Now is the ideal time for social learning platforms to come into their own

by Louise Young
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We all know the challenges of engaging a child in learning from home, whether completing homework that’s been set during a ‘normal’ school week, or the more extreme pressures that have taken over the home of every school-aged child in the extraordinary times we currently find ourselves living in.

This means that more than ever before, now is the right time for social learning platforms to come into their own and lead the way forward in engaging and connecting a generation of learners, teachers and parents, by creating the ideal education triangle, whatever the learning environment.

But what is a social learning platform and why now?

A social learning platform uses intuitive design matched with a social platform’s familiarity, connectedness and ease of use to facilitate a delivery medium capable of engaging teachers, parents and students to fully bring learning to life both in-class and remotely.

Why does school communication matter?

As the Education Endowment Foundation concluded in their research¹ conducted by academics from the University of Plymouth and the University of Exeter, 'there is a positive association between parental engagement in children's learning and learning outcomes, regardless of the child's socio-economic status and grade level'.

This critical parent - student - teacher educational triangle is proven to influence student progress and with traditional in-class teaching methods having to adapt to a new world of remote learning, now is the time to use online education software to embrace and make the most of the sea-change ahead in learning delivery.  

The social feed approach offers a delivery medium that all parts of the education triangle are already responding to in our increasingly social feed-dominated world, so it really is the ideal time for the most relevant formats of educational delivery to come to the fore.

Social learning in education

At Kinteract we continually develop our product with teachers, students and parents in mind, taking account of their expectations, needs and wants. We describe ourselves as a social learning platform, recognising that the familiar social feed we’re known for is the key to our success. And we’re not alone; in relation to distance learning, John Hattie, Education Professor and researcher as well as author of Visible Learning², advocates an approach to online education that:

  • Optimises the social interaction aspects (learn with, not be talked at)
  • Acknowledges the importance of feedback as a means of validating levels of understanding
  • Recognises the balance between knowledge and deep thinking
  • Enables teachers to adapt their observational skills to the online environment (teaching to the gaps)

Similarly Hattie advocates² the necessity for teachers to be able to fully assess their impact in remote learning environments.

These findings suggest that schools need to ask themselves the key questions of whether the online learning platform they use currently can fully provide all the above along with evidence of learning impact to ensure curriculum progress is made whether remote or in-class.

Kinteract offers a digital learning platform that facilitates Hattie’s points… and more. Not only can a teacher track, evidence and report against tagged curriculum objectives, but feedback is two-way, instant and offers invaluable insight to the teaching community, fulfilling the need for teachers to be able to assess their impact.

What’s more, being the social interface Hattie advocates for, means schools can use the Kinteract platform to initiate inter-teacher conversations securely and easily, sharing best practice, observations and feedback enabling teachers to discuss, evaluate and truly work together, irrespective of distance.

School communication + parental engagement = collective efficacy

The ‘collective efficacy’ Hattie talks about can similarly be achieved through the communication capability of Kinteract: unlike others on the market, and certainly unlike our ‘free’ rivals, our school communication capability takes home-school communication to a new level.

Yes, we can send all-parent communications with ease, but more importantly we can also:

  • share learning progress instantly and securely to individual parents
  • posts are created with ease, and can be curriculum tagged bringing parents closer to their child’s learning and satisfying the well-documented¹ need for engaged parents to ensure the very best of learning outcomes for a student
  • Kinteract is permissions based, putting the school firmly in control, with the ability to switch on (or off) two-way parent communications
  • Facilitates parental insight, comments or simply to add relevant home learning achievements to their child’s digital learning portfolio, providing the perfect triangle of teacher-student-parent
  • Instant language translation capability, meaning we’re fully inclusive ensuring parents (at the click of a button) can translate a post into their preferred home language, add their response, which the class teacher can then also translate if needed

How effectively are remote learning resources being used in schools today?

As TeacherTapp³ has observed this last week, teachers are (surprisingly) using online resources to the same degree as they were two weeks ago, showing that after an initial flurry of interest in taking on new resources, they have largely settled for the free and usual online platforms. With the growing prominence of these free online resources, and by this I’m referring not to learning apps but more to the school assessment and learning portfolio management software, what schools now need to address is whether ‘free’ is necessarily ‘best’.

