JA: And welcome back to Class Action. I want to turn your attention now to the one of the most talk about online education companies in the country. It’s called Dreambox Learning, and Dreambox is used in schools but you can also use it at home to help your own child with Math. Just a few weeks ago 2 Bay Area big-wigs joined in an 11 million dollar round of funding in Dreambox- the CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings and Venture Capitalist, John Doerr, who funded Google, Netscape and Amazon.com. Now check it out. Dreambox learning is use extensively in Bay Area by Rocketship Elementary School. There are charter schools in San Jose that serve mainly minorities students, so this is the way it works. Kids spent part of their day in a traditional classroom with the teacher but then watch what happens they file down the hall to the Computer Lab, where they spent up to 2 hours a day doing online learning. Dreambox Math program is for Kindergarten through 3rd grade students and it is in use there. And now I’m joined by the CEO of Dreambox Jessie Woolley Wilson. I’ve got to start with this why is it called Dreambox?
JWW: You know we wanted to move past limitations and think about what dreams and aspirations, so people dreamed it and we built it.
JA: Okay so let’s talk about how the kids are using it in at the Rocketship Charter Schools. The concept behind sitting and doing online math is what?
JWW: Well, that technology can know more about an individual student at any one time and
give you instantaneous feedback about what a student knows, what they don’t know, and most importantly what they need, so technology can help actually architect and individualized learning path for every child.
JA: So it’s more of a student centered learning than a classroom centered learning and I know from like talking to people about it that the kids really enjoy it because it’s almost that they think it’s a game.
JWW: They do, we spent a lot of time and effort making sure that kids love it, we make math fun. So-
JA: Which not an easy task sometime.
JWW: That’s right, so we want to make sure that kids are not intimidated by it and we’ve leveraged protocols from gaming, so that kids aren’t frustrated, and they’re not bored, and they constantly feel like it’s in their control.
JA: Okay and so I know one of the things that I’ve read about it is that says it’s called an “Adaptive Program”. What does that mean?-That it’s moving at the pace that a child is at?
JWW: We called it an intelligent adaptive learning engine. It’s a platform, and essentially what that means is that not only are we tracking what they know, and what they don’t know, what they get right, and whether or not they ask for help. We’re actually tracking the strategies that they are using to solve a problem. So let’s say you are really gifted, and I’m kind of struggling and Dreambox says use the number line to build the number 37. You say, “I understand that. I’ll take three 10’s, a 5 and a 2, 37” and I don’t really know my 5’s and I don’t really know 10’s but I know may 1’s so I string along thirty-seven 1’s. Well you and I both got the answer right but did I understand the Mathematical concepts underlying it, so Dreambox says I’m going to take Jessica and maybe teacher that what she could have done is go to 40.
JWW: Four 10’s and minus to get it within 2 steps or I’m going to take Jessie she’s struggling. She needs little more support and help her understand 5’s and 10’s better.
JA: So it’s almost like the computer is intuitive.
JWW: It is.
JA: In what your needs are to be able to do the solutions and come up with that.
JA: That’s really fascinating to be able to do it like that so let’s talk about what the funding; you got this round of funding. How does that change what you’re able to do now?
JWW: So now we can build Dreambox for older kids. We can make it more relevant, the engagement framework so that’s a little older and we can continue to bring it to more schools and to more parents.
JA: And you’re going to expand that because right now you’re at 3rd grade but you want to break.
JWW: 3rd grade and as of February will have it for older kids as well.
JA: Wow! That is great. What has been- I know you had done tons of research on how kids are learning and the effect it’s had on Rocketship, what have been the results?
JWW: So we have independent studies that shows that in a mere 16 weeks kids increase their Math proficiency by 5.5%. It’s a well- is that impressive -you say? But school’s systems will struggle for a whole year to try to get that done and fret to be done in 16 weeks is pretty impressive.
JA: And if I want to use it at home how does that work? And how is it differ for me to use it in my own home with my daughter; Olivia is in 3rd grade right now so if I want her to go on Dreambox what do I need to do?
JWW: So you can just go to Dreambox.com and you can buy it as a parent, but what we trying to do is trying to connect what happens in a classroom to what happens at home so that we have more of a continuous learning experience for kids, so we don’t disconnect it. We know that parents want their kids to be prepared for world they’re going to inherit for 21st century and so we want to make sure that learning that technology is not on a periphery of learning but it actually impacts learning at the point of instruction so doesn’t really limit, it’s not limited but what you do between 8 and 3 o’clock. If we’re going to deliver what child needs when they need it and where they need it-?
JA: You know we’ve been talking so much recently about the concept of online learning, and how a lot of schools have been resisting doing that, but to be on the vanguard of that right now is something that’s really helping children that really online learning is the way if we would restructure schools, it we’d be the way they’ll be more efficient both economically and from a purpose for schools.
JWW: So the world has changed. We just heard about all the pressure to make learning more efficient, to increase learning productivity. We also know that parents want to make sure that their kids are ready for global economy that has technology infused throughout. We also know that kids are frustrated because they live a certain way with technology at their finger tips and then they go in to a typical traditional classroom and it’s absent of technology. There’s no technology there. So, we believe that these new technologies that kind of learn the user through use. We like to say, “Dreambox learns the learner as the learner learns.” We can close that gap between the way kids are living every day and the way they’re learning at the same time deliver savings to districts, to schools, to states because you can do more with technology supporting grade instruction.
JA: So where does Dreambox go from here? I mean when you look down the road 10 years from now, and you dream about what you want Dreambox to be, what do you see?
JWW: We want to transform the way the world learns.
JA: It’s a big dream.
JWW: We think that learning can be engaging and fun and very effective all at once we don’t think you have to give up effectiveness if it’s fun. We don’t think it – if it’s fun, that it can’t be effective.
JA: Now is this something that would be limited only to Mathematics or do you see Dreambox expanding outside of the world of Mathematics and being able to do to have the use of the same type of concept but in other areas of learning.
JWW: Our vision is that learning should be age, grade and content agnostic. This is a platform that’s nimble. It shouldn’t be limited to Mathematics, it can be applied to reading, to science, really as long as there are funders like Reed Hastings and John Doerr that are willing to invest in this vision, then the future is unlimited.
JA: I think that sounds wonderful. Very exciting, I’m going to make sure I get my 3rd grader on there as well. Thank you so much Jessie. Thank you for being here with us. Well, if you’re a parent of public school child stick around to meet my next 2 guest, 2 moms who are literally shaking things up.