Trends in education are constantly shifting: PBL (Project-Based Learning), Maker-education, STEM, STEAM, Robotics, and Coding, to name a few. Some trends are very promising and stay with us for long periods of time, while others, such as learning styles, run their course and fade. But one fundamental aspect of learning that is consistent across grades, subjects, and even decades is collaborative learning. Students at any age are expected to work together in groups, and all of the trends above assume that this is something they can already do. At ISA Learning, we believe that for group work to be successful in any subject area, students must first develop an understanding of how to work together effectively.
Like a typical startup we began in a small attic office, moved into a community-based coworking space, and finally to our own office space. Now in the heart of Pittsburgh’s South Side, our team has expanded and our product has evolved, but our goal has remained the same: to improve student success.
The initial idea, “Interactive Story Adventures” (ISA), came to Jordan in 2013 when he was struggling to create a more creative way to interact with his children. Juggling post-doc work and fatherhood, Jordan was extremely busy and wanted every experience with his children to be meaningful. He found that he had a gift of taking something as simple as reading a bedtime story and turning it into an interactive and creative experience that his children looked forward to each night. Their collaborative experiences formed the seed of what has become ISA Learning.
What began as three local community events grew into robust programs in 19 districts and 2 states. Along the way, we realized that all of our efforts had a common foundation: working together. They required collaboration. It was our “Ah-ha” moment. We created experiences for young children that required them to work together effectively in a group setting to accomplish a challenging task. While it was working, we found that we would have some setbacks with group management and accountability. How could we expect children to be successful in a group setting without them understanding how to work with others effectively?
Our decision to focus on collaborative learning is a direct result of our founder’s vision that has been validated by years of experience working with teachers in the classroom. We have seen the impact that increased collaboration can have on the engagement of students and peace of mind of teachers.
We couldn’t be more excited to launch TeamBuilders 2.0 in March. Over the last year, we have worked closely with talented teachers and principals to refine our pilot and create an amazingly impactful and easy-to-use product. We improved training sessions, created grade-level specific content and activities for Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade, and made overall improvements to our materials. And we are not stopping there: A school-wide solution for K to 6 that will involve leaders and teachers in a collaborative culture shift is being piloted in five districts this Fall.
We have an exciting year ahead of us at ISA Learning, and we look forward to sharing all of our experiences and updates along the way!