COVID has impacted the entire planet, and nearly every human that walks it’s surface. With nearly 130 million people infected and sadly 3 million people dying, this once in a generation pandemic has had an absolutely devastating impact on the world’s population.
Just like us parents, school kids of all ages have also had their world turned upside down. A lack of access to friends, teachers and services like sports or drama have had an impact on kids’ social wellbeing. While there may be a few funny guest cameos by children on their parents’ work Zooms, many families have found it difficult to to work from home and help students learn from home. And the social groups that are already disadvantaged may find themselves even further behind due to lack of laptops or reliable internet access that further hindered students’ remote learning.
From a school and educators perspective, they too are far from certain what the impacts will be, whether it is students falling behind in national curriculum standards, reduced social interaction leading to more difficult classroom environments moving forward or more parents that may be unemployed and don’t have the financial means to support their children.
But through all the challenges that have been thrown at our younger generations over the last 12 months, there have also been a number of exciting changes that will have an ongoing positive impact on our children, their education and hopefully their futures.
The Post-It note is dead, long live the Post-It note
Children have been educated since well before an apple (not Apple) fell on Newton’s head. Agent Egyptians first established schools from about 3000 to 500 BC, evidence of early university-like institutes dates back to the 6th century, and the first public school in the United States was established in 1635. Unfortunately, many of the tools and processes the schools used today hark back to these ancient times!
Through a combination of funding constraints, education departments being extremely risk averse, and the last 30 years of technology having a B2C/B2B focus, education has been somewhat left behind.
But with the forced lockdowns that COVID brought to schools across the world, schools have had to modernise their process to support remote learning, remote education and remote management of school curriculums.
- Microsoft Team/Google Meet/Zoom all provided “video face” to “video face” communications for teachers and students alike.
- Traditional paper handouts for homework and tests have been replaced with digital forms, shared documents, and a plethora of small portals that provide a range of education and testing services like Class Dojo, Google Classroom and even Dropbox.
- Many traditional processes that teachers and administrators used to do face-to-face have had to be updated to support online tools. For example, our platform Class Creator, has allowed teachers & administrators to remotely create class lists (which is traditionally a very manual, 1000 Post-It note process taking weeks) while also including new constraints, like partial school attendance where only 25% of the schools students can return to face-to-face instruction per day.
Banking like it’s 2000
Having been involved in the internet space and specifically technology for nearly 25 years, one of the things that surprised me most about doing business with schools and school districts in the United States was the way we are paid – via a physical cheque (aka check in the US). With COVID lockdowns, this starts to become a problem. We had many schools that were not able to pay us because they couldn’t physically get into their school offices to process these cheques.
Many districts have used COVID to modernize their payment processing and other accounting systems. The number of cheques we receive now is a fraction of the number we received pre-COVID, and for a small start up, our payments are now processed 4-8 weeks faster than before. And I’m sure we’re not the only ones that have seen the benefit of these changes as small businesses across the world providing services to these schools have a more modern, faster payment system than before.
You’re on mute!
Like them or not, video conferencing has become the backbone of our communications during these pandemic times. Zoom, Microsoft Teams & Google Meets all saw exponential growth during the pandemic, and with many organizations giving employees the ability to work from home full time for the foreseeable future, these platforms will be part of our ability to communicate for decades.
Our kids had to also learn to leverage these platforms as well. From regular class catch ups, help with homework or presenting homework back to the teacher, video conferencing was the key technology to enable these interactions. And while many parents had used video conferencing in the past, for most children, they had zero experience. I remember the first week or 2 trying to get our kids set up and familiar with Google Meets, and the number of conversations started on mute was great entertainment for the whole family.
But what I also saw was teachers and educators start to leverage many internet based platforms that really helped fill the gap left by a lack of physical contact.
- Our school used Class Dojo to help share homework and assignments, communicate with the children & parents alike, and helped us understand how our kids were progressing during these unique times.
- There were countless small web sites that had fun educational games or puzzles that were now thrown into the mainstream as schools scrambled to find online solutions to help support their teaching syllabus.
- Our iPad is also littered with niche educational apps and services that were completely unknown in our household 12 months ago, but have become very valuable assistants in helping us educate our kids during homeschooling.
While COVID has thrown so many challenges to every country in the world, there are many examples where we will come out of this pandemic in better shape than we went in. I’m sure I speak for many parents to say I’m delighted my kids are back at school, but the experiences and improvements the schooling system has seen over the last 12 months will continue to help shape education for years to come.
Until next time,
Karl Kopp – Chief Technology Officer, Class Creator