A Conversation About Creating A Global Classroom | Getting Smart
Holly's students have participated in several PenPal Schools VR projects, including a VR Field Trip to Pakistan. PenPal Schools recently ...
“Why do we have to learn this?” It’s the question that haunts every teacher. When schoolwork doesn’t seem relevant, students quickly lose interest and stop learning. And with information just a Google search away, memorizing facts for tests seems more pointless than ever.
This lack of student motivation has led to a crisis in our education system, with students failing to meet grade level targets across all ages and skills.
Fortunately, many schools across the US and around the world have recognized that a system based on memorization and testing is not effective. Innovative teachers are leading a movement towards project-based learning, where students demonstrate their learning not by passing a test, but by creating original work. When done well, project-based learning not only motivates students to learn the required content and skills, it also helps them to develop creativity, communication and collaboration skills.
Students on PenPal Schools don’t just write to each other - they collaborate globally to design robots, create films, explore careers, and find local solutions to global problems. Sound like fun? It is!
Students on PenPal Schools are so engaged and motivated in their learning that PenPal Schools has earned high-profile press and won numerous prestigious awards, including Best Edtech of the Year by Common Sense Education (a big deal). PenPal Schools was also recognized by President Obama (a bigger deal) as an outstanding social enterprise - an organization that uses a for-profit business model to create positive change.
These screenshots are nice, but to really get a feel for PenPal Schools you should see a demo. Pick a topic of your choice and preview it to see the quality of the content and technology. The demo looks pretty good on a phone, but it's optimized for a laptop - the way 90% of our students use it.
As you may already know, the K-12 education industry is very large. In the United States alone, there are over 98,000 public schools and 33,000 private schools serving a total of over 56 million students. These schools spend a total of $12.4 billion per year on instructional supplies.
What you may not know, unless you spend a lot of time in schools, is that classrooms today look very different than they did just a few years ago. Schools everywhere recognize the need for students to practice using technology, and are replacing worn out textbooks with digital instructional materials. Today, 98 percent of US school districts provide internet access for students.
Just as classrooms are shifting from textbooks to technology, so are the budgets of schools and school districts:
In addition to what they purchase, schools and districts have also changed how they purchase. In the past, large textbook publishers sold their products by schmoozing administrators with fancy dinners or golf outings. This was great for administrators, but often forced students and teachers to use ineffective products. Fortunately, today schools and districts demand free trials (pilots) of digital resources to make sure that they are effective. This is great for students and teachers, as well as for the companies that have built the products that they love. Like, for example, PenPal Schools.
Teachers can complete any two topics for free on PenPal Schools. After completing their free trial, teachers are given the option to encourage their principal to purchase a license for the school (we don’t believe in charging teachers).
Since implementing this system in 2017, PenPal Schools has sold licenses to 75 schools and 3 districts:
The sales pipeline for 2019 is very strong, with revenue expected to surpass expenses in March based on sales to individual schools alone. In addition, news of PenPal Schools has reached administrators from some of the largest school districts in the US, and pilots are currently underway with 8 districts representing a combined total of 591 schools. Students and teachers from these districts are already using PenPal Schools and sharing their feedback with district administrators, who will make purchases in the Spring for the 2019-20 school year.
Spring 2019 - PenPal Schools will hire additional account managers to increase sales and manage existing relationships. These account managers will field inbound leads generated from free trials while also focusing on business development with large school districts.
Summer 2019 - PenPal Schools will introduce a mobile app for parents. The free version of this app will enable parents to see the amazing projects that their children create with peers around the world. For a small monthly fee, parents will be able to enroll their children in additional topics beyond those selected by the teacher. Premium subscribers will also have access to advanced analytics and recommendation features, made possible by the thousands of assessments that students receive from peers and teachers.
This freemium parent app will enable PenPal Schools to enter the fast-growing home education market. With US children ages 8-12 spending an average of 6 hours per day online, parents are increasingly willing to pay for educational apps to ensure that screen time is well-spent. While reliable statistics for the size of the home education market are not yet available, the impressive valuations for companies focused on sales to parents, such as ABCmouse and Classdojo, demonstrate the common belief amongst education investors and analysts in the strength of the home education market.
