As the school year begins across the country, it’s time for parents like you to start thinking about how you can support your child’s learning over the next 10 months. Make this year a great one by getting involved, and keep track of which concepts or subjects are giving your child more trouble. Taking the time to talk with your child’s teacher twice a month will help you monitor your child’s progress so that you can jump in and help when they hit a stumbling block.
Let’s face it: Schools don’t always present materials in a fun and engaging manner. Really. So sometimes it’s up to us parents to find resources that do. One way to do so is with technology.
In our high-tech world, kids are learning through a variety of media, including digital technology. So consider these resources when you are looking for ways to help your child learn and master specific concepts.
Transmedia storytelling is the technique of telling the same story or experience across multiple platforms. Two companies have mastered this technique: PBS and LeapFrog. From interactive websites to eBooks and apps, they’re everywhere. PBS KIDS has cornered the online educational market with their multiplatform learning games based on characters from their popular children’s shows. You won’t really find any mindless games that were created for entertainment alone. Instead, the development of key skills such as literacy, science, and math are at the core of each game they release.
So for example, if your child needs some additional practice to strengthen her math skills and just happens to love the show Wild Kratts, you could let her spend 30 minutes on the PBS KIDS LAB website, or download the Creature Math app for mobile devices. Then she can practice her multiplication, fraction, and other math skills.
LeapFrog is another company that has embraced transmedia storytelling, and dominates the realm of handheld devices with their Leapster game systems, LeapPad tablets, and LeapReaders. Their products use popular Disney characters (among others) to engage children, then place these characters in unique games that teach specific skills in reading or math. Once again, it is the same story, but used across multiple platforms. Seriously, who doesn’t want to learn how to read with Woody from Toy Story and Scooby-Doo?
Online learning programs can also be a powerful tool for parents like you. Free websites like Starfall and Cool Math for Kids, as well as subscription-based sites like Samson’s Classroom and Math-Whizz are another option if you’d like your child to have a more structured experience online and progress at a leveled pace.
Or perhaps your kid comes home and is struggling to learn a specific application in math, science, or even history. What do you do if you don’t understand it yourself and you can’t find any teaching games, or don’t want your child playing them? Khan Academy’s free video library may be the answer for your family. This non-profit organization’s website allows students to access over 4600 videos, interactive challenges, and assessments from any computer with access to the web. Kids will love that they can learn at their own pace, get help, and earn points and badges to measure their progress. Parents, you’ll love that you can see how your child is progressing and where exactly they are having trouble so that you can help them or talk to their teacher to see how to best tackle the problem.
And finally, if you’re looking for a more personalized approach for your child without scheduled appointments with tutors, another option is to use programs like TabTor Math, a subscription-based tablet tutoring service that improves your child’s math skills using their app. Your child begins by taking a diagnostic test based on their grade level. Their assigned TabTor teacher will then contact you via phone or email after your child completes the diagnostic test to come up with a study plan for him or her. Based on the results of the diagnostic test, your child’s teacher will assign specific worksheets for your child to complete on their tablet at any time. Kids can watch video tutorials prior to or while completing the next worksheet and if they run into problems, they can leave an audio message for their tutor.
So as our global society moves forward with advances in technology, let’s not forget to take advantage of these opportunities and tools for helping our children learn and advance at their own pace.
Monica Olivera Hazelton, NBC Latino contributor and 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.