• Stevin

Unrulr - a new measuring stick for learning

It is hard to describe what Unrulr actually is. The website suggests it’s like Instagram, and it has that look and feel to it. It is kind of a social media app and kind of an SEL app. Perhaps the name is more descriptive - Unrulr really seems to be about changing the way we think about and assess learning. Moving intentionally away from measurement by test scores and enabling instead a pathway to something more like mastery learning, this mobile-only app addresses critical goals in the current push to reform the way we assess student growth and achievement.

Unrulr was founded in Honolulu by Fred Delse, Mark Egesdal and Will Reppun. I had the fortunate opportunity to sit down with Will several times to learn more about Unrulr, and I have also been able to use the app with Ka’ana Solutions students. Unrulr is an excellent example of the edtech innovation that is currently going on here in Hawaii!

Unrulr has not been publicly released - it is in a “closed beta” status with more than 10 schools and organizations actively using it. Currently Unrulr is only accessible on iOS and Android devices. This mobile-first approach means that the interface is clean and simple, designed for the smart-phone format, but this also means that the user has to have a smartphone to use it. There may be a web version of the app in the future, but right now the team is staying focused on mobile as the primary user experience.

The app is designed to allow users to make posts that provide evidence of work associated with specific learning goals. For instance a student learning about Design Thinking might post a picture of a prototype she developed to demonstrate learning about Ideation, Prototyping and Testing. Message posts are made up of picture(s), video(s) and/or other visual file types, that are grouped together and tagged with one or more “learning goals” chosen by the user from a list of goals maintained by the user. After selecting the learning goal(s), which can have multiple levels, the user then enters text to support the entry, selects who to share the post with, and can preview the post before publishing it. Posts go into a stream that users can access based on the groups to which they have access. Users can also comment on each other’s posts.

The app also has a dashboard that provides the user with a graphical view of progress on all learning goals. And underlying the app is a tremendous amount of useful data that both the teacher and the learner can use to evaluate progress in learning. The Unrulr team is developing an API that will allow schools and organizations to access data to evaluate student learning progress. At the same time, Unrulr has one of the better data privacy policies that I have ever seen. It is easy to read and understand, and it respects that fact that learning data belongs to the learner.

In the fall of 2019 Unrulr will be getting its first large scale test, when over 800 users from Hawaii Technology Academy will be using the software to support a renewed focus on project-based and technology-enabled learning. Students at HTA will use the Unrulr app to log progress against individual learning goals and provide a format for students to show what they have learned. And to share what they have done. One of the things I especially like about Unrulr is the way it is completely open-ended. There are many different things the software can be used for, and it is super easy to use. Ka’ana Solutions students will be there to support Unrulr end-users at HTA, and will also be using Unrulr to track progress on . The magic will happen when a critical mass of teachers and students are on-board and sharing their learning and feedback with each other. In the meantime there is the opportunity for a great deal of exploration.

Unrulr is easy to implement, as long as users have a school-sponsored Google G-Suite for Education account. The app does not store any end-user passwords, which is a remarkably good idea, given that school-based end-users already have a separately managed identity - almost every school in Hawaii already uses Google G-Suite for Education. Schools work with the Unrulr team to set up student and teacher rosters when initially onboarding. End-users simply need to download the app and set up their account using their school email address.

The 2019-2020 school year will be a big one for Unrulr. The team has done a lot of homework on this application, and it’s the right time for it. I am excited that Ka’ana Solutions students will have the opportunity to learn about Unrulr and help develop some end-user training materials!

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