At Inside SEL, our mission is to act megaphone, amplifying the great work being done by leaders in education and social-emotional learning across the country. On a regular basis, our team speaks with administrators, educators, entrepreneurs, researchers, and policymakers who are innovating within the field of SEL and works to help share their stories.
In July, our team connected with Nilay Modi, founder of the new ed-tech company Ecstatic that is focused on innovating to better empower student support staff through AI & data analytics.
Inside SEL: What is Ecstatic? How would you describe the core product and mission?
Nilay Modi: At Ecstatic, our goal is to help administrators & student support staff (counselors, psychologists, social workers) efficiently and effectively understand the whole child behind every student so that they can better support them and build happier and more successful schools.
What that practically looks like is that we ask students questions throughout the year on their Chromebooks in a way that’s not distracting during class time but also fun. And then, using our dashboard, admins can easily view data analytics and insights to understand the school and design more effective school-wide interventions and also provide even more personalized support for every individual child. It truly works like magic! There’s so much more to say but that’s the gist of it.
People can learn more at https://ecstatic.ai/.
Inside SEL: Has education and/or social-emotional learning always been a passion of yours? Where did the idea for a product to help create happier schools originally come from?
NM: I’ve always been interested in education. I spent most of my high school time building tools for my school out of which one of those things were used for several years after I graduated also! Moreover, I never had a great experience in school and one of my goals is to help create solutions to make sure that other kids don’t have to go through the same thing.
It’s only very recently though that I’ve realized that a lot of the problems in our K-12 education system stem from this objectification of children as just students who are tied to a grade. We have a saying at Ecstatic, which is that “Behind Every Student Is A Child” and our focus to highlight that and empower administrators to help that child because at the end of the day it’s the amazing people on the ground who can make the real lasting difference.
Inside SEL: What have you learned from speaking with prospective clients with regards to common pain points when implementing programs or initiatives to improve social and emotional competencies?
NM: Well, one thing that I’ve noticed is that a lot of schools are conducting SEL initiatives and doing PD around SEL but they’re not measuring these SEL markers throughout the year to make sure that they’re on track and that things are actually getting better. We’re big believers that just like academics you have to measure and collect data throughout the year and not just the end of the year.
Then there are a lot of schools who are doing the traditional surveys but not doing anything to improve those results. More than anything, the biggest problem is that schools just haven’t gone all-in, even though there’s so much research that shows that when you focus on SEL, well-being, mental health, it leads to higher school attendance, higher academic achievement, higher graduation, more responsible decision making, better school climate, better life outcomes, and happier students.
Inside SEL: The field of social and emotional learning has exploded within the past decade — both in terms of research around how beneficial it is for students and educators, as well as in terms of products and consulting services popping up to serve schools and districts. Where do you see Ecstatic fitting into the ‘SEL-tech’ ecosystem?
NM: We do spend a lot of time thinking about how do we help administrators and staff be 10X more efficient and effective at supporting students. How do we take the SEL research and create amazing products and solutions to serve those who serve because at the end of the day the one with the best solution “wins”. It sounds quite cheesy, but it’s the truth – we just want to help. And, the rest will be whatever it’s meant to be.
“More than anything, the biggest problem is that schools just haven’t gone all-in, even though there’s so much research that shows that when you focus on SEL, well-being, mental health, it leads to higher school attendance, higher academic achievement, higher graduation, more responsible decision making, better school climate, better life outcomes, and happier students.”
Inside SEL: In exploring the product a little bit, one of the features that really stood out to me was the use of evidence-based items in your question bank. Can you speak to how important it is for Ecstatic to integrate research validity within the product’s design?
NM: It’s super important. One of the reasons we started Ecstatic is that there’s enough research out there which shows that SEL is important and it works; however, what’s lacking is implementation that truly empowers every administrator and staff member in the school to take action and solutions that scale & engage the 21st-century child. Everything out there right now feels like it was made in the 90’s.
Inside SEL: Where can people learn more about Ecstatic and your progress?