For parents seeking educational strategies for children at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, educator Dr. Kathryn Chang Barker, a retired professor from Sultan Qaboos University’s College of Education offers up some pointers for keeping young minds active and productive.
Words by Dr. Kathryn Chang Barker
All images for illustrative purposes only. Source: Shutterstock
Right now, as COVID-19 reshapes our communities, we are all staying home – kids, parents…in fact, almost everybody in Oman! Bored kids can use their mobiles to get into trouble: too many hours on games, too much time with social networking. Yes, but inspired kids can also use their mobiles for learning, if they get a little guidance from you – their parents!
Here are some online resources for you. Most are sorted into age or grade levels, many have printout worksheets, some have parent guides and additional resource links.
Just throwing these at you isn’t all that helpful – you could have found them yourself; so, I want to give you a strategy for using them.
Let’s set the stage for learning using a mobile for ‘mLearning’. You and your child need to have a mobile or computer, high-speed internet access, Google tools and, some curiosity to try new things. I suggest you familiarize yourself with Google Slides, Google Docs and Google Family Links for Parents. There are many more, but these are some free, basic Google tools you can use to organize learning for your child.
Organizing the learning is important. It motivates learners, records progress, and rewards your effort. Google Family Link for Parents will help you to organize. But it can also be as simple as this. Open Google Slides, produce a simple template with these five slides:
1.(what) Learning about __e.g., beaches, baking, or whatever ___ (which you can decide or negotiate with your child.)
2. Where I learned this (one or more sources) _e.g., www.funbrain.com_
3. What I learned about _e.g., beaches, baking or whatever___ (this is where Google Docs and any Chrome screen-capture extension are useful.)
4. Why I learned about ____ (e.g., link to curriculum, personal interests.)
5. What I want to learn next _____ (this encourages self-directed learning and research skills.)
Adapt your template as you wish and help your learners to make and complete slide presentations until they can do it themselves. Use the template over and over and save all the presentations as a portfolio of learning – an ‘mPortfolio’ or electronic portfolio ‘ePortfolio’.
So, like a teacher, you now think about learning objectives:
1. What you want your children to learn? Look in the list of resources for ideas, or talk to teachers, and have a reason in your own mind to provide structure for your efforts and your kids’ achievements.
2. Why should they learn this?
3. And how should they learn this? Good learning is laddered or scaffolded, with skills building on previous skills – but at the least, you want to avoid being random and repetitive.
4. Where is the best place to learn this? Maybe it’s one of these websites we’ve shared above, or, maybe it’s a project with you, an educational TV series, or a game. You know kids play games online all the time. Those games can be used as teaching tools if you apply the ‘mPortfolio’ approach I suggest. Examine the game and look for a particular skill or concept that it can teach. Set it up to be a learning opportunity.
5. The most important part of this strategy is evidence; where is the evidence that learning happened? What would you want to see as proof that something new was learned? Kids get a huge amount of satisfaction out of demonstrating what they’ve learned. Countless research and creativity apps on their mobiles will help kids document their achievements – photos, videos, screen-captures, voice clips, online polls, Wikipedia, Google Maps, even Google Translate. Be sure to help select appropriate tools that don’t expose your kids to dangers.
I focus on ‘mLearning’ because I’ve discovered many young Omanis do not have computers at home, but they almost all seem to have mobile devices. Mobiles are the perfect tool for conducting research and producing evidence of learning outside of school – and, they could be vital classroom tools as well. It is important to set your Google tools to work offline to save on your data usage.
Let’s face it: during the current situation, you’re going to be both teacher and learner. Maybe it’s your child who will lead you sometimes in using technologies! Showing them that you continue to learn is a really important parenting skill – so, one last recommendation: start an ‘mPortfolio’ for yourself to record your new skills.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Kathryn Chang Barker is a retired professor from Sultan Qaboos University’s College of Education and founder of FuturEd, an online resource for transformative learning systems.