Willow Hewitt gives advice on how to learn through technology with your kids.
The WHO recently released strict guidelines on children’s use of screens. However, there’s still much debate around the issue and very little evidence to back up any claims. One thing that we can all agree on is that children are drawn to screens like moths to flames.
I like to use songs and stories in my classes. Usually I sing or read myself, but on occasion, when we watch a video instead, the children are riveted. I try to use this to my advantage and use technology to teach things which might otherwise seem dull. This is one way you can make considered and meaningful use of screen time with your young learners. Read on to find some more ways to do this:
Flashcards are a great learning tool for short, sharp bursts of study. They’re versatile too and can be used for a range of subjects and purposes. However, physical flashcards are very bulky if you’ve got more than four or five. Create a virtual deck on a platform like Anki, and your kid can learn while travelling to school.
Kids love competing against each other in video games, and it’s no different with educational apps. There are all sorts of maths and word puzzles which let you build up points as you play. They’re not too addictive, though I’ll admit I’m always very eager for my daily dose of Wordscapes. Try to get cousins, siblings and friends hooked on the same learning platform, and they’ll all have lots of fun while they engage their brains.
Catering to learning styles
Work out how your child learns best, and you’ll be able to find great support for that online. Visual learners will love Canva’s free infographic maker, which organises ideas in a beautiful and engaging manner. Auditory learners can listen to audiobooks on their favourite topics. Whatever your child’s needs, there’s sure to be an online tool to meet them.
For every exercise your child is given at school, there’s a game-like version of it somewhere on the internet. Hunt down the ones in your child’s least favourite subject, and build up their motivation to study. When students visit my desk between lessons, I like to pull up the World Food Program’s Free Rice website. On FreeRice.com, every correct answer leads to a sponsor donating ten grains of rice. There are lots of question categories, including chemistry, languages, maths and English grammar. The wide range of levels on there will keep learners well occupied, and they’ll be ending world hunger at the same time!
Learning research skills
I teach several classes in high-level subjects such as IB and Applied Critical Thinking, and I’m always surprised when students on these courses struggle to research things online. Digital natives are so used to being led through processes by apps that they can find it tricky to complete an effective Google search. Spend time helping your child learn research skills using the internet in order to set them up for future success.
Extending learning breadth
As much as I love a good book (and I really do), I know there are lots of things that are better learned through engaging, up-to-date digital media. Great sources of extra information on many subjects are NationalGeographic.com (especially the videos) and Kids.NationalGeographic.com (for the animal facts). Even if your child spends half the day on these sites, you’ll still be sure it’s time well spent.
Lastly, actual games can be great sources of learning and are useful tools when used in moderation. I have a collection of Minecraft books in my office, which many students have asked to borrow without prompting, even usually reluctant readers. Provide the tools for them to learn from games, and you’ll be surprised by what your child will try. Search ‘Learn with / Lesson on [game]’ for some good free resources, and find out how much your child can learn through the connection with their favourite game.
Willow Hewitt is the Head of English for i-Learner Education Centre. i-Learner has been providing online learning in Hong Kong schools for fifteen years and has helped over 800,000 students learn through technology. www.i-learner.edu.hk/