We are especially excited to invite educators to invest in PenPal Schools! Our program has grown and evolved thanks to the support of some truly amazing teachers and administrators. We are so grateful for all you have done for us and for your students, and we are thrilled to offer you the opportunity to share in our success. - Joe
The smallest investment amount that PenPal Schools is accepting.
PenPal Schools needs to reach their minimum funding goal before
the deadline. If they don’t, all investments will be refunded.
The Crowd SAFE is an agreement for future equity in the startup,
meaning that it can convert to equity in the future.
The Crowd SAFE is an agreement for future equity in the startup, meaning that it can convert to equity in the future.
$25,000 – $1,070,000
PenPal Schools needs to raise
before the deadline. The maximum amount PenPal Schools is willing
to raise is $1.07M.
We are using Republic's Crowd SAFE security. Learn how this translates into a return on investment here.
Students can only join if invited by a teacher, so they know their work is monitored! Also, our students have created a culture of responsibility and respect. The vast majority of students are writing positive and thoughtful answers, and any disrespectful content is immediately flagged by students using peer review features. When a message is flagged, both the teacher and the PenPal Schools team are notified. Teachers are then provided with a recommended protocol to help students learn proper digital citizenship skills.
PenPal Schools has a strict Student Safety Protocol which has enabled us to connect over 320,000 students without any security problems. First we ensure that only students and teachers are allowed on PenPal Schools. Students can only join if they are invited by a teacher. All teachers must be verified by their principals in order to join and enroll students. PenPal Schools speaks personally with every principal.
Once enrolled, students collaborate in community forums. There is no private direct messaging between students, ensuring that any inappropriate behavior is immediately seen and flagged. Teachers have access to a 21st Century Skills Toolkit, which helps students to learn about topics like creating secure usernames/passwords and protecting personal information.
Speaking of personal information, PenPal Schools collects a bare minimum of data from students. To create an account, students only provide their first name and last initial. Students don't provide personally identifiable information such as last names or email addresses. The small amount of data that students do provide is secured and encrypted.
PenPal Schools is used (and loved) by students ages 8-18. Younger students typically enroll in topics such as World Explorer and A World of Food, while older students typically enroll in more advanced topics such as Robotics and Immigration in the 21st Century. All topics are offered at multiple ability levels, so every student in a class can read and write at their own level. Our algorithm ensures that students always interact with PenPals within two years of their own age.
The majority of students participate in PenPal Schools in the classroom during the school day. Lessons typically take 30-45 minutes each, so a topic containing 4 lessons would typically take 3-5 class periods. Some teachers choose to assign PenPal Schools as homework or to participate as an after-school activity. All topics are self-paced, making it easy for students to participate and easy for teachers to fit into their curriculum.
All communication on PenPal Schools is written. This enables schools to participate despite differences in time zones and internet speed/reliability. Written communication also helps students to practice core literacy skills and ensure that all students can share their ideas - not just the loudest!
Currently all students must be invited by a teacher. In the future, parents will be able to enroll their children once we verify their identity.
PenPal Schools is proud to offer scholarships to schools in need. We routinely provide our product for free to schools serving low income communities.
We’ve raised money the old-fashioned way before and could likely do it again. This time, however, we’ve chosen to raise money on Republic to provide friends, family, and our community with an opportunity to be a part of our journey. Our program has grown and evolved thanks to the support of some truly amazing teachers and administrators. We are so grateful for all they have done for us and for their students, and we are thrilled to offer them the opportunity to share in our success.
Of course, we welcome support from those who are new to PenPal Schools as well, and we hope that all investors will share PenPal Schools with the teachers and school administrators in their networks.
The PenPal Schools story is a great one! But it’s also pretty long, so when you’re ready, check out this 10-minute video: The PenPal Schools Story
Education is the key for all successAtul KumarInvested 27 days ago
I believe PenPal Schools will change education and the way we all learn!Nicole SalinasInvested 22 days ago
Hopefully it helps the youngsters get a better feel of the real world as they grow into adults. Happy to help!Kole GojcajInvested 20 days ago
I believe that this is a tool that will help students in the collaboration and introduction into international business.Mario BrownInvested 18 days ago
Pretty good cause company and I love itTan Quan NguyenInvested 11 days ago
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