Interview | On a New Mission with Knovation

A pioneer in creating personalized learning solutions, Randy Wilhelm fosters dialogue, opportunities and innovation among education leaders and stakeholders. He has formed collaborative partnerships throughout education and technology industries with hardware manufacturers, educational publishers and software developers. Randy co-founded netTrekker, Knovation’s legacy brand and company, in 1999. With the introduction of netTrekker Search, he led an industry-wide transformation in the delivery of digital content   to all stakeholders in K-12 education. In this interview, Randy talks about vision, mission, purpose, getting out of “failure mode”, why we are now at a critical juncture—and where he sees education headed in the near future.

Victor: Why did you change from netTrekker to Knovation? 

Randy: netTrekker Search pioneered digital content delivery focused on the needs of the learner. For more than 11 years as netTrekker, we worked to break down the barriers to learning and teaching. Now, we have expanded our vision, innovating in ways that will better meet the needs of individual learners. Knovation is much more than a new name, it is a new mission. The new entity reflects a transformation of the company’s strategic growth plan and ongoing endeavor to create breakthrough digital content solutions for K-12 education that reduce the barriers to learning and address the unique needs of students, teachers, parents and educational administrators. At all levels of our company, we are passionate to make a difference in the lives of both learners and those that have dedicated themselves to make learning possible. Our new name, Knovation, better reflects this broader vision.

Victor: What is icurio? Who created it and why?

Randy: Knovation has extended its suite of advanced technologies, professional services, and content solutions to deliver learner-centered, micro-curriculum content.

icurio, released in February 2012, is the first digital curriculum content solution for personalized learning. icurio was created by Knovation to address the growing needs for personalized learning solutions and robust digital content in the classroom. Use of digital learning content inside traditional curriculum can dramatically increase student engagement, leading to increased achievement. icurio not only provides robust educational content but also provides a unique toolset, combined with professional learning, to help teachers manage and maximize that content to match individual student needs.  In essence, we are streamlining the path to personalized learning and ultimately maximizing every student’s true potential.

Victor: What does it do? What are the benefits?

Randy: icurio enables districts to bridge from traditional fixed content to flexible digital content that can be targeted to meet the unique needs of learners across the learning continuum. icurio contains a comprehensive collection of 330,000 digital learning resources aligned to state and Common Core standards. It provides teachers more time and flexibility to engage students and address their individual needs and gives students the content and tools they need to take charge of their own learning.

Victor: How is it unique from other similar products/services? What companies do you see as in the same market?  

Randy: icurio is designed to support districts in the print-to-digital transition and to empower teachers as they transform their classrooms to more engaging, learner-centered environments. icurio  moves away from a one-size-fits-all approach seen in many traditional offerings to a more customized, learner-centered approach. It does this by delivering many different types of content, across all grades and subject areas, all in one place, giving teachers more time and flexibility to create lessons that target individual student needs, reduce barriers to learning and improve achievement.

Unique personalized learning tools such as the Read Aloud text-to-speech feature for auditory support and the dictionary/translation tool, allow students to become independent learners, improve comprehension and attain a higher level of success. Each icurio subscription also includes a professional learning plan that is co-developed as part of every school or district implementation plan. Whether a student is struggling with a specific subject, is an English language learner, or is in need of enrichment, icurio’s personalized learning features address the unique needs of every student.

Victor: When was it developed? What is something interesting or relevant about its development history?

Randy: icurio was introduced in February, 2012 after 9 months of research and development designed to understand and address the unique needs and “jobs” of students, teachers, and administrators. The development of icurio employed a user-centered design methodology in which educators and students were heavily involved, including a multi-district pilot program to test functionality, effectiveness and ease of use.

Victor: Where did it originate? Where can you get it now?
Randy: icurio is available now. For more information, please contact Knovation at 1-855-KNOVATE (566-8283) or visit www.knovationlearning.com.

Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?

Randy: icurio is available for purchase by schools, districts, and other educational entities on an annual subscription basis.  Per student price is dependent on district size.

Victor: What are some examples of it in action?

