Today Kidaptive, a company that developed a comprehensive iPad curriculum for kids as young as two and a half, announced a $10.1 million funding round. This is the first big announcement from the Co.lab ed-tech accelerator program co-sponsored by Zynga and the NewSchools Venture Fund.
Kidaptive's adaptive learning technology is more psychometrically sophisticated than other consumer products on the market, says cofounder and chief learning scientist Dylan Arena. "We have a fully defined model of a learner and use statistical techniques to update it based on the observed behavior," he says. The kids get a game that levels up and tells them "Good job!" or "Try again!"; the parents' app shows where their kid stands on 87 separate learning goals, including colors and shapes, creativity, and perseverance.
"It could say 'correctly responds to color prompts involving primary colors' consistently/sometimes/never, or 'does a good job with tasks that require 2-3 objects in working memory," Arena says. Parents who subscribe then get research-driven feedback for how to reinforce these same concepts with their preschool child in the real world. For example, a Stanford study shows that if you want your kid to learn color names, saying "Look at the balloon! It's red!" is more effective than saying "Look at the red balloon!"
If all of this technology-enabled hyper-parenting sounds exhausting, Arena emphasizes that parents can just download the free app and let their kids—three-fourths of whom have used mobile devices, enjoy some guilt-free screen time. "Some parents are going to want to dig deep into the analytics. I had a parent ask me about the optimal arrangement of apps in folders on her iPad. That's one extreme. The other extreme is parents who say, give me a red light or green light. Should I be concerned? Is she doing fine?"