As a teacher, I could always tell when a lesson was knocking it out of the park.
My students were so focused I could hear a pin drop as they furiously wrote in their journals. The day’s activity motivated the entire class to participate with enthusiasm, even the student who rarely raised their hand.
These are the turning points when students make breakthroughs in their personal growth, knowledge, and skills. Nothing beats the pride on a kid’s face in moments of, “I can do this!” or “Hey, this is awesome! I’m awesome!”
Right now, more and more school districts are transitioning to online learning. This makes those breakthroughs and awesome lessons, even schooling as we know it, much more uncertain for teachers, students, and parents.
Parents have new questions.
How do I keep my child on track? With so many online platforms and tools out there, how do I know which one is any good? Is it even possible to recreate a rigorous, engaging learning environment without classrooms, other students, or teachers?
Our national climate requires that parents get creative in supporting their students’ learning.
Through years of teaching and studying 21st-century curriculum design, I distilled a few key factors that create a recipe for a fantastic learning environment, regardless of the setting.
These characteristics will be more vital than ever with the countless intangibles of in-person K-12 education removed from the equation.
Parent tips for deciding on online learning
Here are three game-changing qualities to look for in choosing the best e-learning options for your child.
1. Multi-level engagement
When researching online learning tools for kids, pay attention to how your child will participate and interact with the material. Presenting information online isn’t new; the most important innovations lie in how students engage with it.
Translation? Keep an eye out for the kinds of questions or activities that are included in the resource, and look for a healthy mix. Multiple choice or short-answer quizzes and games are a great start, but in the teaching world, they’re considered “Level 1” questions.
Levels 2-4 are where most of the “magic” happens. Think projects and open-ended questions that require critical thinking, creativity, or problem-solving, not just memorization.
Student engagement also means interacting with others! Real-time feedback, opportunities to collaborate, and/or space for your student to safely connect with peers are particularly valuable.
Community is key to education, and it matters now more than ever. With that in mind, iD Tech is excited to introduce Virtual Tech Camps, which offer multiple levels of instructor-led engagement, professionally designed curriculum, project-based learning, and a community ready to connect with your student!
Online, it’s easy to feel anonymous or stuck with one-size-fits-all information. The best e-learning tools deliver content that’s at your student’s level, designed with them in mind. It’s worth the extra time to sift through what might be too easy or too difficult to find the perfect fit.
To find the appropriate challenge, check out programs with video components, a diagnostic assessment, or other access to professional guidance.
Now is also a great time to encourage your student to explore topics they’re passionate about (and yes, every student has a passion). Maybe that’s something academic, a particular period of history or application of science. Or maybe that’s something that might not fit into a typical school day, but you know your child will be excited to learn.
Interdisciplinary projects are a great way to bring all these qualities together. This is a specialty of ours at iD Tech. We’re proud to offer awesome options that combine topics like soccer and game design or entrepreneurship with computer science! We love thinking outside the box and want to encourage kids to do the same. It’s amazing to see where a spark of creativity can lead.
Trust me on this, student motivation and personal interest were central to every successful lesson I ever taught, and there is plenty of research to back me up here. From Shakespeare to coding, a great “hook” or connection to something relevant and interesting to your child can make all the difference in a meaningful learning experience.
3. Measurable outcomes
Imagine learning without the usual promise of tests, essays, or report cards. As liberating as this may seem (especially to the kids out there), it also creates unknowns. It’s only natural for students to wonder, "why am I learning this?"And for parents to ask themselves, "how do I know this is working?"
Make a game plan. Think about doable units of study that could take a few weeks or a month at a time. Work with your child (and your child’s teacher, if they’re available!) to develop a plan that has an ultimate goal and includes checkpoints along the way.
Teachers often use the phrase “begin with the end in mind” as time-tested advice for planning learning objectives. Basically, if you know where you’re headed, it’s much easier to plan out how to get there. So, when evaluating online tools or curriculum packages, consider how your student's progress will be tracked and the end product they’re working towards.
Plus, get your student involved in charting the course of their learning! The more your learner sets their own goals and benchmarks, the more authentic their experience will be. Not only does this establish “buy-in” and accountability for learning outcomes, but it’s also a great opportunity to build real-world skills like self-direction, planning, and organization.
In your search, look for tools that help your student do this in a way that works for them. Working with an instructor one-on-one via video conference could be the perfect kickstart. iD Tech retains a year-round elite staff who are experts in helping students realize their goals—and having a blast doing it. Our Online Private Lessons are designed to put students in the driver’s seat as they work towards a tangible final product they’re excited about.
While I miss my classroom and working with students, I am proud to be a part of the iD Tech family. We design, create, and innovate in the education world every day. We know that kids still need something cool and challenging to do even if they’re cooped up at home.
At this very moment, our team is focused on providing outstanding online resources as students transition to distance learning. We want to provide creative solutions and support parents by offering flexible, affordable online camps and lessons, plus bundle discounts and other ways to save on the best tech education in the world. For personalized online instruction from our very own experts, check out www.idtech.com/virtual.