Wendy Oke: ‘I knew technology could make teachers’ work easier’

26 Aug 2020

TeachKloud founder and CEO Wendy Oke. Image: AIB

TeachKloud’s Wendy Oke explains how her edtech platform has adapted to help early-childhood teachers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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After completing a PhD on compliance and quality in early-childhood education, Cork-based entrepreneur Wendy Oke was inspired to reimagine the workplace for professionals within the education industry.

She realised that many early-childhood teachers were swamped in paperwork relating to compliance and regulations put in place to ensure that quality care and education is provided to children. So she developed a technology platform, TeachKloud, which provides management and compliance software for early-years and pre-school education, with an app to track attendance, learning, invoicing, policies and more.

“I wasn’t sure how, but I knew technology could make teachers’ work easier and reduce repetitive tasks, so that teachers could focus on what matters most, which is the needs of children and their families,” she told Siliconrepublic.com.

‘The opportunity for online learning and supporting teachers in upskilling cannot be ignored’

TeachKloud was featured in our Start-up of the Week series back in January 2020, just a few weeks before education as we knew it was turned on its head by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now, Oke has adapted her strategy to help educators that have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis. She has also launched Kloud Academy, an online education platform with original video content that parents can use for teaching young children at home.

“There’s now an even greater need to focus on supporting children and their families during Covid-19, whether that’s by ensuring the early childhood service is safe, improving communication with families through apps like TeachKloud or providing online learning resources through websites like Kloud Academy,” Oke said.

Kloud Academy

Through Kloud Academy, the TeachKloud team looks for gaps children may find in their curriculum at home. The platform currently features video lessons on topics such as cooking, drama, science and more.

“We focus on socio-emotional developmental activities like magic tricks, dancing, singing, science experiments and art,” Oke said. “These type of learning opportunities encourage children to use their imagination, improve fine motor skills and it encourages them to move!”

In the future, she also plans to introduce online training content for early-childhood professionals. It will feature content with on-demand online training to support teachers in their return to work, covering topics relating to health and safety.

When asked if Kloud Academy was always in the pipeline or if the opportunity came up as a result of the pandemic, Oke said that the change of circumstances caused by Covid-19 spurred her start-up to look at providing more online services for teachers, parents and children.

It took three months to build Kloud Academy, with the start-up delaying the launch to ensure that it was providing the right service with the right focus on the needs of children who now have reduced teacher contact time.

“We’ve received support from Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices (LEO) which has been instrumental in helping us get everything set up,” Oke said. She added that Enterprise Ireland and her LEO responded “very quickly” to Covid-19 in providing grants and supports for businesses.

Dealing with Covid-19

Education across all levels has been massively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and TeachKloud has had to prepare for dealing with any more changes that may arise.

“For TeachKloud, it’s important to listen to our customers, so that we can provide new and innovative services that will support them during these uncertain times,” Oke said. “I believe that we, in Ireland, are resilient. I’m really proud of the way we have handled this situation. I think there will be a move towards online learning but also a surge in the usage of management apps like TeachKloud.”

She explained that teachers have been using her platform to comply with new regulatory requirements, reduce paperwork and stay in communication with parents who can now no longer come into the school for a visit or a chat.

“A lot of early-childhood services have been using TeachKloud’s instant messenger to communicate with parents or are using our policies section to send and request parental consent. All of this can be done virtually, to improve social distancing, which in turn increases the safety of the learning environment.”

Going forward, the start-up plans to strengthen its existing offerings, while seizing any new opportunities it spots in the industry. In September, TeachKloud is launching the newest iteration of its teacher and parent app with a new interface. Oke said that the app is focused on supporting early-childhood educators as they deal with new demands imposed by Covid-19.

“The opportunity for online learning and supporting teachers in upskilling cannot be ignored and we will also be supporting parents who have increased home-schooling needs,” Oke added.

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Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic