2020 has brought new meaning to the phrase “think outside of the box,” especially in the education world. The spaces and routines that once defined the rules of school are more or less out the window for millions of kids
Unprecedented innovation is needed, and has been for months.
Now that it’s mid-October, the “new normal” isn’t exactly “new” anymore. But the last eight months have taught us many valuable lessons.
Specifically, the need for innovation has not gone away. Far from it. If anything, the knowledge of what’s working and what isn’t provides an opportunity that should not be overlooked: the opportunity to refine and improve.
As any engineer or programmer knows, it takes multiple rounds of iteration to successfully create something new. For similar reasons to why iPhones are now on the cusp of their 12th version, it’s time to refine what education looks like in a socially-distanced reality.
And it’s not just school itself that needs another round of iteration. Kids of all ages continue to be limited in their after-school activity options. Group activities like sports and robotics teams are still out of reach in many cases. It’s harder than ever to connect kids individually with mentors who share their interests.
The importance of enrichment, socialization, and role models in every child’s life cannot be overemphasized. That’s exactly why, after over 20 years of operating in-person STEM camps, iD Tech decided to think outside the box in a major way.
Squads After School: enrichment is the name of our game
With the help of several key ingredients: rockstar instructors, cutting-edge curriculum, and pivot-ready platforms, iD Tech set out to redefine enrichment for kids—leveraging our experience teaching kids online to launch Virtual Tech Camps and an expansion of Online Private Lessons over the summer, followed by our first iteration of after-school Squads in the fall.
Tens of thousands of sessions later, iD Tech was off to a strong start in the then-new landscape. While meeting the moment was a great beginning, now it’s time to do even better.
This is where Squads come in.
iD Tech’s Squads After School provide small-group instruction and social learning for students looking to explore exciting topics in STEM. By blending games kids love like Minecraft (Bed Wars and how to defeat the Ender Dragon!) and Roblox with programming and design skills, Squads offer much-needed after-school enrichment for kids.
In recent weeks, iD Tech conducted a survey that underscored the importance of engaging, social learning opportunities like these. Even now that many kids have settled in to learning online, 57% of survey responses indicate a lack of individualized student attention and an increase of students being bored during the school day (43%).
Squads continue to fill this gap.
"With Squads After School, parents and kids will see familiar concepts like game design and modding, but groups of friends can now also band together to try to escape a fire-filled Obby in Roblox, or to slay Minecraft's Ender Dragon," says Ricky Bennett, Vice President of Innovation & Partnerships at iD Tech.
Benefits of iD Tech’s Squads After School
Customization reduces stress and increases flexibility
Every child is different; just as there is no one-size-fits-all plan for in-person learning, the right distance learning plan varies for each child.
Of course, the challenges of 2020 make this customization all the more difficult, particularly because many baseline supports have dramatically changed.
For instance, among parents with children in an online or hybrid learning program (82% of all respondents), 56% of parents are not confident in the quality of education their children are receiving this fall.
It's hardly surprising, then, that parents further reported that schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic was more stressful for their students (55%) and for themselves (68%).
Squads step outside the mold of what “after school” looks like for each family’s schedule. The program includes a new, once-a-week format and a Monday-Thursday, plus Saturday schedule offering. Each 90-minute session is easy to fit into any schedule, and offers families the customization that’s proved instrumental to learning at home.
Kids need mentors, especially when socially-distanced
Study after study has shown the tremendous power of mentorship in children’s development. In addition to being positive role models, quality mentors provide a support system that often goes beyond academics.
In many ways, the right mentor can show kids what’s possible for them and help them envision their future. And though the future may seem far away, awesome mentors can still make an immediate impact,
If you’re wondering how to find the perfect mentor for your child, check out our recent blog post on what qualities matter in a great tutor and role model!
Individualized attention is still possible and important
It’s hard to feel seen and heard if your microphone is muted for most of the school day.
Lack of personal attention in distance learning leaves many students feeling lost and many parents wondering if their child is learning at all.
Squads offer not only expertly-curated courses designed with kids in mind, but also concrete measurements of learning outcomes.
Now is a great time to set and achieve goals
As the leaves change, many students are feeling burned out by learning online and exhausted by new routines.
Moments like these are perfect opportunities for SMART goal-setting and projects that produce tangible results. Adults know that learning has intrinsic value and benefits students in long-term, but that can be hard for kids to appreciate.
What better way to combat this than with a hands-on project? You know, the kind that gives kids that moment of being able to step back and admire their handiwork. From coding virtual robots with Python to streaming awesome videos on YouTube, Squads After School offers projects kids can be proud of, and results they can see in a short space of time.
Social & collaborative learning
Opportunities for kids to socialize and collaborate can seem like the elusive “white whale” of remote school.
Squads meet in groups of five and offer the ideal balance of individualized attention and opportunities to connect and socialize with like-minded students.
Kids can also sign up for Squads with their friends! So, at a time when ideas for socially-distanced play dates and FaceTime may have worn thin, Squads offers a social solution alongside enriching learning benefits.
Fun classes translate to lucrative real-world skills
Naturally, it’s difficult to plan for the future in a present as challenging as the one we’re living in right now. Squads have got this covered for busy families.
According to Code.org, 71% of STEM jobs nowadays require coding of some kind, but just 8% of college graduates have the skills and computer science degrees to meet that demand. Squads offer a fun, easy way to get kids started with coding without the pressure of thinking about college just yet.
A career in one of the world's fastest-growing industries probably seems far away and maybe even a little intimidating. Never fear!
Squads are designed for even beginner students to put a toe in the water in a low-key way. Even if the goal is simply to create something cool, connect with friends, or put a smile on a child’s face, iD Tech is here to help.