Schools Creating Own Edtech Tools

[In this Edsurge article the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia is used an example of how a school can design a better solution for its needs. In this case SLA needed a management system for its project-based learning program that worked on a competency-based model.]

Mary Jo Madda
Aug 13, 2015

Across the country, schools want students to focus more on learning concrete skills than abstract concepts. This approach often goes by the name of “competency-based learning,” which emphasizes skill proficiency over grades. (That C+ in Algebra, for instance, doesn’t say much about a student’s grasp of math.)

Educators believe competency-based instruction works best when students have the freedom to drive their own learning. But tracking their progress in a flexible learning environment, where every kid may be on a different learning path, is extremely challenging. Traditional learning management tools and grade books are not set up to support these structures.

One school in Philadelphia decided to build its own software to support its student-driven, competency-based pedagogy. Fed up with existing learning platforms, administrators at Science Leadership Academy (SLA) developed Slate, an open-source platform that can be customized depending on what a school needs. The tool is now used in U School, the Philadelphia School, Matchbook Learning schools, and more—and it’s a testament to how homegrown tools can sometimes serve schools better than existing options in the market.

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