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Burnout Resources for Suddenly Home Schooling Parents

Remote Possibilities, a blog by veteran education technology editor Kevin Hogan, delivers down-to-earth insights and practical resources to parents who have suddenly found themselves teaching their children. Get ideas for creating fun (seriously!) teachable moments in Digital Diaries; see What’s Streaming; or find activities for young learnerselementary, and middle- and high-school students. Hogan’s brand of wit makes it a particularly enjoyable experience.

Parents Put Less Value on Online Education

Some parents do not value remote instruction as much as they do in-person teaching, and would not want to pay the same tuition for online classes, a Facebook survey of parents by Tyton Partners found. Among parents of high-school seniors that responded to the survey, 10% said they would not enroll their child in a college that offered only online classes. How are you feeling about how your district has handled distance learning?

Kids, Technology and Staying at Home

Technology is a lifeline for many during the stay at home orders of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is allowing people to work and go to school remotely, stay entertained, and instantly check in with those we care about. It is also makes it possible for scientists to look at real time data about outbreaks and model everything from best to worst case scenarios.

In addition, a vast array of technology resources for keeping kids busy at home are being offered online, but a few words of caution. While there are lots of resources coming from vetted sources, it is still important to make sure you know what your children are viewing and to check in with them on a regular basis. Check out the Common Sense Media site for free reviews and ratings of movies, TV shows, apps and games. While you may have to relax your screen time restrictions to get through your “work from home” day, it is important to keep their day as varied as possible. You can break up those screen time binges with a few minutes outside, a clean up the house project (there are lots of great ideas for making cleaning fun for kids), a craft project, cooking, baking, 15 minutes of family exercises, playing a board or card game, a walk with the dog, or anything that does not involve looking at a screen.

Now is also a great time to help your elementary and older kids use technology in a more engaging way. Instead of having screen time where they are strict consumers of content, try introducing projects where they use the technology in creative ways. For younger kids, look for printables that they can use to make things such as masks, puppets, model buildings, and so much more. There are also loads of inexpensive or free apps for phones and laptops for activities such as composing music or making and editing short movies, comic strips or stop action snippets. Some other ideas:

 

  • Make Your Own Game: Ask them to make up a board game on a subject of interest to them and have them find, resize and use graphics from online sources.
  • Travel Research: Have them to do some research on places to consider for your next family trip. You could even have them create their own travel brochure.
  • Make a Photo Book: Put together a family cookbook complete with pictures or create a photo album of a notable day, sports team they were on, or trip.
  • Make Something Special for Somone: Got birthdays or other special occasions coming up? Have your kids create magazine covers featuring a picture of the person being celebrated and come up with “featured” article tag lines to describe the person or what they do.
  • “Visit” Museums, Zoos or Aquariums: Start by searching for your local museum, zoo or aquarium online for lessons and supplemental materials as they may have things specific to your state’s science curriculum. On the national level, the Smithsonian has science, art history and culture activities for kids of all ages. For a cross section look at what museums all over the world feature try the link  “Cool Online Museums for Curious Kids.”
  • Virtual Art Lessons: Looking for something to break up the day? Do a search for Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems from The Kennedy Center. Or the Art for Kids Hub

 

In short, look for activities where kids use the technology to create and are not just being entertained by staring at a screen. In addition, here are some categories of resources, with specific examples, you may want to look at just for fun or to supplement online lessons your children are doing.

 

Lastly, if you are struggling to balance work and life with taking care of your kids at home, give yourself some grace and remember there is a distinction between “working from home” and continuing to do your job at home during a crisis.

Is Technology Harming Parent-Teacher-Student Communications?

Despite having more tools than ever to communicate with each other, Jeremy Hyler, a middle-school English teacher in Michigan, says he notices that communication breakdowns among educators, parents and students are increasingly common. In this article, he shares that technology-based communication, where tone can often be misinterpreted, may be at the root of the problem. He also discusses a common problem known as “keyboard courage.” “Keyboard courage” he says is the courage to say things to individuals that you would not normally say if they were standing in front of you. Some of Hyler’s tips to combat miscommunication when using technology include reading a potential post out loud to a friend or family member to gauge its tone, or writing your response in a word processing document first. His biggest advice? Put your digital device down and talk with the person face-to-face (or at least do that when the current health crisis is over).

