Two U.S. Department of Education Grants Create Partnership Between Knowledge Athletes Inc., Warner School to Close Achievement Gaps in Education

Two Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants totaling $175,000 will create a unique partnership between Knowledge Athletes and the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education that capitalizes on online communications to close the achievement gaps in adolescent and college learning.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the partnership will develop and pilot two new web-based educational software prototypes designed to encourage communication and collaboration in the classroom environment and beyond by capitalizing on the new opportunities offered by social networking technology. This new software will allow students to become more excited and engaged in learning by being able to communicate the way they enjoy—digitally—and will enable teachers to collaborate with them and encourage critical thinking.

“The reality is that adolescents love digital communications, and have been engaged in networking sites for quite a while,” said Dave Miller, founder and president of Knowledge Athletes and a doctoral student at the Warner School. “This new software will give them a chance to harness all that energy by participating digitally in class and homework while also learning from one another. Because of its user-friendliness, teachers will be able to operate in that digital environment that they haven’t been able to operate in easily, productively, and effectively.”

The first web-based educational software platform, Literacy Engagement and Achievement PassportTM (LEAP), will be used by students and teachers in traditional middle school and high school classrooms, as well as in a variety of educational settings, to increase literacy engagement and achievement among adolescent learners. LEAP will provide new opportunities for collaborative and self-directed student learning, extended diversity of texts and topics, numerous opportunities for writing and critical thinking, formative and summative assessment, and the building and interaction of collaborative online student teams.

The second web-based educational software platform, Knowledge Athletes® Platform (KAP), will provide new opportunities for learning and academic success for students who have traditionally been left out of classroom discussions and interactions. KAP, which provides teachers new opportunities to engage their students in online intellectual dialogue without having to rely on verbal communications, will reduce the learning achievement gap between high school and college students who are deaf and hard of hearing and their mainstreamed peers. It will provide students with the online communication tools for reflection and communication and the opportunity to contribute to the classroom atmosphere and dialogue.

Both teacher-driven software platforms are free for all subscribing schools and are user friendly, yet they are built for even the most tech-savvy student or teacher. The software will generate revenue through educationally-relevant internet advertisements.

Knowledge Athletes’ partnership with the Warner School is an outgrowth of the University of Rochester’s Kauffman Foundation-funded initiative on educational entrepreneurship.

“We chose to partner with Warner because Dean Raffaella Borasi has a very entrepreneurial spirit,” explained Donna Thompson, co-founder and vice president of business development for Knowledge Athletes and a Warner School alumna. “Her approach to education is very much in tune with ours. When you create a partnership like this you have to have like-minded entities.”

Knowledge Athletes, Inc. is one of the first companies to create a new generation of collaborative knowledge-building webware that leverages the power of social networking technology for educational purposes. The company’s webware turns traditional social media applications into powerful educational and performance analytics tools that span vertical markets in K-12, higher education, and general business. Knowledge Athletes webware provides an educational solution that connects students and teachers and drives improved student engagement, stimulates writing skills, and enhances teachers’ abilities to connect with students.

Tags: entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship in education, instructional technology, social networking