Randy: Mooresville Graded School District (MGSD) in Mooresville, North Carolina, one of the only public school districts in the nation to issue a laptop to every third through twelfth grader, has adopted icurio as part of its effort to provide digital resources and rich content to its students.   Other early adopters include School District of Manatee County in Bradenton, Florida (42,000 Students), Community Consolidated School District 15 in Palatine, Illinois (12,200 K-8 students) and Southgate Community Schools in Southgate, Michigan (4970 students).

Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for? Who is it not for?

Randy: icurio is designed for K-12 teachers, students, parents and administrators.  Any student, no matter what his or her unique needs may be (ELL, skill level, advanced aptitude, below grade level, etc.) benefits when teachers have more time and flexibility to create engaging lessons that target individual student needs and when he or she has the resources and tools to help better comprehend what is being taught.

Victor: What are your thoughts on education these days?

Randy: Since NCLB, a lot has been done to help get students and schools out of “failure” mode, yet there is still much to be done. One of the primary issues in education today is that educators are still using old school teaching practices in a “new school” modern environment. The core needs of 21st-century learners demand that the system, approach and the tools used to teach children must be overhauled.

The system is broken. Needs of the individual, whole person learner are diffused in pressure for “more with less” mentality (standards pressure, larger classroom, lack of resources).

I believe this is an exciting and critical juncture in education that is marked by the convergence of education and technology.  The world is transforming from a print-centric environment to a digital centric one that is focused on personalized solutions.  In order to prepare our children for the future, it is critical that the way we educate them aligns with and embraces this transformation from one-size-fits all education to personalized and customized teaching and learning that gives each student the unique opportunity to learn in a way that best suits his/her needs and creates a better chance for individual success.

Victor: What sort of formative experiences in your own education helped to inform your approach to creating Knovation?

Randy: I was not the most attentive student. While I remain grateful for the education I received, I did not find my schooling to be particularly interesting or valuable. When I went to school, there was no talk about personalizing education, and I was too shy to ask for help. So, I feel like my experience of school achievement was measured more by passing of time than by mastering my subjects. Once the bell went “BING,” I donned the cap and gown and was finished with primary and secondary education.  Looking back, I am disappointed that I did not get as much as I should have out of those years, but to truly regret means I lose twice. Onward.

Victor: How does Knovation address some of your concerns about education?  

Randy: By addressing the individual needs of each person, our tools, solutions, professional learning and education thought leadership inspire both educator and learner alike to learn, to know…and to thrive. Knovation aspires to be a leader of ideation and creation of solutions, and publicly represent the needs of the individual to positively change learning.

Knovation addresses the most pressing issues that educators face as they struggle with delivering an effective education to a diverse constituency in ways that are consumable, stimulate creativity and curiosity, and produce self-motivated lifelong learners. Knovation will continue to be the company that school districts and educators depend on for cutting-edge, effective solutions that meet their classroom needs:

  • icurio, the flagship digital curriculum content solution for personalized learning
  • netTrekker Search, our leading educational search product
  • igotta, the personalized student workspace solution developed in partnership with Zeus Learning.

Knovation provides consultation, planning and professional learning around the transition from print to digital within a classroom. We are not simply providing a platform and content. We are helping schools to build their internal capacity to transform from linear instruction to transformational learning.

Victor: What is your outlook on the future of education?

Randy: I feel good about the future of education if all students can once again become the subject of learning. In many places now, students have become the object of learning. As schools and educators begin to move from print to digital, we will be taking a giant leap toward preparing children for their futures. Content must be meaningful and relevant. At the same time, traditional curriculum and teaching must morph with digital techniques and personalized learning.

Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of Knovation? 

Randy: We have a very focused vision centered on reducing environmental, emotional, functional and other barriers to learning. As we work toward this vision, we will continue to create even more powerful tools, solutions, professional learning and education thought leadership that address the individual needs of each person and inspire both educators and learners.

Victor: Alright – thank you very much, Randy!

Randy: You’re welcome and thank you, Victor!

——-

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@edtechdigest.com

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