Tag Archives: virtual learning

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Managing Screen Time During Virtual Learning

By Tracey Dowdy

While some school districts have opted or moved to in-person learning for the 2020-2021 school year, others have chosen to go virtual or have been forced to backtrack, scrapping plans to be in the classroom. 

For years, parents have wrestled with “how much is too much” when it comes to screen time, but there’s nothing like a global pandemic and forced quarantining to toss those guidelines out the window. Our screens have not only been tools for virtual learning, but they’ve also kept us connected to friends and family,  a welcome de-stressor, and a source of distraction.  

While the balancing act of managing screen time may seem pointless right now, there are steps you can set to help set reasonable boundaries for both you and your children. Caroline KnorrCommon Sense Media’s parenting editor, suggests parents label the day’s activities for what they are. “When you have a common vocabulary for their daily activities, such as ‘playtime,’ ‘work time,’ ‘friend time,’ ‘family time,’ and ‘downtime,’ you can communicate a lot more clearly – and honestly – about what your kid is doing, what they should be doing, and what they want to be doing. This reframes the ‘screen time’ conversation into which elements make up a healthy life — one that balances learning with play, exercise with relaxation, and responsibilities with social time.” 

Start by creating a Family Technology Contract to set everyone up for success instead of frustration and tears. It’s going to look different in this season rather than what it would have looked like this time last year, but by establishing reasonable boundaries you both agree on, you can guide them to set their targets for the day. For example, if they want to hop online and play Fortnite with friends after dinner, ask them, “How much time do you need for homework? Two hours? Okay, then you need to start now so you’ll be done in time to play.” By including them in the discussion, you’ve made them accountable for their choices and help them to understand the importance of setting priorities to accomplish their goals.

Set aside no-tech times or locations within your home. Now that school is online – even if you’re in-person, some learning elements are internet-based – if you aren’t intentional, it’s easy for technology to take over every aspect of your home life. Set boundaries like no devices at the dinner tabletime limits for gaming or streaming entertainment, and remember to set parental controls

Interestingly, for years we’ve been wary of building relationships over social media, yet in 2020 those online relationships have been a lifeline for students who desperately miss their friends. Yet, those same risks – bullying, online predators, and risky behaviors – are still reasons to monitor their online activity. There are plenty of resources to help you safeguard your children and give you peace of mind. 

Above all, set a good example. Your children may do what you say now, but long term, they’ll do what you do. Put your devices aside and go play. Build Legos, play in the leaves in the backyard, kick a soccer ball around, or have them teach you the latest TikTok dance craze. Create together – bake some cookies, paint, play with Play-Doh, or have puzzle races and see who can put theirs together the fastest. In a season when we’re immersed in technology, it’s essential to teach your children to value human connection and real-world relationships, and there’s none more important than family. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Keep Your Kids Motivated for Virtual Learning

By Tracey Dowdy

If your little Einstein leaps out of bed, humming with excitement over sitting in a virtual classroom all day, this ain’t the article for you. If, on the other hand, solving string theory sounds more accessible than getting your little one excited about another day of virtual learning, buckle up. We’re going to unpack some tried and true strategies to keep them engaged. 

Kids are far more resilient than the adults around them, and the secret to keeping your kiddos on track is to find what motivates them. 

Follow the leader. Remember, your children will do what you do more than what you say, and they’re always watching. Look for examples in people your children already admire, real or imaginary – superheroes, characters from favorite books or movies, astronauts, soldiers, first responders, RBG – who fought hard to find success. 

Stick-to-it-tiv-ness. As much as we all look forward to 2020 being in our rearview mirror, there’s a lesson in teaching our kids the importance of setting long-term goals. Suppose it’s something they’re passionate about, like a video game or TikTok dance. In that case, they have no problem applying themselves, so help them see the value of using that same work ethic to master fractions or the solar system.

