By Nolan Stracke
It’s no secret that education in America has its flaws, ranging from overworked teachers to disengaged students.
“Fundamentally, the paradigm of education is changing,” said Shane Krukowski, founder of the educational technology platform, Project Foundry.
Project Foundry manages the complex workflows of both teachers and students to treat the student as an individual, not just another number in a system.
Krukowski founded the company in 2006 to pursue his vision for a better learning approach.
Before 2006, Krukowski worked for Homeboyz Interactive, an information technology program that takes in at-risk youth and helps them work toward a stable job.
Krukowski explained that the hardest part of his work with the youth was how to assess the best ways for them to learn and in a way that would be interesting.
“People came in at all different learning levels, and different experiences, so they weren’t just going to sit in some chair and listen to some person lecture to them,” said Krukowski. “People in general don’t appreciate that”.
Krukowski and his team became very good at accomplishing their individualized learning style.
“It was very powerful and personally I saw the life-changing impact it had with these folks,” said Krukowski.
However, success had its challenges.
“The challenge, even though the program was effective, is very hard to manage, because essentially we were doing personalized learning for every person,” said Krukowski.
Bill Mortimore, the CEO of Project Foundry, explained that an individualized learning approach has a “burn-out” effect among teachers, essentially overworking them from the sheer number of students.
Krukowski worked with a classroom of some 40 young people and saw that each student was at a different starting place and that he needed a way to keep track of each student’s project. He built a management system that was the beginning of Project Foundry.
Mortimore is the founder of West Allis-based Merge Technologies Inc., now Merge Healthcare, and joined Project Foundry to add entrepreneurial experience as well as his own passion for education.
“I was a manager for the professional programmers,” Krukowski recalled, “and so I said ‘Hey, in your spare time, let’s build a system that can help manage these workflows and can help manage the projects’.”
The result of that work was Project Foundry, which Krukowski bought from Homeboyz Interactive in 2006.
The Project Foundry program is found in more than 100 schools, and Krukowski has trained more than 2,000 teachers with 87 percent of those schools renewing annually, according to Krukowski.
“What’s great is that education is changing and people are realizing and this personalized, hands-on, project-based approach is not only effective, but it’s also do- able,” Krukowski explained. “Traditional grade books don’t manage the work of project-based learning, but our platform helps enable teachers to do it and really empowers students”.
Looking ahead, Krukowski is excited for Project Foundry’s latest launch.
“The classroom subscription model that we’re launching in the spring is going to be powerful because then any teacher that wants to do more active, engaged, personalized learning can listen in a matter of two minutes, sign up, and be in our product,” Krukowski said.
Krukowski explained the key is to success for educational administrations is to empower the teachers who are with the students, not create structures that get in the way of inspiring those students and engaging them in an authentic way.
— Stracke is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.