Over the past few weeks, much has changed for students and families across the country. Shifting from regular classrooms to online programs is one of the bigger education-related changes, and with this change comes new methods and platforms — some of which families and staff alike may be unfamiliar with. In challenging times our focus at Banyan Tree is to partner with families to support our students. If you’re navigating education at home, here are a few of our best tips for virtual learning.
1. Try to provide helpful and useful equipment if/when possible
As your child shifts to virtual learning, it’s best (if and when it’s feasible) to provide your child with equipment that he or she can use to connect with teachers. This would ideally be a computer, laptop, or iPad/tablet that can connect to the internet. It would also be ideal if your child’s technology has a webcam so the teacher can see his/her face and be able to navigate through lessons easier. This doesn’t have to be fancy; it can be as simple as a built-in camera on a tablet or an attachable camera like this one that can be added to the top of a screen. Cameras with built-in microphones are best to sync video and audio.
2. Create an environment with the least amount of distractions
When setting your child up for virtual learning, it’s best to create an environment with minimal distractions. This could be a shared space where you can easily monitor, or, depending on how many people will be moving in and out of that room, it may make more sense for the learning space to be in a bedroom.
As you decide on a place, be sure to keep the desk area clear except for student’s class materials, writing utensils, and the computer with camera. Any distracting items, such as toys or technology, will distract your child and lessen his or her engagement. Remind your child that during breaks he/she can play with desired items.
3. Be present for your student, as much as possible, during instructional hours
If possible, be present for your child’s learning. This is ideal at the start of every session, as students will have to navigate new class times and click into the correct rooms/links. Although it’s not necessary for parents to be side-by-side with their child for each class, it may be helpful to be in the vicinity. Virtual learning relies on the internet, and sometimes that connection can be spotty. Having a parent nearby helps with any issues that may arise during the learning.
4. Ensure your child has adequate and appropriate breaks
It’s a good idea to speak with your child’s teacher(s) about breaks and times that students can leave to use the restroom or eat. If a schedule is set in advance, this will help create structure around the new routine. Teachers will most likely create a schedule, so be sure to speak to them about your child’s unique needs and any questions you may have.
5. Connect with your child’s teacher(s) and ask questions
Questions are good! Before (and during) the learning, ask your child’s teacher as many questions as you have. Learning new platforms can be challenging and intimidating. Teachers are learning, too, and can help support your journey! Remember that with new ways of educating, there are no stupid questions.
6. Plan materials and supplementary content ahead of time
Teachers will guide your child’s curriculum, but if you’re aiming to support the learning at home, it’s best to prepare materials in advance. Ask your child’s teachers what they are covering to see if you can supplement activities or videos around their lessons. Or, create your own and make plans for how and when you’ll teach the new material.
7. Practice using new platforms together with your child
Feeling comfortable with new technology is important, especially as change can be stressful for many young students. If possible, sit down with your child and navigate these new platforms together. Show your child that it’s okay to feel nervous, ask questions, or explore when something feels foreign. Working alongside your child will help him or her to feel more confident and prepared when it’s time for lessons.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with virtual learning
Again, don’t be afraid to ask for help with your child’s new programs! Your feedback can be useful for the teachers in their planning; it can also help to improve the systems for all. Don’t be afraid to ask or to question a process – this is how we all learn – together!
For more information on virtual learning or how to integrate it at home, check out our blog page.