Many tech companies take the opportunity to have a bit of fun with their users on April 1st, and JumpRope is no exception. While fun is a big part of the goal, it has also given us a platform to offer some (often sarcastic) satire on education, technology, and especially the rapidly expanding world of ed-tech. Too often in our industry, companies are approaching education reform with tech-only solutions focused solely on gathering the most data as quickly and easily as possible. While we believe that these elements are important, we also believe that this is only half of the battle. At least as much attention needs to be given to the underlying theories of action and the ways in which data monsters affect classroom culture and pedagogy.
That’s why last April at JumpRope, we launched AutoGrader (the solution to everyone’s data entry woes) as a way of drawing attention to the limited value and arbitrary nature of automated assessment systems. This year, we introduced JUMPROPE BOOST® as commentary on a real feature that JumpRope will be releasing this spring due to popular demand: the ability to override student course grades. Don’t get me wrong: I completely understand and support the reasons why, in a world of traditional grading and reporting to external audiences, it is often necessary for teachers to exercise some subjectivity and final authority in determining grades. In fact, I believe strongly that the classroom teacher is far better at assessing mastery than any computer can be. That said, JumpRope and our schools have worked hard to create systems of feedback that are more specific, more transparent, and more honest. Giving a student the grade that they deserve is only made more meaningful by taking the time to justify the grade with meaningful points of mastery in terms of academic skills and work habits. As a teacher for many years myself, I personally understand how difficult and time-consuming this process can be.
Our April Fools’ joke this year is my way of playfully pleading with our users not to use the Course Override feature as a substitute for meaningful mastery-based teaching and learning. Rather, I ask that you use it as a “safety valve” allowing you to make sure that mastery-based feedback can occur meaningfully alongside traditional systems when absolutely necessary. Those of you that have been waiting for this capability, you can expect to hear more in the next week or two. In the meantime, thanks for your patience and your dedication to giving students meaningful feedback!