How Can Online Learning Support Early Childhood Education?

Children who get a quality education in their early years have a better chance of excelling academically as they grow into young adults. There are, however, a lot of unique factors that go into how and where a good education is going to be available to kids across the country. One of the great equalizers is online learning.

What is online learning?

We are all familiar with the traditional education setting: think about brick-and-mortar schools where students sit in classrooms and get instructions from teachers through direct physical interaction.

Online learning is different in that it does not require schools and classrooms. Teachers can provide instruction to students who may be anywhere in the country – even the world. Students who learn online can access their course materials at any time, work at their own pace and connect with educators, peers and friends with a lot more flexibility than you’d find in the classroom that many of us remember.

Can young children benefit from online learning?

Some parents may be concerned that an online education for young children can be too heavily reliant on technology. Kids need interaction with adults and peers to socialize – and spending too much time in front of a screen seems like it could be a recipe for later problems.

 

“How do we facilitate and extend the learning experience beyond the digital and connect it to the real world experience of children?” asks Jeremy Boyle, M.F.A., assistant professor of learning, media and design at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at St. Vincent College.  “Children need a diverse range of experiences for productive learning – just as media and technology is integrated into many aspects of our contemporary lifestyles, so too may it be integrated into many aspects of a child’s experience, but it should never take the place of or interfere with opportunities for a wide and diverse range of experience.”

 

The best online schools for young children, like K12 International Academy, provide the type of interactive education that goes beyond the screen. Technology is a tool for educating young children, not the substitute.

“Everyone is worried, thinking, ‘Am I just putting my kid in front of a computer and walking away?’ And that’s a scary idea, but it isn’t like that at all,” says Tracy Smith, K-8 Department Chair for K12 International Academy. “The students get these material kits in the mail for their classes, and they feel like it’s a birthday. It’s so hands-on, it isn’t like passively learning in front of a computer. It’s so interactive.”

There are a lot of misconceptions about online education for young children: that it is impersonal. That it’s all about the screen. That it lacks the bond that is only created in the traditional classroom.

That’s just not the case, Ms. Smith reports.

“I think that one of the big myths would be that online education for young students is not personal, but it is,” she says “There is a teacher on the other side of the computer that cares about you and is invested in you…

“You can really see them light up when they’re on their webcams with us and can interact with their teachers. They’ll hold up their favorite stuffed animal, and we ask them about it, if they know where it came from, and other facts about it. They may hold up their latest Lego creation and we can ask about it, what it is, how many Legos they used, and we’re able to turn a normal interaction into a teaching moment, something that relates back to their regular subjects and classwork. It’s just an amazing way to get the one-on-one interaction that we as teachers like to give and that students crave.”

 

Finding the right balance

It’s that balance between human interaction, interpersonal relationships and technology where parents, young learners and educators find the sweet spot, Boyle says.

“How do we facilitate and extend the learning experience beyond the digital and connect it to the real world experience of children?” he asks. “Children need a diverse range of experiences for productive learning – just as media and technology is integrated into many aspects of our contemporary lifestyles, so too may it be integrated into many aspects of a child’s experience, but it should never take the place of or interfere with opportunities for a wide and diverse range of experience…

“When adult-child relationships are established, children become much more ready to learn, and it can become possible for media experiences to contribute positively to a child’s social and emotional development.”

 

Online education may be right for your child.

“Students get that time where they can be excited about learning and they don’t have to wait their turn like they would in a regular classroom setting,” Ms. Smith says. “They get the attention that they just crave at that younger age.”

 

If the flexibility of an online educational environment would help your child thrive, and if you are ready to be a learning partner, learn more about how to enroll at K12 International Academy today.

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