back to school

Education company launches innovative virtual platform at Houston school

Kïdo Home, a virtual education platform, has launched out of a Houston-area school. Photo via Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has spawned an array of digital innovations in education, and one of those innovations has been hatched right here in Houston.

Kïdo, an international network of preschools, recently introduced its first-ever virtual learning platform, with Kïdo's school in Rice Village serving as the U.S. launchpad. The new platform, called Kïdo Home, is offering free trials for parents in the Houston, Austin, and Dallas-Fort Worth areas. Kïdo Home is in the midst of enrolling students nationwide.

The virtual platform in the U.S. rolled out August 7, with classes starting Sept. 1. The Kïdo Home platform already had been up and running in Dubai, Hong Kong, and London, where Kïdo operates brick-and-mortar schools.

Kïdo Home is made up of small-group classes held online and led by trained instructors. Given the massive interruption of in-person education caused by the pandemic, the platform fills a void for 2- to 6-year-olds.

A study conducted this summer by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University's Graduate School of Education found U.S. preschoolers were losing two to four months of critical learning due to pandemic-provoked school closures. According to a nationwide survey of parents, nearly three-fourths of American preschoolers had been affected by pandemic shutdowns that started in March. Many parents reported their distance-learning alternatives were lacking, with less than half receiving support for virtual learning within two months of preschool closures.

"Perhaps 10 percent of preschool children received a robust replacement for in-person preschool attendance," Steve Barnett, senior co-director of the Rutgers institute, says in a release.

Kïdo's Rice Village school serves as the U.S. launchpad for the new platform. Photo via kido.school

Adapted from the Kïdo Early Years Program — which blends the Waldorf Steiner, Reggio Emilia, and Montessori methodologies — Kïdo Home is designed to foster imagination, social well-being, motor skills, and creativity in students through its year-long curriculum.

Kïdo Home's key features include interactive touchscreen literacy and math modules, weekly one-on-one sessions with accredited instructors, and monthly home-activity kits covering art, STEM, literacy, and physical development. Those kits complement the online learning components.

Parents receive weekly updates and monthly assessments regarding their child's progress in the virtual program.

"We saw the need to provide a high-quality, affordable, and engaging virtual learning platform months ago when the pandemic was impacting our preschools in Hong Kong," Houston-based Deepanshu Pandita, U.S. CEO of Kïdo, says in a release. "We've conducted in-depth research that showcases the importance of investing in early childhood education, what the right amount of screen time is, and how to keep children engaged remotely."

Kïdo Home's daily two-hour, real-time video lessons eventually will include second-language immersion, just like Kïdo's brick-and-mortar schools do.

The average class ratio for Kïdo Home is around one instructor for every eight students. Minimal to no parental support is required during these classes. The program costs $350 a month.

Kïdo operates brick-and-mortar locations in Houston, Austin, Hong Kong, Dubai, and London, all of which are open. The Houston school, Kïdo's first in the U.S., debuted in May. The Austin location opened in July. Although a free trial of the virtual platform is available in Dallas-Fort Worth, Kïdo doesn't have a school there.

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Building Houston

 
 

5G could be taking over Texas — and Houston is leading the way. Photo via Getty Images

Based on one key measure, Houston sits at the forefront of a telecom revolution that could spark a regional economic impact of more than $30 billion.

Data published recently by the Texas Comptroller's Office points out that as of last November and December, Houston led all cities in Texas for the number of so-called "small cells." Small cells are a key component in the rollout of ultra-high-speed 5G wireless communication throughout the Houston area and the country.

As the Texas Comptroller's Office explains, small cells are low-powered antennas that communicate wirelessly via radio waves. They're usually installed on existing public infrastructure like street signs or utility poles, instead of the big communication towers that transmit 4G signals.

The comptroller's tally shows Houston had approved 5,455 small-cell sites as of the November-December timeframe. That dwarfs the total number of sites (1,948) for the state's second-ranked city, Dallas.

"Houston is in the vanguard of small cell permitting in Texas, and not just because it's the state's largest city; advocates have lauded its proactive approach to 5G. Other cities, particularly smaller ones, are lagging well behind," the Comptroller's Office notes.

According to CTIA, a trade group for the wireless communications industry, 5G holds the promise to deliver an economic impact of $30.3 billion in the Houston area and create 93,700 jobs. The group says industries such as health care, energy, transportation, e-commerce, and logistics stand to benefit from the emergence of 5G.

"Maintaining world-class communications infrastructure is a requirement for success in a rapidly changing global economy. Small cells and fiber technology are the key foundational components for network densification and robust 5G. Cities like Houston that have embraced the need for this infrastructure will see the benefits of 5G faster than others," Mandy Derr, government affairs director at Houston-based communications infrastructure REIT Crown Castle International Corp. and a member of the Texas 5G Alliance, tells InnovationMap.

Derr says leaders in Houston have embraced the importance of small-cell technology through "reasonable and effective" regulations and processes aimed at boosting 5G capabilities. Three major providers of wireless service — AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon — offer 5G to customers in the Houston area.

"More small cells and fiber provide greater and faster access for the masses, enabling the connectivity that is essential to our businesses today — whether it's accepting payments on a mobile card reader, completing a sale on the go, or reliably reaching consumers where they are," Derr says.

In a blog post, Netrality Data Centers, which operates a data center in Houston, proclaims that Houston is shaping up to be a hub of 5G innovation.

"Houston has always been on the frontline," Mayor Sylvester Turner said during a 5G roundtable discussion in 2019. "It is who we are. It is in our DNA. We are a leading city. We didn't wait for somebody else to go to the moon. Or to be the energy capital of the world. Or the largest medical center in the world. But you don't stay at the front if you don't continue to lead."

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