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How This Inventive App Turns Smart Phones Into Learning Tools

People

KÜDZOO founders Logan Cohen and Trevor Wilkins are putting the "earning" in learning for more than half a million students, across 46,000 schools in the country.


“I think it's really important not to underestimate the power of recognition," says Cohen, 26. “Even just a gold star on your homework makes you feel good and empowered to work harder."

With the goal of engaging students in their education by leveraging the relationship they have with their smart phones, Cohen and Wilkins launched KÜDZOO in 2015. The app, which gives kids rewards for academic success, is designed to incentivize students to perform their academic best by offering them a litany of awards; everything from gift cards to concert tickets to one-of-a-kind experiences like meeting a famous athlete.

“We are saying rather than scrolling through a mindless newsfeed, you can practice your SATS and get rewarded," says Cohen. “We see a powerful connection between recognition and academic success, and we wanted to embrace a student-first model."

Cohen says it was actually Wilkins who first thought of the idea of reward-based learning, which was based on his own upbringing. As a child, Wilkins, who is now 27, earned $10 for every A and $5 for every B on his report cards, and Wilkins would have to fork over $20 for every C. It must have worked because Wilkins went on to earn a degree in sociology from Princeton University.

"The idea of rewards instilled a competitive mindset in my siblings that has lasted us our entire lives and pushed us all to Ivy League schools," Wilkins told SWAAY. In terms of what we want to do with KÜDZOO, Logan and I see a huge opportunity to make an impact inside of the classroom so that's where we're headed! We see KÜDZOO as a mutually beneficial tool for students, teachers and school admins alike. We've seen the competitive edge KÜDZOO has brought out in students from an individual standpoint and we're excited to bring that same impact to the classroom."

The KÜDZOO app

Cohen said before actually launching KÜDZOO, she and Wilkins held a focus group with 14 to 16 year olds who gave valuable insight regarding what should be, and shouldn't be, on the platform. “That's when we realized we didn't know what was cool anymore," laughs Cohen, who says she and Wilkins made edits to the site based on the students' critique. “The kids really helped us build it out."

Logan Cohen

To capitalize on the more than 150 times students typically check their phones a day, Cohen and Wilkins designed the app to have an interactive interface in which users can play grade level-based trivia games, in subjects that range from SAT Prep to pop culture. Students can also log in to earn KÜDZOO CASH for attendance by checking into school each day, for uploading their grades, participating in survey questions, and interact with friends on a social media-esque newsfeed.

According to Cohen, KÜDZOO is rolling out an in-school version for the 2017-2018 school year, which will allow teachers to customize questions and further incorporate their curriculums and lesson plans into the platform, with an in-school version called KÜDZOOVERIFIED. “We are looking to partner with schools who want to customize rewardable actions to reward their student achievers," says Cohen.

So what exactly are the rewards offered to KÜDZOO users? Cohen says thus far, more than $300K worth of rewards have been given to students. Some were funded outright, while some were given through brand partnerships. “We are now building out sponsorships," says Cohen. “Since we built critical mass, we are now opening to school districts who can come on as partners to fund rewards for students for customizable action. For example, some schools we are working with are focused on increasing attendance, so they would reward cash for attendance."

To stay ahead of the gifting trends among her user base, Cohen says she is constantly asking them what brands they like, then bringing them in as options for prizes. Among the most requested brands by highschoolers are Amazon, because of “the spending freedom," Target, Walmart and Forever 21. Cohen says college users love brands like Chipotle and Jamba Juice. “They ask for a lot of food at the college level," laughs Cohen, underscoring that the most important element of her business is remaining authentic and listening to feedback from her audience.

“Gen Z is incredibly savvy," says Cohen. “They've been marketing to out of the womb. With Gen Z the best you can get is brand consideration and that's a win. They know if they are being advertised to, so we don't sugarcoat. We try to be very transparent. Gen Z is turned off by native ads and anything that tries to trick them."

Looking to the future, Cohen is hoping to not only work closer with schools and brands alike, but also to grow her New York City-based team of six, in order to meet the enormous potential she sees in the scholastic space. The momentum thus far has certainly been a cause for optimism.

“We are finding exciting engagement from our users," says Cohen, adding that KÜDZOO boasts an impressive average click through rate of 30.2 percent. “Something we are really proud of is that 93 percent of students said that they believe KÜDZOO genuinely cares about their success. With less than 20 percent of Gen Z saying that brands "get them" this is something we strive for."

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.


In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.


Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.