Jarrod Drysdale begs to differ with those who might possibly even consider snubbing a teacher. “Teachers sacrifice a lot. They work hard and they are committed to helping children. I’ve seen this first hand my entire life. They don’t deserve the treatment they’re getting right now,” says Jarrod, who isn’t necessarily attempting to make up for past bad behavior: he was actually one of those students who consistently turned in his homework on time and earned good grades. And for Jarrod’s family, education always came first. After all, his father was a high school English teacher. “I used to watch him grade stacks and stacks of papers late into the evening,” he says. Nowadays, Jarrod watches his wife cut out shapes and prepare activities and lesson plans for her kindergarten students on weekends. In creating Knack for Teachers—Jarrod was fully aware of the importance of education and the dedication of teachers. “Knack is my way of helping teachers face the controversy in education,” he says. So what exactly does it mean to have a Knack for Teachers? Learn more about it as Jarrod shares his helpful mission.
Victor: Why did you create Knack For Teachers?
Jarrod: I created Knack to fill a need. Many teachers need to make graphs or collect data about student performance but don’t know where to start. The vast majority of software tools for educators are poorly designed and difficult to use. I was surprised to find a simple alternative didn’t exist so I built Knack.
Victor: What does the name mean?
Jarrod: The dictionary definition for “knack” is “a special skill, talent, or aptitude.” Knack provides a special, tailored way of getting work done. It’s not a carbon copy of other education software. I designed Knack’s unique tools from scratch to meet the real needs of real teachers and left out the fluff. The list of features is shorter, but that’s why Knack is easier and faster to use than anything else.
Victor: What is it, exactly?
Jarrod: Knack provides simple data tools for individual teachers. I designed and built it myself with the guidance and input of my wife, father, and sister-in-law, who are all teachers.
Victor: What does it do? What are the benefits?
Jarrod: Specifically, the major features include: making graphs and organizing notes. The graphs are especially powerful because they show student progress over time. You can input and calculate grades or track standards data. Knack also creates a detailed report for each student in one click.
The benefit for teachers using Knack is proving effectiveness. Everyone involved in the current education reform controversy is talking about teacher effectiveness. Knack helps teachers use real data to measure and analyze progress so they can defend themselves.
Victor: How is it unique from other similar products/services? What companies do you see as in the same market?
Jarrod: Knack is unique in that it’s for individuals. Most education software companies pursue large profitable contracts from schools and districts, but lose sight of the individuals who actually use the software. With Knack I’m committed to providing tangible value. My goal is to make teachers’ lives easier. Everyone says that, but I don’t think most actually deliver on that promise.
The other reason Knack is different is that it’s bootstrapped. That’s a term we use in the tech industry which means it’s run like any normal brick and mortar business. I fund its operation out of my own pocket and charge money to make a profit. That way I report to teachers rather than an investor or advertiser.
Because I am operating in a niche, I’m not really concerned with competitors.
Victor: When was it developed? What is something interesting or relevant about its development history?
Jarrod: After years of watching teachers in my family rip out their hair when grades were due and struggle to keep track of all their classroom data, I decided to help. My experience with web applications and design provided a valuable insight into their needs, and with their help I built Knack.
Another interesting point is about the December 16th relaunch. After the original launch in August, feedback from educators, bloggers, and tech professionals started streaming in and I took some time to listen and make improvements. I’m committed to making sure Knack does what teachers need, and with the relaunch I am confident it does.
Victor: Where did it originate? Where can you get it now?
Jarrod: Knack is a web app which means it works on your computer in your web browser. It’s available at http://KnackForTeachers.com.
Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?
Victor: What are some examples of it in action?
Jarrod: Here’s the intro video. It gives a quick tour of major features and what Knack looks like in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NC-3WPAqM0c
Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for? Who is it NOT for?
Victor: What are your thoughts on education these days?
Jarrod: There are a lot of problems in the American education system and teachers are facing blame. I think that’s unreasonable and frankly unfounded. I built Knack to support teachers and take their side in this debate.
I realize there might be a couple bad teachers who need to be fired, but the real problem is that teachers are not empowered to do quality work. Modern public schools have miles of red tape. The bureaucracy is too dense to allow progress.
I can’t address all the problems in education with one web app, but I hope Knack can empower teachers to achieve progress.
Victor: How does Knack for Teachers address some of your concerns about education?
Jarrod: Knack is a tool teachers can use to prove their merit. With evidence, hopefully
they can change the conversation to the positive and focus on progress.
Victor: What is your outlook on the future of education?
Jarrod: I think a new breed of apps from the tech industry could make huge improvements in education. People like to talk about how in the future all education will be on mobile devices and teachers will be obsolete. That’s a lot of tech industry hype. We’ll need more and better designers before that can happen. What I’m talking about is apps that empower people and make life better. I think Knack is one of those apps, but only the future can tell.
Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of Knack for Teachers?
Jarrod: Knack’s value is in its simplicity.
Jarrod: Educators have tried enterprise software with long lists of features and know it doesn’t work. Software should save you time instead of add another burden. Knack is not about doing more, but about doing less. Fewer features means you spend 15 minutes instead of two hours and the results are better. I think people will find that liberating.
Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. He is the editor-in-chief of Edtech Digest, a magazine about education transformed through technology. He has written white papers, articles and features for schools, nonprofits and companies in the education marketplace. Write to: [email protected]