With the explosion of technological tools in the area of education, more and more moms are looking online for ways to help their children excel academically. And while parents can use the new technology to educate and empower their children, every parent should also be aware of what their kids are watching and know the dangers associated with children using this technology.
When using online portals with your children, keep these safety guidelines in mind:
- Know what your children are reading online.
- Set up your child’s computer in a family room, or other room where the screen may be easily seen by everyone. Do not set up a computer in your child’s bedroom where it is harder to monitor content.
- Stay away from sites with advertisements, and stick to those whose content is strictly educational.
- Limit the amount of time your child spends online. Experts recommend no more than two hours (preferably less) of screen time each day.
Once you set up some household rules for using digital media, you can take advantage of the many sites that have been created to help children learn. In 2003, MIT media studies professor, Henry Jenkins, introduced the term, “transmedia storytelling” to describe the technique of using multiple (digital) platforms and formats to tell stories. By creating multiple portals into a story or character, parents and educators can provide children with different learning styles the opportunity to better connect with – and thus, better understand – educational concepts.
No one knows this better than PBS, one of the biggest providers of free educational programming online than any other organization. Over the years they have created a number of educational portals centered around the characters in their popular TV shows. Their most recently launched site is the PBS KIDS Lab which provides children in K-3rd grade with the opportunity to connect with characters like Curious George, Sid the Science Kid, the Cat in the Hat, and others through interactive games that teach basic math skills. And to better serve the Latino community, they launched a Spanish-version of the site in January.
BrainPOP is another excellent site that creates animated, curriculum-based content for students. Their online sites include BrainPOP Jr. (K-3), BrainPOP, BrainPOP Español, and BrainPOP ESL. Students can choose a given subject and learn more about it by watching an animated video and doing one of the 10 activities associated with each topic. Teachers (and parents) can also sign up for their BrainPOP Educators section, where they can find free lesson plans, tutorials, and other tools.
With the production of the iPad and iPhone, many companies are now creating educational apps, as well. If you’re overwhelmed by the over 4,000 apps for math now on the market, take a look at Math Insider’s list of 16 math apps that are both fun and educational. Or you can look at the site, Fun Educational Apps, which reviews the best iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad apps for kids ages one to 12.
More educators are starting to believe that key concepts may be reinforced best through a combination of learning experiences. Using online technology is a way for moms to help their children better understand specific topics and improve their academic performance.
Monica Olivera Hazelton is the founder and publisher of MommyMaestra.com, a site for Latino families that homeschool, as well as families with children in a traditional school setting who want to take a more active role in their children’s education. She is the 2011 winner of the “Best Latina Education Blogger” award by LATISM.