We’re all fully aware of school budgets, the tightening of belts and for our independent sector in particular, a growing concern over international students being both able and willing to return to their educational establishments overseas. So now is the time to audit your edtech and assess whether they are delivering for you on the many levels you should expect, to ensure you’re prepared for continuing remote learning, a phased return requiring classes to be taught both in school and at home and the likelihood of further lockdowns for the next 12 months and beyond.

Consider the following as part of your edtech audit:

  • Have the digital tools you’re using been adopted by your entire teaching community?
  • Can you consolidate the number of apps your school uses, to benefit both from simplicity of streamlining the tech you use as well as to save money?
  • Do your apps have multi functionality?
  • Does your edtech integrate with other products for ease of use?
  • Do they offer a solution that works just as well for future in-class teaching as they do in remote situations - and best of all if they can seamlessly merge the two?
  • Do they engage your students and complement and support in-school teaching?

If you answer ‘no’ to any of the above, then there simply are better options available for you to consider and undoubtedly now is the time to do so, to ensure you’re equipped with the tools you need to meet the learning needs of both in-school and remote learning. 

And finally some positives to the remote learning revolution of 2020

As the weeks roll by and the world gradually moves towards the reopening of schools, there are undoubtedly significant new challenges that educators will need to address. Setting aside the most fundamental of obstacles which include the potential for an escalation of the virus and the risks this puts our teachers and students at, it’s also important to recognise the side benefits for education that have been experienced in a remote learning environment and during the transition back to school.

In Denmark (as reported this week in Tes)⁴, where they are taking a staged approach in their return to school to ensure they can meet the continuing requirements of social distancing, they have experienced the following positives in their primary aged students:

  • A greater reliance on self-learning and self-evaluation, building confidence in the valuable skill of being able to study independently now that working with peers is no longer an option
  • The opportunity to move the classroom outside, re energising students with a greener backdrop to their class environment 
  • Part-time teaching staff increasing their hours to help schools manage the increased workload
  • Smaller class sizes allowing teachers to spend more time with each student, giving them the individualised feedback often referenced as being critical to learning gain
  • Students are making often faster progress through the curriculum, with their time in school being more focused than previously
  • Teachers recognising that students are gaining new skills in learning to adapt to the new normal in school

Denmark has seen that students are not falling behind either as a result of the lockdown or the phased school return, and in fact are progressing well. As John Hattie states², it’s not about the amount of time a student spends in class, but what we do in the time that’s available. He researched students in New Zealand following the earthquakes there in 2011 and argued against offering these students dispensation in exams, based on previous research during strike action in schools; this showed no effect from strike action on students at high school level and in fact in some cases they experienced a positive impact.² 

Why? In distance learning situations, teachers focus their time on teaching to the gaps in knowledge rather than teaching what they think students need, even if they can already do the tasks. All the more reason to ensure the remote learning software you use is able to track and assess against the curriculum to ensure this more individualised approach is possible in your school, whether remote or in class or a combination of the two. 

A little about us

With imminent development facilitating whole class discussions that work seamlessly remotely and in class, and as our implementations across sports organisations gain momentum in the coming weeks, Kinteract has more to offer than ever before.

As well as being a social learning platform, Kinteract is:

  • A digital learning record for life, tracking student progress mapped to any curriculum and portable throughout a student's education and beyond
  • Integrated with other teaching and learning apps - including Microsoft Teams, Zoom, G-Suite and Microsoft 365
  • Remote teaching platform - set classwork, homework (with deadline dates!), upload multiple files, photos and images as well as integrating with live video lesson delivery apps
  • Curriculum linked, enabling teachers to use hashtags to track posts against curricula
  • Provides reporting to enable you to evidence learning progress both quickly and easily

Our on-boarding and training are straightforward to implement across your school, with comprehensive support to help you throughout the process, so you can be up and running in no time.

Book a 1-2-1 demo (at a time to suit you) to see how we can work with your school and make sure you're offering the best in class to your students.

¹Education Endowment Foundation Working with Parents to Support Children’s Learning

²Visible Learning Effect Sizes When Schools Are Closed: What Matters and What Does Not

³TeacherTapp

Life in Danish Primary Schools 4 weeks after reopening