Gone are the days when teachers sent home notes in paper-stuffed backpacks alongside smushed PB&J and forgotten mittens. Now they’re far more likely to shoot parents and students a question or photo via smartphone–and education startups are moving fast to win a place on those home screens.
ClassDojo, which entered the marketplace as a gamified tool for providing feedback on classroom behavior (complete with adorable monster avatars), today unveiled a revamped version of its mobile app that prioritizes messaging. On the fly, teachers can now send encouragements and warnings to parents and students, adding digital stickers, photos, and voice notes.
“We believe in a world where stronger relationships between teachers, students, and parents matter a lot,” says cofounder and CEO Sam Chaudhary.
Research from the Harvard Graduate School of Education has shown that regular communication between teachers and families improves behaviors like homework completion and class participation that are associated with academic outcomes.
The release is designed to be an extension of the behavioral values that ClassDojo has promoted from Day One. “The best performing school chains in the country, they say that more than half of what they do is instill things like grit and persistence and optimism,” Chaudhary told Fast Company last year, when ClassDojo first began experimenting with messaging functionality. “You need to have the socio-emotional foundation for life.”
That philosophy has earned ClassDojo teacher-users in half of U.S. schools, with 3 million teachers and 35 million students registered.
But ClassDojo is not alone. “We have a very audacious, mission-driven goal of connecting every teacher, student, and parent in the world,” Brett Kopf, cofounder and CEO of competitor Remind, told Fast Company last March. At the time he had raised nearly $20 million and counted 10 million parent and teacher users, with 6 million active on a monthly basis. Since then, Remind’s user base has more than doubled, to 23 million, according to the New York Times, and the startup has banked an additional $40 million in venture financing.
ClassDojo, in contrast, has raised just $10 million. Both companies were founded in the summer of 2011.
The messaging startups are growing amid a fertile climate for education technology. Last year investors dumped nearly $2 billion into education startups–a new record, according to CB Insights.