“Lockdown has been one of the most challenging periods of my career”, says Jamie. He’s not alone in that. As an EdTech brand, we are well aware of the challenges that workers in all sectors have faced this past year.
In March 2020, the world transformed overnight. To slow the spread of Covid-19 (which was still known as ‘Novel Coronavirus’ back then - can you believe it?), we suddenly found ourselves confined to our homes. One day we were heading to work and school as normal - the next we were grounded.
Some were furloughed, some were forced onto benefits, and some had to get to grips with remote technology. What’s more, we had to do it quickly.
And remote work was far from the only thing to wrestle with in this strange new world. With children off school and adults off work, households found themselves spending a lot more time together than they had ever bargained for. This had its hairy moments (and definitely caused some spectacular family arguments!) but it also gave us more insight into our nearest and dearest than we could ever have anticipated before.
Our Global Sales Director, Jamie, joined Kinteract in February 2020. Within his first month, we were plunged into our first national lockdown. Talk about a baptism of fire!
Luckily, Jamie’s 13 years of experience in EdTech made him ideally placed to steer the company through the upcoming turbulence. We think that getting to grips with both Kinteract and lockdown at the same time gives Jamie a unique insight into the lessons that lockdown has taught us. So, we (remotely!) picked his brains.
Here’s Jamie’s and Kinteract’s reflections on a year in lockdown, and the lessons it has taught us.
Jamie has been in the EdTech sector for well over a decade, and is very aware of the changes the pandemic has brought to his industry.
He tells us that the impact has come in two stages:
“The first stage was reactionary. Some establishments already had fully integrated digital strategies. These were prepared for remote/blended learning. However, there was still a large portion of the EdTech sector that had to react very quickly and drastically to sudden school closures, lockdowns, and the need for a blended learning environment.”
Teachers had to change traditional teaching methods that were centuries old in an incredibly short time. Further, uncertainty in the wider community about childrens’ education put a lot of pressure on teachers to engage with parents, carers, and community members. Teachers were stressed - and they weren’t the only ones.
Parents had to juggle working from home whilst supporting their child’s education, which has been challenging. Jamie witnessed this first-hand as his wife gave up work to home-school his children. “I think she has been tremendous”, he says, “and the kids really adapted in the end. But I know how stressful it was.”
After the initial (often panicked) reaction, educators adapted. The entire education sector needed to learn new ways of working, and establish in real-time what brought the best outcomes for students.
As with any new endeavour, this was hit and miss at times. The government’s fateful GCSE algorithm, for example, was more a ‘miss’ than a ‘hit’. But we have seen some incredibly positive progress.
“Moving into 2021, I believe we have a fantastic opportunity to build on what we have learned and change for the better”, says Jamie. “For example, I’ve had conversations with educators who say that the blended approach and remote technology have totally eliminated things like “snow days” (or “rain days” in the Middle East). Children who can’t get to school don’t have to lose a day of learning - they can simply log in remotely.”
“Kinteract is still at a relatively early stage of market awareness”, Jamie notes, “we were aiming for a big push for more awareness before lockdown happened. Of course, lockdown made it much more challenging to reach people in its early stages, so we had to change our strategy.”
“The team continues to amaze me with their resilience and with the consultative approach they have taken with both new and existing customers. We’ve been able to build some amazing relationships, despite the Lockdown. I’m very proud of that.”
GCSE and A-Level exams have been cancelled for two years. Teachers and examining boards have scrambled to find new, fair ways of grading students without packing them into exam halls. Results have been...mixed. Controversies about the government’s grading algorithm, for example, heaped stress and anger onto exam students’ already hefty burden.
Jamie has personally seen how Covid has impacted students. “I have many friends whose kids were in their final years of GCSEs or A-Levels, and not being able to sit their exams was a huge blow.”
However, he thinks that teacher understanding is more powerful than exam grades. “Teachers have a greater understanding of their students’ abilities than any exam grade can ever express. The new system of teacher assessed grades feels, for me, like a win. What’s missing is technology. We have the technology to fully support teachers in their evaluation of student grades. Kinteract is great at evidencing learning. So why aren’t we giving teachers that support?”
“Another issue we need to be aware of and address is the digital divide”, Jamie says. “Teachers, students, and the wider learning community are all struggling to adapt at an equal pace. Some educators want to stick to older ways of teaching, and some students don’t have the resources that others do when it comes to digital learning.”
“One thing that the pandemic and lockdown has taught me is that individuals can and should adapt to changing circumstances. If students, educators, and everyone else is going to thrive in the post-pandemic world, we need to evolve, learn from life experiences, and build on the strengths of what we’ve done during this locked-down year.”
Which leads us neatly into our next question:
Jamie thinks that greater support for teachers is key moving forward. “I see a huge need for further supporting teachers’ professional development. That’s something that I hope will come over time, as the potential of supportive technology solutions like Kinteract makes itself felt. More and more teachers are now advocating the use of technology, but there’s still a digital divide.”
What about on a governmental level? “Education reform can and should be more of a priority from government down to individual school level. I see and speak to many educators who say we need to be more proactive in this approach.”
“That being said, I think reform will be slow. For understandable reasons, governments and schools are focusing on opening back up in a Covid-safe way right now. We have to wait for the dust to settle before we can make any sweeping changes.”
Jamie’s motto for Kinteract is “IT SHOULDN’T MATTER”. But what does it mean?
“We have fantastic technology that can support teaching and learning on an individual, group, or school basis. We’ve worked hard to create a platform that engages teachers, students, and parents, and we’ve succeeded! Kinteract helps align communication from both an educational and social perspective.”
“What I mean by this is that schools, students, teachers and parents should be able to teach and learn on an equal footing, irrespective of where they are. Their location shouldn’t matter. Their level of tech skill shouldn’t matter. Any special educational needs shouldn’t matter. Kinteract gives everyone the tools they need to succeed, no matter their situation or circumstances.”
Kinteract links teaching and learning against schools’ own curricula and frameworks. It supports teachers and students with suggested content and age-agnostic assessments. It grows and adapts with each student, remaining relevant all the way from early years to graduation. Kinteract provides students with a personal portfolio of their development throughout their educational career.
Jamie says that is what sets Kinteract apart is its ability to do everything. “Kinteract is a consolidated solution that aims to partner with other education suppliers. It brings all data together, enabling teachers, schools, authorities and governments the ability to spot successes and intervene when improvements or adaptations need to take place.”
“No matter where you are, Kinteract is accessible any time and any place. If your teaching environment is in school, remote, or a blend, Kinteract can help.”
Jamie is particularly proud of Kinteract’s ability to engage at every stakeholder level. “From parent/carer to student to teacher, SLT, Trust, Authority, or Ministerial level, Kinteract provides rich, real-life detail for every single child.”
“Lifelong learning starts at the very beginning”, says Jamie, “and Kinteract can play a big part in securing this for every learner”.