Teaching is ever-evolving. When I began my career, I can remember sitting for hours at nights and on weekends writing progress reports and end of term reports to send out to parents. Today, teachers have the opportunity to offer real-time feedback and data to parents. There is an increasing number of apps which are making it possible for teachers and parents to seamlessly share in their children’s learning journey from kindergarten to university.
Kinteract is one such app, leading the charge of fusing intuitive design, robust analysis and instant communication, so teachers and parents can work efficiently in helping students to reach their full potential. I caught up with Shehzad Najib, Co-founder of Kinteract, to learn more about him and his work at Kinteract.
Shehzad was born and raised in the fields and streets of Keighley in West Yorkshire. He attended Highfield Middle School in Keighley where he earned a scholarship to Ermysteds Grammar School in Skipton, North Yorkshire. He gained a first-class degree in Education and Sociology from the University of Warwick. After finishing university at the age of 21, he was given the amazing opportunity of setting up an independent school just outside of Oxford; this makes him one of the youngest persons to ever set up a school in England. He continued in education, and setting up schools/nurseries, globally for several years but later switched to managing education technology platforms in Pearson’s learning technology division. He has enjoyed a varied career with his last role before Kinteract being VP – Digital Strategy at Barclays in London.
Take a moment to meet Shehzad and learn about Kinteract.
Who was your favourite teacher? Why?
My favourite teacher was Mr Tillitson at Highfield Middle School, who was my form tutor for Year 5. Mr Tillitson pretty much enacted the whole story of the Hobbit to us throughout the year. His passion and energy, along with his literary prowess, made a huge impact on me. He didn’t care about teaching us “stuff” or assessing us at the end of the term; instead, he was passionate about instilling a love for learning in all of us. As a result of his passion, I am able to recall his “lessons” from 30+ years ago
Who or What inspired you to start Kinteract?
I was working at Pearson in London on two major initiatives; first, the Efficacy Framework that was being iterated and second reviewing our EdTech product portfolio as well as competitors for the new strategy. Whilst undertaking the above, two main questions formulated; Why are most apps in the edtech space merely presenting academic data for students with no focus on skills and competencies; and why are most of these apps historical recorders in nature and not making use of data to inform on future progressive steps?
This inspired me to spend time researching and talking with colleagues and teachers. I then got together with my co-founders, Alex and Nahiem, to developed Kinteract.
After spending time with educators in the inception and design phase, we learnt more about; how EdTech products are age/stage/curriculum specific with no portability of the records moving with students as they move within the school, let alone between schools. We also discovered that the assessment process in schools is broken and not fit for the 21st century. In many cases, assessment was merely a tick box process, and the data was all over the place. There was no aggregation and comparison between stages or assessment types. Kinteract was developed to ensure this does not continue to be the case.
Share two major challenges that you faced when you started. How did you overcome them?
In the initial stages of introducing kinteract to schools, we had to work on shifting the paradigms of teachers. Teachers were previously trained to use EdTech tools in one way, at Kinteract, we were introducing an entirely new way, so we faced some resistance. I am happy to say that, in the face of resistance, we stuck to our plans and it paid out dividends. We can now see paradigms shifting, and teachers are beginning to reap the benefits of using Kinteract in their schools.
The second challenge, that all three founders faced, was the fear of leaving established and well-paying careers, to enter the unfamiliar and uncertain startup world. The transition was interesting, to say the least, but extremely rewarding thus far and has enabled us all to grow in multiple dimensions. In hindsight, it was the best decision ever and more importantly, we’re just getting started in delivering our mission to positively impact the lives of millions of learners.
What are the key things that every school should know about how Kinteract can help to make their processes easier?
First, we offer a product that is agnostic to age/stage/curricula and thus allows the teacher to have continuity and portability of record. Kinteract enables a holistic view of the student.
We value teacher time and through 3 (that’s right just 3) quick workflows; intelligent curriculum suggestions; hashtags; auto-grade indicators; data aggregations and iterative assessments, we save teachers many hours per week/term/year.
Kinteract provides live feedback. No one does real-time communication between teachers, students and parents the way Kinteract does.
How can schools prepare students to face the future?
Schools can assist students to prepare for the future by having a fluid approach to meeting individual students’ needs. The child has to be at the centre of everything the school does. The job of the school is to help to create “solid” human beings. As Dorothy Sayers remarked in her seminal essay “it’s about the process of learning and the tools for learning and that’s where the focus should be”.
What are three fun activities that you do to relax and take your mind off work?
I’m a keen sportsman and thus leisure time is divided between playing golf, football and archery. I volunteer for an Oxford-based education charity where I manage the development of a handbook on delivering community-based holistic education.
I am also working on overcoming my phone addiction. Over the next academic year, I am also focused on improving my Arabic from basic to at least intermediate level.