August 31, 2015

This Robot Tutor Will Make Personalizing Education Easy

By Issie Lapowsky, originally published in on 8/25/15

Knewton mobile application.

Knewton mobile application.

Personalizing education can change a kid’s life. It can keep the advanced ones from getting bored and the struggling ones from falling behind, because every kid, no matter their level of proficiency, is encouraged to move at his or her own pace.

But for the teachers tasked with implementing this increasingly popular pedagogy, it pretty much sucks. Personalizing a lesson means creating even more work than already time-strapped, under-resourced teachers can handle. It means drafting more lesson plans, digging up more reading materials, and creating more assessments than they would have to if they stuck to the old-fashioned, if imperfect, method of teaching to the middle. The sheer amount of work that personalized education requires of the educator is one reason why so few large and needy public schools haven’t adopted personalized models at the same rate as their better-funded private school counterparts.

It’s also one reason why Jose Ferreira and his company, Knewton, have spent the last seven years working on a way to fix that problem with technology. Today, they’re launching the results of that work: a new, free tool that aims to automate personalized instruction for teachers.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Technology

May 15, 2015

Tutoring Marketplace Studypool Snags $1.2 Million

by Sarah Perez, TechCrunch

Studypool, a 500 Startups-backed startup offering an online marketplace that connects students with tutors on a per question basis, has just closed on $1.2 million in seed funding, after growing its site to include some 22,000 tutors and nearly double that in terms of student users. The new round, which makes co-founder Richard Werbe the youngest founder ever to raise over a million at 500 Startups, was led by Lerer Hippeau Ventures. Others participating in the round include 500 Startups, Fabrice Grinda (FJ Labs), Great Oaks Venture Capital and several Silicon Valley angel investors.

In less than a year’s time, Studypool has seen 150,000 questions posted on its site plus another 50,000 pieces of other study-related content. The company is now closing in on a $1 million run rate, we’re told.

The concept for the service was initially dreamed up by two longtime friends, Studypool CEO Richard Werbe and co-founder and CTO Jiaming Zhong. The two had been building startups together since their teens, and Werbe even sold a company he created called Stockniche while still in high school. They began working on Studypool in spring of 2014, while sophomores in college – hacking on the site from their dorm rooms, and skipping weeks of classes to get it off the ground.

Within just a month of the site going live, Studypool already had thousands of users, which prompted the founders to drop out of college and move to California in order to focus on growing the company further.

Click here to read more.

Filed under: Technology

June 30, 2014

United Way offers new tutoring pilot program

By Mary Lou Valenzuela, originally published in on 5/29/14.

(Photo: United Way)

As a Wells Fargo executive, Yolanda Stokes is a busy woman. She didn’t always have the time to drive 40 minutes from work to volunteer at J.R. Davis Elementary in south Phoenix. But as a former student in the Roosevelt School District, she wanted to give back. So when she found out about the United Way’s new tutoring opportunity, which allows her to work with a student remotely, she immediately signed up.

“I can sit at my work desk and give a gift that is immeasurable to a student that is so appreciative and so deserving,” she said.

Each week, Yolanda helps second-grader Jaffett Reyes with his reading. She calls into his classroom from her office phone and reviews reading-comprehension activities and stories from a computer interface they can both see. Yolanda and Jaffett are part of United Way’s tutoring pilot that uses TutorMate technology and volunteerism to improve children’s literacy. Volunteers partner with first-, second- and third-graders in the Roosevelt School District and set weekly appointments to provide support during 30-minute tutoring sessions. The pilot is the first of its kind in the Valley, United Way officials said.

“In just a few months, reading and confidence have improved, behaviors have improved and students that had a difficult time focusing are really putting forth the effort so they can participate,” said Anita McFarland, principal of J.R. Davis Elementary School. “Initially, we were worried participation would be viewed negatively by the students’ peers, but instead of feeling singled out, they feel chosen … every student wishes they could be one of the lucky ones to receive a weekly phone call.”

To read more, click here.

Filed under: Technology,Tutoring Practices

February 6, 2014

South Side High School seniors launch free online tutoring site

By Tara Conry, long Island Newsday, originally published 11/29/13

Students at South Side High School in Rockville Centre can now summon a free tutor thanks to an online service launched by four of their schoolmates. The group created, a portal that makes peer-to-peer tutoring anonymous and more flexible. (Credit: Tara Conry)

When Michael Spelfogel receives a pop-up message on his cell phone, he knows one of his schoolmates needs help, and he’s ready to come to the rescue. Whether they’re struggling with trigonometry, physics or French, students at South Side High School in Rockville Centre now have the ability to summon a tutor using a computer, smartphone or tablet.

In October, Spelfogel, 17, a senior, and three of his classmates — Thomas Keady, 17, Matt Giovanniello, 17, and Yu-Kuan “Anthony” Lai, 17 — developed and launched, a free online portal for peer-to-peer tutoring. Spelfogel said the idea came to him after his National Honor Society adviser announced in late September that all members needed to complete 40 minutes of tutoring either before or during the school day. That posed a problem for Spelfogel and his friends. “We all have very rigorous schedules, no ‘off’ periods,” he said.

The four seniors devised an alternative. By taking tutoring online, they realized they could offer both tutors and students in need of help more flexibility. “The time when students really find out they don’t understand a topic is at night when they’re studying for a test that’s tomorrow,” Lai said. “That’s when you need the help the most.”

When students visit the site, which Spelfogel, Keady, Giovanniello and Lai created together from scratch, they can select from a list of 19 subjects and are asked to indicate the course’s level — Regents or Advanced, for instance — their teacher, and their question. They can also attach a file to show the material they’re struggling with.  Once the request is sent, a tutor will receive a notification on his or her phone and will then engage in a live chat with the person needing help. Both parties remain anonymous, which Spelfogel said, is another advantage.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,High School,Peer-Tutoring,Technology

January 17, 2014

Teenage CEO helps students follow their college dreams with online tutoring

By Julie Knutson, culturemap Houston, originally published 11/4/13

Houston native and Harvard freshman Rahsaan King, founder and CEO of Students of Strength Courtesy of Facebook

Few first-year college students can lay claim to the title of CEO. But Harvard freshman and Houston-native Rahsaan King — who launched the online tutoring, college advising and academic mentoring program Students of Strength earlier this fall — is unlike most.

Through live, one-on-one web meetings available in 20, 40 or 60-minute increments, King’s company connects its team of nearly 200 consultants — all current MIT and Harvard students — with 7th through 12th graders seeking academic coaching. Sessions provide a range of services, from homework help and SAT prep to mock college interviews and study strategies.

With modest fees and scholarships for low-income students, King hopes to make the service accessible to all, regardless of socio-economic status. “I want all students to hear about Students of Strength, and if they or their parents or school administrators want them to have the service, they should be able to get it without worrying about the cost,” notes King, who was in town this past weekend to promote the venture at four area schools and at the Houston Golf Association.

King’s personal experience at Chinquapin — a college preparatory school located east of Houston that serves economically-disadvantaged and historically-underserved students — sparked his interest in social enterprise, education reform and student empowerment. “For students who are low-income, as I was, and who probably wouldn’t have access to this type of service, those are the students who it’s my mission to serve,” he adds.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Technology,Tutoring Practices

Older Posts »

For a free monthly newsletter,

"Best of Journal",

enter your email and click

"subscribe to newsletter"

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tutoring Foundations Tutor Training