Maxwell Witt: An Innovative Approach to Lesson Planning
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to speak with Maxwell Witt, the co-founder and CEO of Integrate School.
Spiffy: Welcome to Spiffy’s Blog, Maxwell! What challenge are you addressing at Integrate School?
Maxwell: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Did you know that K-12 schools lack a standardized process for lesson planning, as most of them use email and Google Docs to get this job done? This leads to time wasting, lack of oversight (which causes instructional inequity), and lack of actionable data. Integrate School works towards solving these problems.
Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?
Maxwell: I worked with a software called Blackboard for over eight years (four years of high school, and four years of college) and hated it. I learned that Blackboard was considered the gold-standard learning management system, which made me curious about why bad software is so sticky in education, and why there is such a lack of innovation. So I researched the EdTech software landscape and wanted to figure out a way to systematically improve the system which is why I started with the core of teaching - lesson planning.
Spiffy: With these aims, how are you and Integrate School working towards a more equitable world?
Maxwell: We directly impact instructional inequity by providing administrative and district admins oversight leading to greater consistency of content delivery from classroom to classroom and school to school. Higher-quality lessons being taught to our students means that we can ensure our teachers are teaching the best quality content, leading to improved student outcomes and even greater teacher work-life balance due to time savings.
Spiffy: What’s a recent company milestone you want to share with us? Can you also tell us about the impact it makes?
Maxwell: Well, we were able to displace a major competitor in one of our client schools, sign several schools on for three-year-long contracts, and even grow to five states working in all regions in the US. We are also happy to report that our users surveyed told us they have been enjoying the time savings our software provides them—Integrate School gives 75% of a teacher’s time back on the lesson creation and collaboration process.
Spiffy: That’s a lot of time! Before we conclude the interview, can you please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up? What did you learn from it?
Maxwell: Originally, our software was meant to be a learning management system (LMS). Our goal was to be the best, most user friendly, and most integrated LMS on the market (which is where our name Integrate School comes from). We had an incredibly difficult time selling our LMS into schools because of the switching cost associated with replacing major school software, the headache caused by migration of data, the compliance and security concerns of sensitive data, and logistical concerns of onboarding training and support from a small startup. Fortunately, all of the schools that we spoke to also said they were interested in the lesson planning feature we built. So, instead of giving up we took this as an opportunity to pivot our software.
Spiffy: I wish you all the luck in your onward journey, Maxwell. Thanks for speaking with me today—it’s been an honor!
Maxwell Witt is an experienced startup veteran. He previously served as the co-founder and program director of Fownders, a startup accelerator in New Jersey. He has a degree in Business Management from Fairleigh Dickinson University and has experience managing large teams of over 70 people.(First published on the Ladderworks website on January 13, 2022.)
© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.
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