Since its inception, RANDA Solutions has been in edtech, initially managing infrastructure supporting large-scale assessments. Over the years, their offerings have expanded to include early development of cloud hosting and innovative solutions for school districts. Passionate about being a central part of improving education in America, Marty Reed wants RANDA to be a catalyst for change and to empower educators. To do this, he feels that it’s not about technology for technology’s sake, but as he puts it, “This is innovation with a purpose: Education data you can trust. Information you can use.” Here, he explains how, why and what’s in store for education transformed with a boost from technology.
Victor: Why did you create RANDA Solutions?
Marty: RANDA was actually kind of accidental. My new wife wanted to move away from her hometown, so we moved to Nashville, I started picking up small business clients, and here we are 10 years later.
Victor: What does the name mean?
Marty: My original moniker was “Reed & Associates,” which then became “R & A Solutions” or “R and A Solutions”. I really wanted to remove my name from the company name so we thought RANDA Solutions, and a salesperson at the time asked if we owned randasolutions.com. I told him to look at his e-mail address, and it’s been that way for the past three years.
Victor: That’s very interesting! Who would have guessed? Alright, moving forward—what exactly is it? Who created it (or them)?
Marty: I am assuming you mean our software solutions.
Marty: There are actually numerous initiatives in different stages of development, from beta testing to pilot studies to full market releases:
We have been performing state-wide student summative assessment data management for several years now, essentially making the aggregation and reporting on assessment data a separate role from assessment content- to the benefit of the state.
Our TOWER System and TOWER Mobile is “Teacher Observation, Walkthrough, Evaluation and Reporting”. Client-supplied observation tools (rubrics) in a system noted for paperless, easy-to-administer observations. Includes scheduling/management functions and iPad/Android apps that sync with the System features. That was first released in August and forms of it are being used domestically and internationally. It’s also being used in higher ed contexts with great success.
We’re preparing to implement Virtual Course Toolbox in pilot studies any day now. VCT is a simple, intuitive web-based online course building tool. It empowers subject matter experts to build courses without the help of Flash designers simply using a familiar UI (PowerPoint) and export the courses in SCORM-compliant Flash packages for LMS.
Our development team is days away from completing Homeroom—a web-based portal helping state, districts, and consortia aggregate, align, and augment performance data in a secure, role-based SSO workflows, reports and dashboard.
We’re developing a proprietary Item Development Portal. The IDP is a web-based assessment items review by a team of qualified reviewers; IDP provides collaboration with a facilitator to finalize items via discussion panel (blog style). IDP is designed to take the process from creation of accounts, filling out pre-defined demographics, creation of assignments for Facilitator and Reviewers by an Administrator, the review process, the final review coordinated by the facilitator, and post reporting on the data collected.
Mobile Formative Assessments is a project we completed some time ago, but we’re working hard on adding functionality before we release it. MFA will provide true formative assessments delivered on iPad and Android devices and synchronized with a web-based Formative Assessment Management System.
Classroom Management Tool is designed for iPad. Our mobile Classroom Management Tool provides intuitive teacher managed discipline and attendance records, 2 of the 3 major data points for drop out early warning systems.
Lastly, we’re working on a Common Core Standards-related solution.
Victor: What does it do? What are the benefits?
Marty: Our primary goal is changing the face of education through technology, we do this by working in the marketplace with pilot partners to identify the most impactful ways we can apply technology, then we build out from there. Our statewide assessment solution increases the validity/alignment of teacher and student data in some cases 66 percent. The TOWER solution saves the typical Principal about 2 hours and 45 minutes of paperwork per observation of a teacher in the classroom giving them that time back.
Victor: How is it unique from other similar products/services? What companies do you see as in the same market?
Marty: These solutions have competitors, but typically the competitors are limited by platform or have a content agenda such as promoting their professional development catalog. Since we focus on collecting, aggregating managing and reporting data we’ve made it a point to work across virtually any platform and to be content-agnostic. For instance, TOWER is rubric-agnostic. The clients supply the rubrics and tell us what they want in their custom reports.
Victor: When was it developed and what’s something interesting or relevant about its development history?
Marty: We developed one of the most recent solutions about one year ago. We went to a school district to discuss a mobile assessment tool, when we started talking to the district personel they needed to solve the observation challenge first, so we quickly changed gears and had our product in the hands of end users in three months.
Victor: Where did it originate and where can you get it now?
Marty: Pertaining to all these solutions, inquiries can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling our toll free info number: 877.314.1412.
Victor: Examples of it in action?
Marty: Across the board, we strive to make our solutions easy to learn and simple to use. Educators are spread thin enough without having to learn new technologies. So we typically make our software conform to their current operational practices, but it such a way that, though automation, things become even more simple for them- and accelerated. Reports are available almost immediately.
Victor: Your thoughts on education these days?
Marty: Education is an exciting place to be. We have been working, but not focused on, education for our entire history. The spotlight on education, education data, and all the things that surround it make it I believe to be a place where there are great opportunities to leverage technology to greatly impact our next generation of learners. One of our more important observations has been when the students see administrators and teachers using devices like iPads in the classroom, they are encouraged that they are being educated by forward thinkers, not the last generations. We have to be mindful of this moving forward to make sure the next generation of students have the tools they need to be successful in the next generation of technology and society as a whole.
Victor: What formative experiences helped to inform your approach to creating RANDA Solutions?
Marty: They are numerous, every day is a learning experience for me, part of our core values, learning something new every day, really drives us to push forward and challenge roadblocks that are evident in the marketplace. Technology moves so fast that if you aren’t pushing the envelope, you are instantly falling behind, we saw this in Small Business Technology and it is slowly pushing into the mainstream of education.
Victor: How does RANDA Solutions address some of your concerns about education?
Marty: Education is changing, as students are changing, constantly, there are lots of groups out there solving content problems, is this the right curriculum, is this the right test question—but the better model might be: Is this the best way to educate this type of student? Are we giving them tools to learn new things in the future or just educating them on the past, or both? I look to my son, at the time he was three years old, he was sitting down on the couch with the iPad and I walked up behind him. He was playing a game in German. My son doesn’t know German, but he understood how the game was to be played, and he adapted. We strive to make solutions like this, where the tool or solution is so intuitive, it just makes sense, the thought that should cross the end-user’s mind should be “why wouldn’t you do it this way? It just works.” If everyone serving education strives to make everything as intuitive as possible, my hope is the learner builds that into their own psyche, to think about all things being achievable rather than roadblocks to success.
Victor: What can you tell us about your outlook on the future of education?
Marty: We have some interesting leadership right now, they are thinking the right way, you need to give the educator, the administrators, tools to inform decisions, but there are a lot of paradigms that have existed for a long time that must be broken in order to think a new way. I hope we have an influence on that in the work we do.
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: victor@VictorRivero.com