We interview Myles Klynhout, Community & Product Specialist at Freeed.
Freeed in 15 words or less?
We’re creating a global discovery platform for teachers to connect and easily share their ideas.
How did you get into EdTech?
My journey started nearly 10 years ago, teaching English in Barcelona. I remember suddenly having to learn how to use the school’s Interactive White Boards (IWB), Learner Management System (LMS), and coursebooks with CDs and DVDs – the acronyms go on and on!
Over time I felt that my students were overwhelmed by all this tech, so I started to take a less-is-more approach to materials in the classroom. The syllabus was determined by coursebooks and the teacher worked through a series of preordained grammar points.
The issue was that learners had little or no say over the content of the course; they were just expected to follow the coursebook, chapter by chapter.
Increasingly, I broke away from this and looked for materials on blogs. Mostly, they were written by teachers under a creative commons licence, so I could adapt them to my students’ needs.
At the same time, along with fellow members of the cooperative Serveis Lingüístics de Barcelona (SLB), we set up an in-house materials bank. Our team of 20 teachers actively used this to exchange ideas, create materials and discuss how best to implement them in our different contexts. It got me thinking – could this work on a global level?
In 2017 I moved to Helsinki, home to a thriving Nordic Edtech scene, with innovative teachers and pedagogic advisors. After coming across Freeed at various educational conferences in Finland, we started sharing our ideas and it wasn’t long before I joined the team!
How has EdTech changed ELT in the last 5 years?
One clear trend is the emergence of Peer-to-peer (P2P) learning platforms, such as italki and Verbling. Essentially, these platforms started out as directories of verified, qualified, independent teachers, however they began adding new features. By listening to user feedback (that of teachers and students), they were able to adapt more quickly than other face-to-face service to become the fastest growing sector in ELT.
This disruption has left the ELT publishing industry at somewhat of a crossroads and it now has to show the same ability to adapt. ELT products take a considerable investment of time and money to develop. The multistage process involves identifying the marketing or need, researching product requirements, pushing to get the project approved, before finally writing the content, producing and launching.
How can this process become more agile? Well, by learning from peer-to-peer platforms and developing products in cooperation with teachers and students from day one.
Feedback from teachers about how they use and adapt materials is valuable information, but it’s often overlooked. Publishers should work to establish an ongoing feedback loop between the learner, teacher and materials writer.
The era of students paying upfront for a static coursebook could be coming to an end. This can be seen by Pearson’s shift towards a Netflix-style subscription-based model that teachers can pick and choose from. Big changes are coming in ELT – agility and adaptability will be key to survival.
What do these changes mean for teachers and how can Freeed help?
Teachers already face many challenges and pressures. Good practice now means working with efficiency, consistency and creativity. The problem is that too many teachers are working alone, adapting authentic and published materials, or developing their own.
Too often, these materials never see the light! If more educators shared their great ideas, everyone would benefit. Freeed’s mission is to make that happen, by ensuring that the process of sharing is as quick and easy as possible.
We understand the importance of teachers connecting and developing materials locally. Freeed’s first community in Finland has achieved just this and now has more than 3000 active users – primary and secondary school teachers, all sharing lesson ideas and teaching tips.
Since then, communities have been established in the Netherlands and Tanzania. As our number of teachers grow, what we want to do next is link these local communities to one another, creating a global network of educators.
The new ELT community is a great opportunity for us to understand the challenges teachers face in different contexts around the world.
How can I join the Freeed ELT community?
Step 1: Go to the Freeed website and Get Started.
Step 2: Quickly create your free account and join the ELT community (Freeed will always be free for teachers!).
Step 3: Start sharing ideas with other English teachers. You might even find the perfect materials for tomorrow’s lesson.