For most parents and students, there is a general feeling of relief that we've all made it through the school year. Everyone is just itching to get outdoors and spend some much needed time relaxing this summer.
To that, I say, "Right on!"
However, I want to address a concern some parents have about finding ways to keep their students engaged with their education over the summer by looking at the five best ways to approach online learning with your student.
Right now is the perfect time to try out a fun and collaborative approach to helping your student learn more online. There are no grades at stakes. You can let your student's curiosity and passions take the lead, and everything is relatively flexible regarding when things get done.
So, without further ado, here are the best ways to approach online learning:
I like to refer to the internet as “The Information Playground” because it’s a space where your innate curiosity about the world is the ticket to your next great learning adventure. To start using your child’s curiosity as a tool to support their education simply take something you know your child is interested in and begin asking open-ended questions about the topic like, “How do they do that?”, “How does this work?”, “Why do you think the story ends like that?”, and “Why do you think that happens?”.
There’s a good chance neither of you will know the answer to these questions, but that’s the point! You’ve just created an impromptu research project for yourselves, and that’s where the fun begins.
Of course, you’ll need to follow up all of your burning questions with the tireless refrain of, “Let’s look it up online!” If you can manage to follow up every question that sparks your student’s curiosity with an internet field trip in search of answers, there’s no telling how many new and exciting things you and your student will learn.
There are so many opportunities for everyday learning that arise from questions about the world around us. For example, after noticing how many different unfamiliar plants, flowers, and trees I’ve encountered around my neighborhood on my daily walks, I downloaded an app called Plant Snap so that I could identify the various plants I was seeing and learn more about each of them.
There are a ton of great apps that exist to help students bridge the gap between their questions about the world and the information available online, so I’ve decided to list some of my favorites below:
Plant Snap: Best app for plant species identification.
Star Walk: Learn about the planets and stars through augmented reality.
Discover Human Body: Learn human anatomy through augmented reality.
Quiver-3D: Color in 3-D with this educational, augmented reality coloring book.
Monster Park: Discover what dinosaurs looked like in real life with augmented reality.
Google Translate: Use AI to translate foreign languages with your smartphone camera.
All you really need to begin helping your students with online learning is a bit of time and the right attitude. As adults, something we’ve been practicing for much longer than our students is the use of a search engine like Google or Yahoo and sorting through information that is digestible and seems to be coming from a trusted source.
Those two skills alone can go a very long way in helping your student learn more about the things they are interested in, like, for instance, the physics of kicking a soccer curveball or what effects the gut has on the brain.
Ask your student what they are interested in learning more about and then help them craft their Google search, showing them how to use keywords in their search rather than full sentences. Helping students dig deeper into those things they do find online is a great way to co-op learning with your student. Rather than skipping over words or concepts they are unfamiliar with, taking the time to click on a hyperlink to an explanation or starting a second search is huge in teaching your student how to become an independent learner.
Also, don’t forget to use “Command + F” or “Control + F” to search the pages you are looking at for quick access to keywords on individual websites or documents. That one tip has saved me hundreds of hours of reading online.
As a parent, you know a lot about your child, and one of the best ways to engage with them in furthering their education is through tapping into something that brings them joy. If your student is, for example, fascinated by space or loves to dance, then let these topics be the jumping-off point for engaging with your student in a multidisciplinary approach to learning more about these topics.
You might consider challenging yourself and your student to learn more about the things they love by exploring these topics through the lenses of History, Math, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Literature, or Politics.
One of the greatest strengths that parents have as advocates for their children’s education is their ability to show their students how their passions interrelate with so many diverse bodies of knowledge.
When your child identifies a real-world problem they are interested in, this is a golden opportunity for learning. No matter what the problem is, there is a good chance the resources needed to help with solving the problem can be found online and there is a community of individuals working together to solve a similar problem.
Solving problems in the real world requires learning one hundred percent of the time. Otherwise, your problems would not be problems. I encourage you to take your students to task in finding solutions to the problems they encounter or see in the real world. Riding alongside them to help them brainstorm or encouraging them when they hit a roadblock is a great way to collaborate with your student. Also, when your student is solving a problem, the most important thing you can do as a parent is to praise their creativity and the effort they expend rather than focusing on the efficiency or correctness of their solution.
If you would like, you can start with an idea from this list of real-world problems students are being asked to solve. Also, here’s an inspirational video about why kids are likely to be the ones solving the world’s problems.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful, and if you’d like help with keeping your students engaged with their education this summer you can reach out to PCH Tutors or Simplifi EDU to work with one of our excellent online tutors!
To hear more about inspiring your students’ curiosity, check out this conversation in collaboration with Decided Heart, a YouTube series by our community partners Hilary Bilbrey and Sonja Montiel, a college counselor and founder of College Confidence.