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Tips to meet the challenges of learning at home head on


This will be a fall like no other for schools around the country as students, teachers and administrators adjust to new learning models that can support safe teaching in a year of COVID-19.

The options of in-person learning, virtual classes and hybrid models present a significant challenge according to Rebecca Dore, a research associate at Ohio State’s Crane Center for Early Childhood Learning.

“I’m not envious of teachers and administrators who are dealing with a lot of challenges,” she said. “We don’t know how to do this exactly right because it is totally unprecedented.”

With that said, school isn’t stopping, and the learning process doesn’t have to either. Dore recently shared some of her insights on online learning, parent expectations and how you can set up your child for success.

We often view screen time as a negative thing, but can it be effective in helping students learn?

Research shows that by age 2.5 or 3, children can learn from screens, so there’s reason to believe that kids may benefit from remote learning interactions, even if it might be more difficult for this age range than for older children.

There is some evidence that young children are actually more engaged with technology than non-technology options. While parents prefer traditional books, we’ve seen some studies that indicate young people prefer e-books and are more engaged with them.

How much does the quality of the online content matter to a student?

It matters. Kids can be highly engaged with online content that’s fast-paced and entertaining then struggle to sit through six hours of learning about fractions on a Zoom call. But it is challenging for teachers.

There aren’t a lot of resources for teachers to find high-quality educational media, and now we’re asking them to produce it. That is a challenge.

How can that challenge be met?

There’s a lot of content coming out that is intended to be educational that is very engaging, high quality and well produced. So that is happening more on the educational media side. I think this year we can see some of that work starting to merge into a classroom environment. That can be an area of growth in this school year.

But given the increased screen time many children are experiencing right now, it may be helpful to supplement remote learning with high-quality educational media: Common Sense Media and the Find Ways to Play tool from PBS Parents are both good resources.

Some schools are doing combinations of Zoom calls as well as pre-recorded video instruction. Can both methods be effective?

There is some evidence that very young children do better with back and forth interaction. But we actually have some recent findings that by age 4 children learn just as well from a pre-recorded storybook as opposed to someone reading over video chat. So it seems like at least in this case, by the time you get to the pre-school range, pre-recorded videos can be effective.

Supervising learning is a challenge for many parents. How can they support the process even if they aren’t sitting side by side?

Don’t stress if you can’t always be live with them during the session, but do try to help them connect what they are learning to their own lives and support their interactions with teachers as much as you can.

Part of that is making sure you know what they are learning by remaining engaged with the curriculum and asking specific questions to reinforce learning later. If you know that a teacher is covering nature and leaves changing in the fall, that is something you can bring up and point out when you are taking a walk with your child.

There aren’t a lot of resources for teachers to find high-quality educational media, and now we’re asking them to produce it. That is a challenge.”

Rebecca Dore, Research associate at Ohio State’s Crane Center for Early Childhood Learning
Any other tips?

Where children learn is likely to be important. Find a special place where a child can engage with content and have a good learning environment, ideally a setting that is more secluded and removes as many distractions as possible.

If you have a choice, make remote learning occur when your child will be well rested and not hungry so they don’t have a reason to not be engaged.

How can parents keep from being overly stressed about this whole thing?

They should take it easy on themselves. There’s a lot we don’t know about what’s best for kids during a pandemic. But we know parenting is important, and stress in parents is related to negative outcomes for children.

Parents should give themselves and the schools the benefit of the doubt. Just know that having anxiety about it and worrying that you are doing it wrong is likely to be less effective than focusing on being involved and supportive and helping your children learn the best way they can.