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“What we need to do is look at how we can make technology that is built for education better, rather than taking technology that wasn’t built for education work for educators”

Interview by Kelsey Meyer of The League of Innovators
Foliotek is an education technology company focused on resolving Bloom’s “2 sigma problem.” The antiquated classroom model for education is broken. Technology needs to be used to fix the problem, not virtualize it.  The Foliotek team is comprised of sixteen employees, including Geoff Leigh, Director of Product Development and Luke Daffron, Director of Software Engineering.  As a team they strive to create tools that are intuitive, simple, and relevant.  These tools shrink the large classroom experience with the goal of minimizing the student to teacher ratio.  The smaller that ratio is, the greater the learning environment is for the student.
What is the key to Foliotek’s success?
I believe there are three key points to our success: Service, Simplicity, and a passion for excellence.  First, we are a service oriented company. We spend a lot of time making sure our clients are taken care of by listening to them to ensure their use of Foliotek is deployed effectively.  We also want to make sure Foliotek development is focused on meeting their needs. Second, simplicity, we pride ourselves on creating a simple, elegant user experience. Our desire is to not clutter and complicate a user’s encounter with our application. We want it to be smooth and comfortable for them so they can learn it quickly and use it effectively. Finally, we have a passion for excellence. We don’t want to halfway build out specific features, throw them out the door, and never improve them. We constantly want to be revising and tweaking what we’ve already done. We are consistently looking towards tomorrow and how our applications can improve.
What are some of the assessment tools that Foliotek currently has?
Foliotek employs a few key strategies for assessment.  Currently we have tools for formative and summative assessment and an additional means to deploy internal or external surveys. Summative assessment tools are used for high stakes assessments so institutions facing accreditation can collect data to demonstrate performance against certain standards based criteria.  Foliotek also has formative tools for more informal assessments which facilitate students seeking simple review of their work. This formative type of review is a one-to-one relational and informal type of assessment.  Finally we have a means for creating and submitting survey assessment types where users can construct online forms for any data collection mediums.

What are some common mistakes that educators make when trying to implement technology with education?
I think educators are doing a good job trying to make use of excellent products in today’s marketplace. Educators recognize different free web based applications like Google Docs, Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook as “best of breed” tools in the Web 2.0 world that can enhance their teaching environments.  However, the problem is these applications weren’t designed for education. So they inherently have some issues that prevent them from being those same “best of breed” solutions for education that they are outside of education. So while educators are trying to piece things together with free tools, they begin to realize some inherent failures with these free solutions. In the end, educators don’t have great success deploying these tools. The real issue isn’t in how educators are implementing technology; it’s the lack of quality tools that exist for education.  What we need to do is look at how we can make technology that is built for education better, rather than taking technology that wasn’t built for education work for educators. We want to make education technology applications that focus on aiding educators rather than making use of technologies that aren’t built for education technology.
What was the strategy behind having three distinct types of portfolios?
Before Foliotek entered the electronic portfolio industry, a good number of educators had already spent decades researching paper based portfolios and how they could be implemented and used to enhance the education process. They began to understand that there are really three different purposes for a portfolio. It’s either going to be used for assessment, personal growth/story-telling, or for showcasing; presenting examples of your best work. They had done the research, we piggybacked on it.  There was no need to reinvent the wheel.
Because Foliotek is constructed on this three portfolio model, we can offer diverse solutions to educational partners that can accomplish any of those three purposes our predecessors had defined.  If an organization is interested in assessment, deep-learning, or presentations, Foliotek is equipped to handle each type. The elegance of our conceptual framework is that the root of the assessment and presentation portfolios is this personal growth/story-telling portfolio where an individual begins to gather artifacts to develop and reflect on who they are and what they have accomplished. Without even knowing it, users will develop a rich repository of information that they can be used for assessment that demonstrates their individual growth over time.
To top it all off, the presentation portfolio takes advantage of that same rich repository of information allowing users to showcase themselves to a potential employer through an interactive web experience highlighting their personal credentials with tangible artifacts. I think this is currently one of our biggest markets.  We can bridge the gap between education and employer.  Students who are leaving education and graduating into reality as they seek employment will be able to use Foliotek instead of a dry uninformative resume. From my perspective, as an employer, I know that when I get a resume, it says so little about the person. If they could share with me an online portfolio with artifacts that represent work done in previous experiences, projects they have been a part of, samples of their writing, or maybe videos of real life interactions, then these artifacts would represent a much richer picture of that individual. It helps me, as an employer, better assess potential hires for our company.  With a paper based resume, I find myself questioning their credentials or skills based on one sample of their work.  A single resume is not a very good and accurate assessment of an individual; whereas, if a user can showcase to an employer a cadre of tangible artifacts, a more accurate picture of that individual is presented.  The presentation portfolio will be the next bridge between education and employability and I see Foliotek as the first to cross the bridge.

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