Ron Ayotte, 60, of Canton taught math at Brimmer and May School in Newton and St. Sebastian’s School in Needham, and before that he was a software developer, which included a stint as director of application development for Stop & Shop. Two years ago, he melded his areas of expertise to create i4class, a computerized math education program that combines traditional face-to-face instruction with online instruction, allowing teachers to mix and match lessons and assignments, as well as watch and guide their students in real time on a computer or tablet. The program is used in grades 6 through 12.
Q. How did the idea come up?
A. It was one of those things — I was wondering what to do with the rest of my life after teaching. I knew from teaching how frustrating it is sometimes in the classroom, for the teacher and students, knowing what technology is capable of. I thought I could solve this problem, having been in business and doing well there and then teaching; putting those two things together made me think this is what I’m supposed to be doing.
Q. How does it work?
A. A typical i4class scenario is a student does the assignment, showing the work on a tablet scratchpad, using a finger or a stylus. They click the answer key, and it tells them immediately if it’s right or wrong, and that immediate feedback is huge for the student. If they’re struggling, they can click on the “step-by-step” button for help. Teachers can use the preloaded content or add their own, which is a huge difference from any other product. This program has a lot of flexibility; it’s like the student has a private tutor.
Q. Where’s it being used now?
A. The first place was the Bedford school system in 2013, where they reported a 10 percent improvement in test scores, a 20 percent improvement in homework scores, and teachers saving more than four hours a week in correcting time. It’s also at Brimmer and May, and St. Sebastian’s, and will be starting in Wilmington and Tewksbury. Anyone can go to www.i4class.com and see how it works; there’s a free trial there they can use.
Q. How much does it cost?
A. It depends on the size of the school system, but it’s roughly in the $10 to $20 per-student range, depending on volume.Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at pkandarian@ aol.com.