IN THE unlikely setting of Perth in the early 1990s three colleagues and I set ourselves up as software developers. None of us had any significant experience or expertise in computing or business, but we did have a hot idea. School systems in Australia and elsewhere had at long last decided to introduce an outcomes-based curriculum, designed to allow each student to move at his or her own speed from the “mastery” of one outcome to the next. Our software would make the new curriculum work.
The problem in teaching to outcomes lay in keeping track of where each student is up to in each subject, and then finding “stage-appropriate” work for each of them to do. That’s where our software would come in. We called it KIDMAP to evoke the goal of giving the teacher a detailed record of each student’s latitude and longitude in every area of learning, and in case anyone missed the point we called our startup Mercator…
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