Our Story

The Early Days Short Answer grew out of my (Adam Sparks, cofounder) frustrations as a teacher. Students would always ask me “how can I improve my grade” and rarely “how can I improve my understanding?” I would often spend large chunks of my weekend grading papers (I taught English & Social Studies) only to hand back those papers on Monday and have students ignore my feedback, look at their grade, and move on. At the same time, when I would use tech tools in my classroom that involved students sharing their work with others, the room would transform: Students were completely locked into the learning. So, in my free time, I started to design a platform with the specific goal of making it fun for students to give and receive feedback effectively. I didn’t know anything about design, so I used Google Slides.

The original designs for Short Answer
The earliest Short Answer designs
A picture of the initial prototype of Short Answer. Two answers sit in the middle of the screen, which clickable bubbles on either side where people can provide feedback.
Short Answer's initial prototype during LDT at Stanford
LDT at Stanford To pursue my newfound interest in edtech design, I applied and was admitted to Stanford’s Learning Design and Technology program for the ‘21-’22 school year. I left the classroom and headed to California. Throughout the yearlong program, I collaborated with fellow LDT cohort members and the amazing educational researchers at Stanford to build the initial working prototype of Short Answer. It was in Dr. Kristen Blair’s Core Mechanics of Learning course that we first discovered the incredible, underutilized learning potential of adaptive comparative judgment. It was such an easy, powerful approach that made feedback so much more social, engaging, and effective.
The Launch What began as my master’s capstone project soon grew into something much larger when Short Answer won both the Stanford Learning Design Challenge and the Futures Learning Tools Competition. My wife Alexa had been helping out by coding Short Answer in her free time, but with our newly awarded grants and with the encouragement of leading educational researchers, we decided to take the plunge and go All-In (😉 Short Answer teachers understand that pun) on Short Answer. Alexa joined Short Answer full-time post-Stanford. We remain a husband-wife team today: Adam designs it, Alexa codes it.
A picture of Short Answer co-founder Adam Sparks handing candy to a teacher at a conference
Rhonda, Alexa, and Adam Sparks connect with teachers at NETA 2023
Students using Short Answer in a classroom
Students conduct an All-In activity in Short Answer

Short Answer Today

Short Answer finished its first full school semester as a publicly available product in December of 2023. We have quickly grown to reach tens of thousands of teachers and students across over 45 states and 8 countries; we’re honored to serve so many incredible teachers and students. We believe the new age of AI-infused classrooms poses many opportunities, but also many risks, when it comes to writing instruction and practice. We couldn’t be more excited to support K12 teachers as they navigate this new reality and help them build better writers through engaging, human-to-human approaches to writing instruction and practice.

Built By, With, and For Teachers

Our values grew out of our founding team’s teaching and learning experiences and guide every decision we make at Short Answer.

Team

We’re on a mission to help teachers build better K12 writers through more social, engaging, effective learning experiences.

Advisors

Our advisors ensure we fulfill our mission.