Ad-hoc zoom-based classes is not the revolution in education that EdTech’s been fighting for
It’s hard to believe that, just six months ago, the terms I’d coined and had been using for over two years — “virtual circletime,” “Peloton for early childhood,” “immersive, live interactive classes” — were not very easily understood by the lay person. Enter COVID-19, and the rest is history.
Bystanders understandably think “as the founder of Circletime, you must be thrilled.” Uh, not really. Those who know me will know that I’ve joked about wanting a “bad snowstorm” to do our official launch — you know, families stuck at home for 2–3 days looking for options to keep their kids engaged. I did not want Circletime to be used by children who were socially isolated, parents who were trying to juggle it all from home without childcare options, and the fear and anxiety of a global health crisis and its unknown economic impact.
With a mission to improve the parenting experience and make a dent on kindergarten readiness, here are the 6 key things I intentionally set out to do by founding Circletime, none of which should have required a pandemic to be successful:
- Take parenting out of the dark ages and integrate it with the rest of our modern lifestyle through design thinking and intentional innovation
- Lead an effective dialogue around digital media literacy to help Millennial parents of digitally native children instill a balanced “media diet” from birth
- Implement standardized criteria for “educational content” to keep parents from feeling so lost in a sea of meaninglessly labeled apps and videos
- Elevate true early childhood experts above YouTube/Instagram/TikTok influencers by creating a positive digital user experience that puts them front and center
- Broaden the impact of effective early childhood interventions and programs by creating complementary solutions to the hard-to-scale, expensive in-person ones
- Create a true connection between home and school, the greatest determinant of learning success.
I am concerned that if we don’t work on these items, we risk turning off parents and teachers from digital options for the foreseeable future. While many may think EdTech is “having its moment,” listening more closely to children, parents and teachers makes it clear that we need to do more than just “migrate to a zoom model.”
There’s a question founders often get asked: “What keeps you up at night?” Well, right now, what keeps me up at night is that, in a post-COVID-19 world, none of our three key users will be interested in a screen for a long time.
That gives me urgency to maximize the current opportunity by laying the groundwork for thoughtful innovation around parenting, early childhood, “family tech,” and education. In coming articles, I will dig into each of my six “missions” above to separately to discuss how entrepreneurs, children’s educational media, independent educators and the education establishment can break down the silos, come together, and not waste this moment.