The days of parents simply helping kids with a maths problem or two during homework time are gone. With studies showing a direct correlation between parental involvement in learning and a child’s grades, parents are are increasingly expected to play a larger role in their child’s education.
Today We Learned, a Perth-based startup, wants to make the process easier for parents. Its app allows teachers to update parents on what their kids learned at school that day in order to continue the learning at home. Teachers simply answer a few questions like ‘ask your child…’, ‘don’t forget…’, and, of course, ‘today we learned…’ to get parents up to speed.
The platform, which won last year’s RAC Seedspark accelerator competition, is now being implemented in a number of schools across Western Australia in a term-long pilot program.
Co-founder Jason O’Neil originally wanted to create a platform to help students while working as a web developer at a school. He came up with the idea of a digital student diary, but after asking teachers for their opinion, one said that communicating with parents was a big problem that needed solving. This teacher, Aaron Gregory, then became co-founder of Today We Learned.
“As we began to talk to both teachers and parents, we saw that this was a real stress point – existing methods for communicating with parents were clumsy and time consuming. And parents were very hungry for more relevant information, so they can connect with their child’s learning in a greater way. There was real demand from both sides of the divide for a solution that is fast and effective,” O’Neil said.
It’s common knowledge that teachers are very busy. O’Neil and Gregory knew that teachers wouldn’t take up a new platform unless it was extremely quick and easy to use. They then found that though teachers were already able to email parents directly, they often didn’t know what to write and, as a result, took a long time to write each email. Seeing it could bridge the gap here, Today We Learned eventually settled on its current approach of having teachers simply finish a few sentences.
The team continued to strip back features to ensure that every remaining element of the platform was essential.
In terms of teacher-parent communication, Today We Learned isn’t the only platform available; there are dozens of apps such as Remind and Class Messenger that do the job. However, O’Neil believes Today We Learned differs thanks to its focus on continuing the learning at home rather than simply allowing teachers to remind parents that a piece of homework is due at the end of the week. It also allows for better communication between parents and children – how many times did we simply sum up our days at school as “good” when our parents asked?
“Our focus is entirely on starting learning conversations at home, and this helps us craft the product in a way that is fast for teachers and actually encourages parents to start more conversations at home,” he said.
O’Neil and Gregory got the first few schools on board thanks to their existing connections in the education sector. However, with contacting schools individually too time consuming a way to sell the product, O’Neil said the team’s focus during the Speedspark accelerator program was developing a more robust go-to-market strategy.
“Another aspect of Seedspark has been the growing relationship with RAC [Royal Automobile Club]. Their eagerness to invest in projects which benefit the WA community has been fantastic, and we’re exploring a longer term partnership at the moment,” he said.
Today We Learned is free for schools and teachers, while parents pay $9 a term to subscribe to the app. Half of that money is then given back to the school.
Today We Learned’s pilot program is running through term one of this year, with sign ups for schools everywhere opening from April.