The education field is always changing. Science labs get updated equipment and computer apps gamify previously tedious lessons (such as typing). However, health education has seen very few updates, and is still a fairly taboo topic. But why? Health impacts every aspect of our lives. It should come as a shock that it's common to only receive a week of health education in a given school year -- often from guest speakers -- in lieu of "normal" science classes. It's time educators toss out converted VHS videos from the 1980s and swap them for Lessonbee, the new comprehensive and culturally responsive health education system.
Lessonbee (a Founder Institute New York portfolio company) is an impact startup providing adaptive lessons and a shared content library that enables teachers to access up-to-date content, track and manage student assignments, and engage students through regular reflection via the cloud-based learning system. It provides equitable access to culturally responsive and medically accurate health education for students in grades K-12. Learning about our own health should be awesome, not awkward.
Unlike other services, Lessonbee provides both a holistic learning environment, and promotes health for children and students from different backgrounds. It is not a supplemental digital curriculum or just a platform. Reva McPollom, Founder of Lessonbee explains,
So that meant that it was going to be a lot more work and be a lot more expensive. When you’re trying to just get used to fidelity, to make that huge investment isn’t always easy. But for me it was essential.
Advice for EdTech founders
Through her journey to Lessonbee's MVP (minimum viable product), McPollom learned that getting student feedback early on is more important than building everything prior to testing. Her advice to other founders working in the edtech space is that "if you’re looking to have an impact on students, figure out how you’re going to get your solution to students. And just start there. What is the actual change you’re looking to see happen for students? Create that product in its most simplistic form, and then get those students to use it" because operating under that strategy is more efficient than how she'd originally approached the problem.
Once students were involved, McPollom was able to clearly see the changes that Lessonbee had on students. Two benefits of this information are that:
- You can impress upon investors the actual impact your product has on the target market
- Collected data tells a story that helps differentiate the impact startup from its competition
Image from the Forbes article "An Impact Accelerator For Startups Just North Of The Big Apple," June 2019.
Currency and measuring impact
In her interview with Founder Institute's Digital Content Editor Dustin Betz, McPollom advised very early-stage founders who don't have data points to do the following,
If you’re not there yet, you have to understand what your currency is, right? So if your currency is impact and kids doing better about themselves then it's your social proof. If your currency today is your story, then make sure your story is tight. Everyone’s got different currency at different stages. Make sure you're spending your time talking to the people that care about your currency.
Approval from one of the largest school districts in the USA
Given the number of obstacles McPollom has overcome, she is living proof of true American startup hustle. Building a startup is one of the hardest things many founders do in their lives. And yet Reva did it 1) without a co-founder 2) as a woman 3) as a black person in the United States (quick refresher: less than 3% of VC funding goes to women). Despite these odds, Reva's positive impact in the health education realm continues to grow. She adds,
I was really proud of us getting our curriculum approved by the Chicago Public Schools Office of Student Health and Wellness because that's one of the largest school districts in the country and because they were really thorough in their evaluation. We really focus on being comprehensive, culturally responsive and that it be accurate and having a skills-based approach to mental health. And they validated that our solution does that. And so that was really important for me.
Work with startups to quickly address problems
Startups can shift to address people's needs quickly, which is why they are typically the ideal-sized companies to partner with when seeking changes or solutions that need to be delivered quickly.
How Lessonbee helps with managing stress
In regards to mental health and dealing with the impact of COVID-19, McPollom said that "We all need resources to manage stress and to be resilient, now more than ever.”
Trends in education
As McPollom discusses her predictions about the future of education, she argues that health should be a top priority for students because "healthy kids behave better [and] perform better academically.”
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