Lockdowns are tough on everyone, but they can be especially tough for children, who lack the organisational skills that many adults have spent years developing.
Cut off from their friends and teachers and stuck at home with parents who have other responsibilities, we can’t expect children to simply fall in line and immediately understand what is expected of them.
At the same time, parents can’t be expected to replace the role of teacher. But there is still plenty they can do to make learning in lockdown a better experience.
As an educator with more than 30 years’ experience, I’ve learned many lessons that can make remote learning easier. And in my current role as head of education at the education technology (edtech) company Texthelp I’ve seen first-hand the boost that kids get from learning through technology.
For parents, it starts with setting clear boundaries, and then showing children what is expected of them, rather than just telling them. While this might take some time upfront, it will prove more rewarding in the long term – for parents and children alike.
Teaching like a digital native
One great advantage that children have today is that they are digital natives, with most starting school after the invention of the smartphone. For them, technology is a natural interface for learning.
It’s important now that parents bring their own digital skills up to speed because the integration of education technology into home life demands a higher level of digital literacy for everyone.
Children tend to learn how to use technology by doing and being shown (think Youtube) rather than by being told. So when parents are trying to help their children get more out of education technology, it pays for them to adopt the same model.
Parents also need to remember that the old methods of solo learning with pen and paper have given way to more collaborative digital classroom environments. So if parents want to help their children learn at home, they are well-advised to find tools that suit these new modes.
One example is the literacy support edtech tool Read&Write, which lets kids read, comprehend and write in different ways, enabling them to learn in a fully digital, collaborative and inclusive manner that best suits their needs.
Tips for surviving lockdown learning
One of the clearest lessons for parents is that while they are not content specialists, they can be excellent guides. Teachers should always do the teaching, and parents should focus on learning about the technologies the kids are using, such as literacy tool Read&Write or the maths edtech tool EquatIO, and help the kids to use them.
Parents also need to adopt a positive attitude to subjects they may have found difficult at school like maths. This positivity quickly rubs off on children and can be critical when it comes to helping them learn unfamiliar subjects.
Children also respond well to a routine – and parents can use this to their benefit, especially if children are sharing access to technology. Schedules are critical to ensuring everyone gets the necessary learning time.
Children may not have strong organisational skills, but they are adaptable, and if we adults can adapt to remote working, there is every reason to believe that with our help, children can adapt to remote learning.
Learning after lockdown
We can’t yet fully grasp what the post-COVID world will look like, but we can be sure that educational technology will play a bigger role in classroom learning, with edtech tools at its core.
Educational technology is akin to giving students the option of a ramp or the stairs to reach the next level in a building. Some kids will take the quickest path via the stairs. Some kids however will need the ramp, which means assistive digital technology tools should be implemented throughout our curriculums for those who need them.
Because even as kids in Sydney and beyond might be months away from a return to the classroom, with more schools moving towards a permanent hybrid model of teaching that places greater emphasis on technology, what children return to could look very different to what they left.
Greg O’Connor, Head of Education at Texthelp
Experienced educator Greg O’Connor provides some advice to help parents better manage the remote learning needs of school-age children during lockdown.
To view on YouTube: