By Stacey Ross
The surge of technology offered to today’s students extends far beyond the school day and classroom setting. It has evolved into virtual learning, independent study programs, and platforms for peer-to-peer collaboration that offer a wide range of resources and educational benefits.
Online research empowers students
More and more, educators and parents are encouraging learning styles that require discipline and focus due to the plethora of choices and opportunities that new technology offers. In a 2012 Pew survey conducted in conjunction with the College Board and the National Writing Project, 77 percent of teachers said that the Internet and search engines had a “mostly positive” impact on student research skills. And while they are concerned that students might be distracted by all the choices at their fingertips, they ultimately agree that such tools had made students more self-sufficient researchers.
Resources for homework help
Online assistance via websites and apps has become a valuable extension of the classroom. School counselor and blogger Lysabeth Luansing-Garcia shared, “Our school encourages students to use Khan Academy. Many of my students also use Google Drive to save all their papers and projects for easy access. We also have teachers who do their own tutorial videos that are accessible from YouTube.”
Resources like KhanAcademy.org help students find thousands of how-to videos for K-12 topics, including chemistry, mathematics, physics, finance, history, and more. Students who want to learn how to find the slope of a line, for example, can go to YouTube and search for “How to Find Slope Khan Academy” and a step-by-step video will begin to play. Try it and you will be blown away!
My girl’s favorite tool, Google+ Hangouts, provides her with a study aid from the comfort of her own bedroom. I can hear through the walls that she is staying on task, as she “talks shop” online with her colleagues via her own personal study group. Along with studying together, they quiz one other, work their way through difficult assignments (taking advantage of screen share options), and even collaborate on their presentations. I still find this futuristic, but I am particularly pleased with how it allows for social interaction as well as building time management skills!
E-mail and instant messaging tools to contact teachers or classmates about schoolwork are also very handy. SchoolLoop, a widely popular communication tool between home and school, has built strong ties between parents, students and educators, even allowing the exchange of assignments and PowerPoint presentations.
Homeschooling moms’ favorite sites
Mom and blogger TerriAnn van Gosliga has been homeschooling for nine years and suggests that younger students use EnchantedLearning.com, which she considers “brilliant.” Enchanted Learning has 35,000 pages on its website covering a wide range of topics. Its focus is to provide materials that build curiosity and exploration experiences for K-12 graders. Membership is $20 annually, but some things are free. TerriAnn also shares the value of online research: “We use a lot of Google images and download free e-books from our local library.” She also recommends MotionMath for its great math apps and BBCTypingTutor for keyboarding skills.
Diana, a homeschooling mom of two, shared that her favorite two websites are Math.com and BrainPop.com. The former is quite impressive: it provides free math lessons and math homework help from basic math to algebra, geometry and beyond. BrainPop is a group of educational websites with over 1,000 short animated movies for students in grades K-12, together with quizzes and related materials covering the subjects of science, social studies, English, mathematics, engineering and technology, health, and arts and music.
Technology as a Social Learning Tool
Educators are embracing methods of learning that are more socially interactive, problem-solving oriented, and explorative by nature. The idea that my own daughter integrates her social and academic worlds thrills me, as I can listen in and monitor her live homework groups as well as help direct her to online assistance. The convenience of being able to access so many tools via a home computer, smartphone or tablet opens huge windows of opportunity. So far, I love what I see.
Happy learning via web searching, video conferencing and apps!
Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.