Big Fun in Education

A successful edtech company’s CEO accounts for efficient learning and proper tools.

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

CREDIT Glynn Willett MobyMaxNow one of the fastest growing curriculum systems in the U.S., MobyMax has over 1,000 new teachers registering each day. What exactly does it do? “It finds and fixes missing skills in math, math fact fluency, language/grammar, vocabulary, reading, and writing,” says Glynn Willett (pictured), co-founder of the innovative learning ecosystem. From one of the most advanced systems for teaching vocabulary to their writing module that automates the grading process, last year, students using the platform for 40 hours averaged more than a 1.4 grade level increase in math and language arts. “You can see the difference we are making for

I believe that tablets and personalized learning will change everything, regardless of a country’s current education difficulties. No country will want to be left behind when students can learn twice as fast.

students and teachers by reading our daily stream of ‘Rave Reviews’. These thank you notes that we get each day make it easy to forget my earlier career in accounting and taxes,” says Glynn, who earned his B.A. in accounting at the University of Maine and was once named Maine’s Entrepreneur of the Year after changing the professional tax preparation industry by creating affordable, user-friendly tax software (later selling the company). Here, Glynn talks about big fun for education, what makes for the most efficient way to learn in his experience, and what continued expansion will allow him to do for education. 

What does the name “MobyMax” mean?

Glynn: We wanted a name that said “huge” and “fun,” which is where “Moby” came from. We added “Max” to emphasize our goal of creating a comprehensive K-8 curriculum and e-learning platform.

What exactly is it?

Glynn: It’s a comprehensive K-8 curriculum and education system that brings the power of personalized learning to all students. To ensure that all students have access to high-quality curriculum and learning tools, the curriculum is free.

What does it do?

Glynn: It teaches curriculum so effectively that students learn twice as fast, whether they are learning new material or catching up to grade level. For example our find-and-fix Math placement tests and lessons show students increasing more than one and a half grade levels with just 40 hours of work. With Vocabulary, students only practice words they don’t know and then practice with a spaced-interval-training strategy that enables students to retain what they’ve learned over time. In Science and Social Studies, students not only gain knowledge at twice the speed they would using paper textbooks, but more importantly, improve their cognitive skills, as well.

What are the benefits of using this curriculum?

Glynn: Students learn twice as fast. Students retain what they learn over longer periods of time. And students enjoy learning more. Teachers benefit by being able to adapt and differentiate curriculum based on the individual needs of every student.

What sets this apart from similar products?

Glynn: No other curriculum can double the speed at which kids learn, is free, and covers all subjects. Just as importantly, it integrates a comprehensive K-8 curriculum and a full suite of teacher tools into a single platform, which makes it so valuable to teachers. The ability to see a student’s complete picture gives teachers a huge advantage. Many products focus on a single subject or feature. By offering a complete, integrated solution it gives teachers and students all of the tools they need to learn twice as fast. 

Where did it originate? When was it developed?

Glynn: Originally, our team created an OER publishing platform for teachers as well as an online tutoring platform. After building out those platforms, we learned we could create highly effective curriculum at fraction of the price that larger publishers charged. We launched it five years ago with that goal, and have been working to achieve it ever since.

Who is it particularly tailored for?

Glynn: Our personalized learning is for all students. It’s for all teachers, too! All students should have the opportunity to learn twice as fast, whether they are getting to grade level or reaching far beyond. All teachers need to find and fix gaps in their student’s knowledge, regardless of what level the student is at. It’s such a valuable tool because every teacher can use it to help every student

However, not all schools have the technology infrastructure to switch to personalized learning yet so some teachers depend on us as an essential supplemental tool. A school’s special ed department usually has the classroom technology and enthusiastically adopts our system.

What sort of formative experiences in your own education helped to inform your approach to creating this?

Glynn: If you eliminate boredom in schools, you get the lovely outcome of students learning twice as fast. My personal goal is to eliminate the boredom and wasted time I experienced in the “lockstep” classroom of my generation.

What are your thoughts on education in general these days? What is your take on technology in education?

Glynn: Every country has a different approach to education and each is experiencing different problems. Finland’s rise and fall within a single generation is fascinating. It also doesn’t have to be the norm. I believe that tablets and personalized learning will change everything, regardless of a country’s current education difficulties. No country will want to be left behind when students can learn twice as fast.

How do your offerings address some of your concerns about education? What is your vision for the future of your company?

Glynn: Math NAEP scores dropped for the first time since the tests began but it’s encouraging to see the rapid adoption of our solution and know that it can radically improve student learning.

With our rapid growth, we envision this being in every classroom in the U.S. While this is great achieving this company goal, I see that we can create a more profound change in education.

With the millions of students using it every day now and our ability to create curriculum quickly and cost effectively, we will soon be able to compare the effectiveness of different teaching strategies and methods. For example, imagine laying to rest the “religious wars” over which is the best way to teach multiplication?

I think this new type of education research will profoundly change the arguments over Common Core standards and other hot-button issues in education.

I think this new type of education research will profoundly change the arguments over Common Core standards and other hot-button issues in education.

With so many different learning styles in the classroom, how do gamification, rewards and an interactive curriculum level the playing field for all students?

Glynn: I think it’s important to point out that while gamification is engaging for students, it’s not the most efficient way to learn. We’ve found that rewards, recognition, interesting and adaptive curriculum, and rapid 2X student progress work for all students.

You recently launched Cognitive Skills Science. Why is science an important subject to understand at a young age? 

Glynn: Most kids are absolutely fascinated by how the world works, whether they consider it “science” or not. Understanding basic science helps students succeed in every other subject area, including language and visual arts. Learning to think critically and creatively with cognitive skill manipulatives gives kids the foundation they need to master all of their subjects.

Anything else you care to add or emphasize?

Glynn: Your questions have been great. I want to reiterate that all teachers can immediately help all their students with our solution. It takes less than five minutes to sign up and there’s no cost for the basic curriculum. Whether you want to help your students catch up to grade level or exceed it, MobyMax can help!

Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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