As a history education major, sophomore Thomas Hull quickly realized that while technology was moving forward, the field of education was lagging behind and failing to meet the needs of many students whose learning styles deviated from the majority. After doing some research, Thomas fell upon shocking statistics that inspired him to start his education technology business. “Apathetic students are performing worse in (and dropping out of) high school than students who are addicted to drugs or alcohol,” Thomas expressed, “The problem with the present system of education is that students are not engaged so they lose the drive to work hard in class; this is where technology and classroom learning can and should be combined.”
After several weeks of planning, Thomas and a friend took the first steps to launch the business with the help of funding from the STAR campus First Step Grand Challenges program. The core principle of the business is implementing backchanneling technology in classrooms, or an online group chat that would go live during class. Both students and teachers would be able to sign in and ask/answer questions through the platform. Of course, there would have to be a filter for the questions to ensure that they were legitimate and appropriate for school, but that could easily be integrated with the help of someone experienced in coding. This new system of engagement would help reach more students, especially those who are shy and don’t ask questions because they aren’t comfortable raising their hands. “The platform will also have an up or down voting button so that the teacher can see which questions are the most popular and what they need to go over in more detail,” Thomas explained, “It will give them real time data about what students are struggling the most with.” This way, teachers would be able to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively instead of having to reiterate information that students are already comfortable with.
Currently, Thomas and his business partner plan to launch a test study at high schools in New Castle County before they register as an LLC in February. If the test study runs smoothly and the technology is found to be helpful, Thomas will find someone experienced in code and software development to join their team, preferably a UD senior or graduate student. Although they are starting small and local, they plan to expand to other states and impact high school students in a long lasting and meaningful way.
Story by Katie Kornienko ’20, Honors Program communications intern