given the standard sales pitch. Instead, the Kickboard team trained us on how to use the software. As countless school administrators have found, the biggest gap is not between the problem and the solution but between the solution and its implementation. For us to become a “Kickboard school,” we needed teachers to be completely on board with the adoption of this technology.
From all accounts, Kickboard delivered. Most intriguing to our teachers was the ability to customize the software to fit the needs of the team. A strength Medbery too recognizes. She explains that the entire Kickboard team is receptive to the feedback of their clients, school administrators, because they are the “drivers of a high performance culture at their schools.”
I believe that true educational reform happens in the classroom. Teachers are the drivers of change. When teachers become “edupreneurs,” by creating business opportunities out of solving real-problems they face, everyone wins.
If you are interested in exploring Kickboard for your school, you’ll be please to know that starter accounts for up to three teachers are free. This allows a small team of teachers to pilot the program within their grade level or subject area, to serve as a proof of concept before rolling out the program to the whole school. An approach even the most technophobic classroom teachers would support. To learn more about Kickboard, visit KickboardForTeachers.com
Dr. Brian J. Dixon has a doctoral degree in educational technology from San Diego State University and ten years of classroom experience in public, private, and charter schools. He was the Director of Online Programs for High Tech High, a nationally recognized charter school network with ten member schools throughout Southern California. As the Founding Principal and Executive Director of the Mentorship Academy of the Digital Arts, located in downtown Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Dr. Dixon uses social media daily to keep his students, teachers, and school community engaged in the educational process. Dr. Dixon blogs at brianjdixon.com and also regularly speaks to organizations both regionally and nationally. He is the author of Social Media for School Leaders (Jossey-Bass, 2012)