EdTech startup Flohh is giving teachers their weekends back. 

September 27, 2023
Accelerator Startmate Demo Day Flohh

Sobering research from the Black Dog Institute has revealed that nearly half of Australian teachers are considering leaving the profession in the next 12 months, with workload and burnout post-COVID cited as critical concerns. 

Ange Alcock, a former head of English at MacRobertson Girls School, says the average teacher spends about 6.5 weeks (WTF) of unpaid overtime on marking per year. Not only is this outright wrong, but the burden of extra work threatens to affect student outcomes, too.  

“I know that as a teacher, I’m a crappy teacher when I’m burnt out,” Ange tells me. 

“When you’re that under the pump, you don’t have time to plan good lessons, you don’t have time to do all the little tweaks you’d usually do, and you’re not a good teacher.”

Fed up with years of weekends lost to essay marking, Ange began working on a series of hacks and integrations to automate the process in late 2018. And while they helped a bit, she knew the experience could be so much better.  

“I was trawling through the internet going, someone had to have built this, but every time I’d check, there was just nothing out there,” she says. 

So, like many frustrated future founders, she decided to build it herself. 

The result is Flohh, a Startmate–backed EdTech that thousands of teachers across the globe now use to slash their marking time by up to 40%. 

Getting in flow

Ange, a surfer who grew up in the coastal town of San Remo, built the tool so teachers can experience that ‘flow’ state while marking essays. 

Instead of being overwhelmed at the wave of unpaid work threatening to crash over them, the tool allows teachers to leave comments and highlights in cool, calming colours and mark both handwritten and digital submissions online in a single location. 

Marks are automatically tallied as the school term progresses, and you can save common points of feedback into comment banks so you don’t feel like a broken record.

But how do you make sure students actually read the feedback?

“Often, I’d spend 20 minutes for each student writing lots of really amazing feedback for them,” Ange says. 

“And then they don't read it, they look at the grade and they go cool, got a B plus and throw it in their backpack and never look at it again. Basically, you're spending all this time and students actually aren't improving.” 

In a bid to remove grades as the motivating factor for assessment, Flohh asks students to login and review each point of feedback before setting an individual learning goal for next time. 

Once their teacher approves that goal, only then will they get their mark, and the next time they submit something Flohh will ask them to reflect on how they’ve incorporated that feedback before they hit send.  

It’s all part of an unconventional approach to assessment hoping to do away with grades altogether. 

“As a teacher, I don’t really feel like the grade helps students learn, the grade just tells you where you’re at,” Ange says. 

“And if we think about the purpose of the education system, it's not to shove a heap of information down the throats of students and give them a grade for how well they memorise it.”

“It’s to train young people about how to learn and engage with other human beings. And to be inquisitive, strive for success and meet their goals.” 

Reshaping EdTech

Post-covid, Ange is finding schools have been more open to technical solutions, largely due to the number of tools they had to quickly master in a remote environment. 

But with the worst of online learning behind us, she sees a gap in the market for technical tools designed with teachers in mind, not just another one to adapt to. 

“With technology, I think so much of our discussion is about “here’s what teachers need to do”, and I flip that on its head and say, what do we need to do for teachers to do those things, because we can’t just throw more stuff on top of them.”

This teacher-centric approach has resonated with over 4500 overworked educators fighting to get Flohh into schools across the world. 

69% of accounts are from overseas users, and a pilot is currently in place with Auburn High School in Melbourne and the Florida School District in the US. 

And, after years of flipping between teaching and Flohh, Ange has officially resigned from her role to pursue her startup full-time as one of 13 companies selected for Startmate’s Winter 2023 cohort. 

She says the support from Startmate’s mentor network has been crucial in navigating the entrepreneurial wilderness. 

“As a founder, basically everything you do you just have no idea what you’re doing,” Ange laughs. 

“So the mentor network has been absolutely incredible. People are so happy to give you multiple 30 minute sessions to help you with stuff or to just do anything that you need to help you achieve whatever you're trying to achieve.”

As a teacher who has been that guiding force for hundreds of students, it feels about damn time for Ange to be getting that same enthusiastic support. 

And about damn time it’s someone who understands the day to day challenges teachers are facing designing the product, not just another software giant. 

“Ultimately I want teachers to feel like they can be on top of their work so that they have the energy and time to relax on their weekends and turn up to school on Monday fresh and ready to engage with students and be those inspiring teachers we all remember from school,” Ange closes. 

“I think if we can give teachers the time to do that, we’re going to see such an incredible impact on student outcomes and the way students feel about themselves.” 

“How they build their self esteem, how they build their resilience and the way they learn, all those things that are so core to the person you end up to be and how your life turns out after school.”

Catch Flohh at Demo Day!

Learn more about Ange’s mission to give teachers their weekends back, and possibly change the education system as we know it at Startmate Demo Day at SXSW Sydney October 19. 

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Written by
Written by
Holly ClarkHolly Clark
Holly is Communications Lead at LaunchVic and an inaugural Startmate Media Fellow.

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