‘Edfiniti’ and beyond

Award-winning special education teacher and UND doctoral student develops K-12 teaching app that helps kids succeed

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Award-winning special education student and UND doctoral student Matthew Myrold has developed the Edfiniti Mobile Assessment Platform, a tool that assists teachers and students monitor and improve behavior in the classroom while boosting academic success for K-12 students. Graphic courtesy of Matthew Myrold.

Every kid can succeed in the right environment, says Matthew Myrold.

The award-winning special education teacher and UND doctoral student, who has spent his professional life helping students, has developed an app that helps students and teachers work toward positive change.

“Data collection helps me get a picture of what students need,” Myrold said, adding that he’s been collecting copious amounts of data for more than 14 years. His work has resulted in the Edfiniti Mobile Assessment Platform, a tool that assists teachers and students monitor and improve behavior and boost academic success for K-12 students.

“This helps level the playing field for students,” said Myrold. “If a teacher says, ‘Johnny never listens,’ what does that mean? And how can we ultimately help that student?”

Feelings detective

Matthew Myrold

Matthew Myrold

 The Edfiniti app allows teachers to quickly and easily log student behaviors in real time, rather than at the end of the day or week. Then they can sit down with parents and students to discuss behavior and find solutions.

“For some children, bad attention is better than no attention,” said Myrold. “Their needs are not being met, and behavior can be a cry for help.”

The app, he said, can function as a “feelings detective.”

“Amazing things happen when kids feel safe, heard, understood and cared for,” said Myrold. “They have more self-awareness, better self-management and better interpersonal relationships.”

Teachers benefit as well. Using the app saves time and allows teachers to log behavior, make objective observations, and better advocate for kids.

“It creates a statistical picture of which behaviors students struggle with the most, and offers targeted interventions to mitigate that behavior,” Myrold said, adding that sitting down with kids and showing them their behavior can help them see how to change.

This “systems approach,” he said, saves teachers time and lowers burnout and frustration.

“It puts everything in front of us and allows data to drive the situation,” he said. “We can see globally and within the school building what the culture is like, as well as across all middle schools. This lets us get to kids quicker, identify their needs and meet them. If we know what interventions work, fewer kids may fall through the cracks.”

Teacher of the year

Myrold began his career as an English teacher, then earned his master’s degree to become a special education teacher. He taught in Fargo, where he was named Teacher of the Year in 2015, and was one of three finalists for North Dakota Teacher of the Year.

He is known for his exceptional teaching and concern for children, creating a family atmosphere in his classroom. He is currently teaching in Minneapolis while finishing his dissertation.

“My UND experience has been amazing,” he said. “The Educational Research and Foundations department and Cheryl Hunter were able to recognize my passions and guide me to develop a critical eye and a compassionate pen. They helped me develop into a seasoned writer.”

“What we do well at UND is teach students to be innovative,” said Cheryl Hunter, associate professor of educational foundations and research. “We also offer professionals the opportunity to work on their doctorates while working in the field. Students come to us able to explore their own interests, and to have freedom and flexibility.

“This app is great. It’s really a tool that uses technology to facilitate better use of teacher time and collects data in real time. It’s a huge benefit for teachers, and gives administrators and teachers lots of data to make decisions.

“Matthew has changed students’ lives, especially students we may think of as ‘throwaway,’” Hunter said. “He is so caring, and his work could change the culture of the special education classroom.”

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The Edfiniti app allows teachers to quickly and easily log student behaviors in real time, rather than at the end of the day or week. Then they can sit down with parents and students to discuss behavior and find solutions. Graphic courtesy of Matthew Myrold.

Innovative app

“I’ve always educated through the lens of social and emotional wealth,” Myrold said. “We need to address basic needs – growth and esteem – to help children learn.”

That desire spurred the new app, which he developed with Frederick Weiss, a special education teacher in West Fargo. They were frustrated with logging behaviors with paper and pencil – it was inconsistent, made data analysis more complex and time consuming, and was subjective. The app, built by Myriad Mobile of Fargo, is more objective, allowing teachers to select options from a drop-down menu in as little as five seconds. It allows teachers to identify behavior issues more accurately and know which interventions or accommodations work.

Response has been positive. Users have described Edfiniti as innovative, groundbreaking, effective, efficient, easy to use and intuitive. One user said it’s “about time” for the app.

“I find great joy in what I do,” said Myrold. “I love it – I can’t imagine doing anything else. Our kids need a champion. I’ve experienced what my students have, and see things through a different lens. It’s not the student who needs to change – it’s the teacher’s approach.”

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