Make it Personal

Personalization is the key to effective parent-school communication, according to a survey of parents, teachers and school leaders by the Center for American Progress. The survey found that in-person, parent-teacher conferences were preferable to technology-based communication, with research associate Abby Quirk saying, “We thought there might be special interest in options that use technology because they’re newer, they offer potentially more options, but what we found was that the technological advancement, so to speak, of the communication method really wasn’t that important. What we found was that the individualization was really important.”

Expert Calls on Schools To Address Digital Threats

In a recent opinion piece in The Dallas Morning News, Doug Levin, president and founder of the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center, challenges school leaders to take measures to protect both their schools and communities from digital threats amid growing reliance on technology in school operations, teaching and learning. He urges them to collaborate on security challenges and share information on cyber threats with other school districts that face similar issues. School cybersecurity failures across the country have resulted in the theft of millions of taxpayer dollars, outages of school IT systems, and large-scale identity theft.

Kids are Learning 24/7: Are Schools and Parents Ready?

The current media and technology landscape means kids are no longer confined to just learning in the classroom. Sure, kids have always been able to learn outside the classroom via books and other life experiences, but today’s technology allows children to learn in a multitude of new ways. Looking at that change, Project Tomorrow runs a survey called Speak Up, polling hundreds of thousands of sixth graders and adults about learning trends, and makes the local data available to individual districts. Here are a few takeaways:

  • For students today, there is very little distinction between school learning versus what they do on their own at home or on their digital device(s). They feel the learning experience is happening all the time. It is also found they have a healthy balance of using print materials versus first-person materials, and having opportunities to engage with people as well as with digital tools. The media is often quick to say kids today just want to put their nose in their phone and don’t want to interact with people, but the survey found that is more of a symptom seen in Millennials rather than in this current generation. 
  • Students want to co-learn with their teachers and parents. Because they are so used to looking up information online, they are not looking to the teacher or a parent to be an expert in everything. It is common practice to go home and look up information they received at school – partly for accuracy and partly to learn more about a topic. Parents should understand that and not be offended by kids looking for verification of what they say.
  • Students today are also good at authenticating resources. Surveyors were told by students that kids never use a dot com, they don't trust dot coms; that dot orgs are okay; a dot edu is the best; and you shouldn't really even trust the dot govs.

Strategies to Help Curb Bullying

School assemblies, poster campaigns and lectures are largely ineffective at curbing bullying among students, writes clinical psychologist Jeff Nalin. In a blog post, Nalin suggests seven strategies to help educators and parents address bullying behavior, including modeling the desired behavior, teaching coping skills and rewarding prosocial behavior.

App Tackles Smartphone Distractions in the Classroom

A new app called Goya-Move can dramatically reduce the amount of smartphone distractions in the classroom, but parents have to play an active role, its founders say. Goya, an acronym that stands for "Get Off Your Apps," lets parents disable apps on their child's device during specific hours of the day. Most parents support tucking phones away in class, but the vast majority want to keep an open line of communication in case of emergencies, making them somewhat resistant to an outright smartphone ban at school. Goya-Move may be a good compromise as it helps parents sync their devices with their child’s and set the hours of the day that kids are at school. A VPN, or virtual private network, then blocks the apps during that time, locking out chief distractors like Snapchat, Instagram and even web browsers. Kids can resume using apps as they wish after the set hour has passed.

Digital Divide Continues to Plague Lower Income Students

A recent report released by Common Sense may give pause to the concept that digital products are the means to increase achievement for students in schools serving lower-income areas. The report surveyed 1,200 teachers from across the country and found that 12% said the majority of their students have no computer or Internet access at home. Homework is still an issue when a digital connection is not available.

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