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Keeping an Eye on Your Kinders With Kaymbu

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Between his bawling drop-off and a tearful pick-up, I suspected that my son was miserable during his first days of school... until I saw the images his teachers sent me using a platform called Kaymbu. This new technology is  helping teachers "document digitally and engage instantly" with parents, and is changing parent-teacher communication  by opening an  honest  (and secure) window on  the missed moments of their children's lives.

Much of the app and iPad system was made while Kaymbu founder/CEO Kin Lo was a member of Workbar Cambridge, but the idea for it was  born  while he  pursued his MBA at MIT's Sloan business school. It pained him to know that  he was missing out on precious moments of his daughter's early development. Her preschool  did make efforts to text, email, and use Facebook groups, but there were drawbacks. Class time spent uploading photos was time disengaged  from the children, and the "social" aspect of social media platforms raised concerns with  him as a wary parent.  He realized the glaring need for  an  easy, secure way for  teachers to  take photos and upload them, so with a clutch of iPads and enough brains to improvise on the fly, Lo devised a way for his daughter's teachers to pilot  a unique kind of teacher/parent interface.

"Photo-documenting is already a big part of the practice and pedagogy in early childhood education," he explains. "So we do everything within the iPad, where it's efficient and integrated into most programs they are already doing on their digital camera or personal phone. But instead of taking ten steps to get the photo where it's supposed to be, we cut that time and effort." With more time to devote to instruction and not documentation, Lo discovered how quickly his product found fans among educators.

Uncoupling the process from the ruts of social media would prove to be one of Kaymbu's biggest technical hurdles, and also a huge selling point. "We take all the best things of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, and wrap them into a secure platform for the school. Our back end stuff is intentionally not connected to social media, so it's a private environment." When asked about any resistance to adopting a new channel of communication, Lo's response highlighted  the adaptability of the increasingly digital-native teachers. "Most teachers are young, and they dig it. Adoption is really good, and it was our challenge as company with product strategy to make it so easy to use, so intuitive, they can jump right in. It's what we aspire to."

Based on data from teachers and parents, Kaymbu is already a huge success. With over 3,000 schools in 43 states sending over a million messages every month, it is clear that  Kaymbu is still taking off. "One concern," Lo confides, "was that it would be a novelty, put off to the side. We are seeing the opposite- the longer schools use it, they use it more. As the system gets more integrated the slope is positive, which speaks to the compounding effect of actively communicating."

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Another key performance indicator is the open rate of these messages. "Our messages are opened twice, on average." Compare this with an average open rate for primary and secondary school messages at less than 24%, and it becomes clear that Kaymbu is doing more than just informing parents about their children's well-being: parents are revisiting these moments.

When asked  if the app could be  used for disciplinary enforcement as well as positive feedback, he said that Kaymbu wasn't designed to be punitive. "We share best practices, but we don't dictate. We're purely an enabler. During the day there are times when the teacher is directly interacting with children, and other times when they step back in a supportive, observational mode. That’s when we see them taking the time for photos. The kids are super comfortable with their teacher throughout the course of the year. Maybe in the beginning there would be some sampling bias, but we have millions of moments. It's very candid."

Lo says that the future of Kaymbu will hopefully loop in more public schools, enabling more efficient classroom management and communication between an even larger percentage of parents and teachers. "We are always looking thematically to strengthen relationships, to augment communication into a more elegant back and forth. We are like the Instagram of this photo-messaging genre- now we just have to leverage  our strength and expertise."

Dave Gentry  is a fan of progress and recess. He believes in Olde English, new fortune cookies, and he answers to #davertido.


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