While serving as the director of special ed at a school on the south side of Chicago, special educator Sean Klamm was frustrated that he and his colleagues were spending so much time manually managing their caseloads through spreadsheets.
“All data management is manual. The current special systems that exist aren’t user friendly. We’d download raw CSV files, upload them into Google sheets, manipulate them in some crazy way, and then we’d end up with a spreadsheet that makes no sense to anybody but ourselves. Then we’d try to use these spreadsheets to communicate info to teachers, because teachers need to know basic information about students and their disabilities to better support them…we’d spend so much time doing things that weren’t serving children.” - CEO and founder of Playground IEP, Sean Klamm
Every year Klamm found himself building his own tools to streamline this process. When he left his school in October 2021, he decided to build a tool for schools that could eliminate these issues and save educators time.
Klamm discovered Bubble and started taking Airdev’s Bubble bootcamp to learn to build the tool on his own. But after realizing how complex the data and database structure needed to be, he partnered with Airdev in January 2022 to develop Playground IEP, a cloud-based special education caseload management tool.
Klamm’s goal was to automate many of the manual tasks of case management so schools could refocus their energy from spreadsheets to students. This included giving teachers a place to easily access up-to-date student information, as well as automated IEP (individualized education program) scheduling between all of a student’s service providers.
To build a tool that could do this for schools he first looked to hire a development team.
“All the startup advice I was reading told me I needed a co-founder, but I didn’t know anybody so I decided to hire a team to do it. I had a conversation with a development team based in Portugal, but that didn’t go anywhere. That’s when I stumbled across Bubble. I thought it looked really interesting, but I also didn’t know if it was legit enough to build a startup on.” - Klamm
After signing up for Airdev’s Bubble bootcamp to learn to build the tool himself, Klamm recognized that the tool’s data and database structure would need to be extremely complex.
After holding an initial call with Airdev to see if there might be a good working fit, Klamm decided to partner with Airdev to bring his vision to life faster with fewer challenges.
“I had some hesitations with Airdev at the beginning because I was worried they wouldn’t be able to structure the database how it needed to be structured. But I ended up being very pleased with Airdev’s expertise. I was impressed by their ability to figure it out, because from the Bubble developers I’ve talked to, what I was trying to do is quite complex.” - Klamm
Before jumping into development, Airdev’s dedicated project manager spent 1 month in scoping to align Klamm’s vision to specific features to build into the product roadmap. This included designing the right user signup and school onboarding flow, as well as correctly outlining the complex data and functionality needs in the portal for various user role capacities so Airdev’s developers could quickly build with a detailed plan in hand.
Using the requirements and wireframes created during scoping, Airdev’s visual development team started building the app. During the standard 30-day client testing phase of the app, Airdev’s Customer Success Manager worked with Klamm to understand how the product would be launched to initial users, and help unpack any iterations or adjustments needed to ensure a successful roll out. By having this specialized role in place, Klamm and Airdev were able to increase communication and launch an intricate tool that could be used in any public school setting.
“A lot of the requirements for the tool were to build it for the lowest common denominator of every school situation…it needed to be built for the masses. Playground is beautiful. One thing I really appreciated about Airdev is how nice their custom components look.” - Klamm
The tool consists of 3 core time-saving features for school users:
Klamm was able to bring his new tool to market in just 3 months. In less than a year, he’s signed up 5 pilot schools to successfully run the tool in their special education departments. He launched a 2nd build of the tool completely based on school user feedback, and is planning a 3rd build to add Google sign-on functionality to further streamline access for schools.
“My goal is for Playground IEP to be the premier special education software to support caseload management because the current special ed platforms aren’t designed for the day-to-day internal management in a school. I’m very happy I’ve gone back to Airdev for the 2nd build, and I’m going back to them for the 3rd build.” - Klamm
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