As the digital world continues to expand and globalize our economy, we’re seeing the shift from manual processes to automation. As discussed in a previous blog post, our society has been adopting new technologies to enforce social distancing for our safety. Our society is becoming more digital, but is it just for social distancing practices?
The short answer is no - but it’s complicated. Within certain industries, we have witnessed the gradual shift to digital environments, but the global pandemic has been a catalyst for the process. As a high school graduate in my 2015 class, the majority of class work was done manually. The integration of tools like Moodle would assist with assignment submissions, but these platforms have evolved with school boards - providing much more than a submission portal.
These learning management systems were inevitably being integrated within district school boards, colleges and universities - edtech has been booming. With the pandemic, these systems have become even more important. D2L saw 25x more traffic in their virtual classrooms usage and this has raised flags for other learning management systems. Tools like Moodle and Google Classroom rolled out their virtual classroom features as well, making them competitors within the edtech space.
These learning management systems have seen a spike in traffic, but many believe that virtual classrooms are leading to the inevitable homeschooling of students. Investors are so confident in homeschooling become the new status quo that they’ve invested $3.7 million in Primer, whose purpose is to create a “full stack workflow” for parents.
However, many parents aren’t happy with this. This is because parents feel that their children aren’t getting the full experience of the education system which would promote a well rounded behaviour. These virtual classrooms only have a few hours of live interactions and the rest of the curriculum consists of pre recorded videos and pre built quiz templates.
On the other hand, this approach to edtech isn’t inclusive of all socioeconomic backgrounds. The more children a family has, the more resources needed to ensure they can get to their classes.
Many surveys have been conducted which show a consistent trend of parents or older children playing “tech support” for children that aren’t used to using complex tools like Zoom or Google Hangouts for live classes. This has created a strain on parental responsibilities, making it difficult to work.
All of these issues have been pushing parents to find alternatives to educating their children. Many younger edtech startups are trying to find unique ways to educate children.
This tool is described by their founder, Zak Ringelstein, as the “TikTok for kids''. The tool is a simple user interface to accommodate their demographic of preschool to middle school children. The app invites users to post short form videos in response to project based prompts.
Another platform which teaches toddlers important foundational skills, like english. This company focuses on preschool children and has integrated voice tech to listen and understand children. This allows them to assess the children and provide personalized feedback on word pronunciation and determine fluency.
This app was created by Marcus Blackwell which allows students to solve math problems using the software keyboard on mobile devices. Solving these math problems triggers different keys which play various trending songs.
Make Music Count is currently partnered with entertainment platforms like Motown records and the Cartoon Network to promote their curriculums.
While it is clear that edtech is growing and younger startups are trying to find new and better alternatives to teaching, we can all agree that schooling goes beyond education. Children learn about social norms, interact with others and most importantly, develop their personalities.
Being behind a screen eliminates that entire childcare process - from dealing with conflict resolution to physical activity - there is a clear gap which edtech has not addressed. To truly create a virtual classroom, we need much more than video calls and quizlets.