Celebrate their wins. If you’ve got a student that struggles to sit still but managed to stay on task to write out their spelling list, celebrate that. If they struggle with math but learned their multiplication tables, celebrate that. If they did an assignment wrong but had a good attitude about correcting their mistakes, celebrate that. Wins don’t have to be a test with high marks or projects that got done early. It can be as simple as “Hey! You didn’t cry or lose your temper today!” This year has brought challenges no one expected – celebrate every victory. 

Stick to your schedule except when you can’t. Regular school days are based on routine, and most students thrive in that environment. However, many students – especially those with IEP’s and 504 Plans – need special accommodations. Even neurotypical kids are struggling to stay on task, so when you see the wheels coming off, stop, redirect, and circle back around when they’re calm and able to focus. 

Motivation Monday/Take That Tuesday/Wacky Wednesday…Come up with creative ways to make virtual learning fun. Virtual learning means no field trips to museums or the pumpkin patch, so inject a little happy by inviting their friends on a virtual play date and make distance less isolating and more fun. 

Take a walk on the wild side. If your child is bored and struggling with a concept, try a change of scenery. Go outside and write out spelling words or times tables with sidewalk chalk. If they’re stuck on a writing prompt, let them get up and take a short break outside to help them get out of that thought rut. 

Scooby-Doo the mystery. Sometimes the problem you’re trying to solve isn’t the problem you need to solve. Sometimes restless behaviors or bad attitudes are masking a learning struggle or stress. Reach out to their teacher, support staff, and principal for suggestions on supporting your child’s mental health.

Finally, remember that while we’re not all in the same boat, we’re all in the same storm. Don’t stress if your child isn’t achieving the marks they have in the past. Next year is a fresh start, and students across the board will need additional support. Educators are already thinking long term and are invested in your child’s success too. Don’t get discouraged – this is just a season, and like all seasons, it will end, bringing new opportunities for success. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Resources for Home and Virtual Schooling

By Tracey Dowdy

Many parents, perhaps unwillingly adding “Homeschooling Teacher” to their resume, are scrambling for resources so our children can learn more this Fall than “Mom hides her ‘sanity chocolate’ in an empty bag of frozen peas.

These resources will become your go-to as you support your student and help them navigate everything from the parts of speech to solving a math problem using Common Core math. 

Khan Academy will show up in every search you do for “homeschooling resources” or “homework” help. The site is curated by experts and one of the most comprehensive learning resources available – and it’s free! Content covers everything from K-12 and some college prep. Their primary focus is on math and science. 

BrainPOP takes a fun approach to learning. They cover a broad spectrum of subjects using kid-friendly videos, written content, quizzes, and games. Kids can even make their own movies by compiling images, animations, and other elements. BrainPOP is offering schools free access while closed, so you might be able to access through your school district. Home users get a free month trial. After that, it’s $25 per month. 

Beanstalk is offering online classes in art, science, and more for preschoolers up to age 6 for free during the COVID-19 crisis. Their teachers are handpicked early childhood development experts, and there are countless classes to choose from.  

Scholastic Learn at Home digs into Scholastic’s extensive library to create engaging educational information to supplement online learning. Though not as academic as other resources on this list, each day has dedicated selections for PreK/Kindergarten, Grades 1-2, Grades 3-5, and Grades 6-9. Kids will love learning how emojis are designed, whether esports should be considered a sport, and how zoos are evolving with the times.

Even if you know all the tricks to write a paper in APA format or how to do long division, teaching French, Spanish, or any other foreign language may be outside your purview. That’s where Duolingo and Rosetta Stone come in. Depending on the language and how intensive the lessons need to be (and your budget), both programs offer easy to follow tutorials and coaching to help build your student’s skills. (Duolingo – Free; Rosetta Stone – plans start at $6.99/month) 

For a comprehensive list of online learning support and resources, the team over at staff at NewSchools Venture Fund, a philanthropic nonprofit organization, has developed a list of online learning resources with over 40 options across educational content and curricula, teaching tools and guides.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.