Here we are again, at the start of a new year. For many of us, 2020 was a year of challenges and uncertainty, culminating in a very different Christmas and New Year break. The roll out of vaccine programmes across the world holds out the promise of better months ahead, but the introduction of further lockdowns for many of us has meant that the start of the year may feel bleak as schools and teachers gear themselves up for remote learning again.
Whilst no school wants to close its doors, teachers, students and parents are much better prepared to keep learning going than they were this time last year. Schools have the infrastructure and strategies in place to deliver continuity of learning whatever the situation, whilst teachers and students are not facing the challenge of a completely new approach and can put into practice what they learnt last year.
The technology that schools are using is also in a better place for many of us. Edtech providers moved rapidly over the last twelve months to support teachers and students with the online systems they needed to connect with their classes from home, and with these now embedded in staff practice, teachers have the confidence and skills to make the most of the tools they have available.
At Firefly we were able to move quickly in response to the needs of schools, providing free access to our platform to those affected by the pandemic. Integrations with Microsoft Teams Meetings and the Microsoft Immersive Reader were fast-tracked, and the initial version of the Firefly Insights tool, allowing school leaders to understand the impact of remote teaching,was brought forward.
We were proud to release our new Parent Portal so that schools were able to engage their parents more easily and effectively. This included unique integrations with assignments from Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom so that schools had the flexibility to use their preferred tools and still keep parents in the conversation.
In the months ahead we will be continuing to develop our partnerships with both Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams. We plan to integrate assignment descriptions, marks and feedback from Microsoft Teams into Firefly so that teachers can share homework more effectively with parents, whilst at the same time making further improvements to our integration with both platforms to streamline the process for sharing assignments with parents still further.
We will be working on our communications tools for schools to further enhance the ways that schools can communicate with parents and making it easier for schools to send rich messaging to all of the teachers of a given student.
To help schools manage parents evenings and other events, we are extending our Parents Booking feature so that users can test their video call before a meeting, as well as giving teachers the ability to better manage their session schedule and availability.
Following up from its initial release last year, the Firefly Insights tool will shortly go on general release to schools. This will give school leaders even greater visibility into the engagement of different groups in their wider school community, as well as better understanding of how Firefly is used in their school.
Finally, we are continuing to research further integrations with Microsoft, in particular looking at ways to use Firefly content and resources within the Microsoft Teams environment.
If we learnt one thing from last year, it was not to be complacent and I have no doubt that there will be significant challenges to overcome in the coming weeks and months. However, I have also seen what schools and teachers have been able to achieve, often with little warning and with extraordinary speed.
At Firefly we remain committed to supporting teachers, students and parents in whatever way we can as they continue to navigate the complexities of the months ahead. As the world starts to navigate its way out of the pandemic, we would like to thank schools and teachers, who have managed to #KeepLearningGoing and I have no doubt will continue to do so.