While many hope to see a return to more face-to-face learning this coming fall, this piece reminds us how much of a negative impact too much hybrid learning can have on developing young children. – KW
Remote and hybrid education plans have become the norm for K-12 grade schools since the pandemic. While these tools can help children, there are also clear disadvantages, particularly for younger students. Being away from the classroom all or part of the time can harm kids.
In light of this, schools, parents, and teachers must work together to help younger students to thrive in a remote learning atmosphere. Here are some of the challenges and how they may be addressed.
Negative Emotional Impacts of Isolation
When children are denied access to daily interaction with their classmates and recreational activities, their mental health can suffer. This was the case in Las Vegas, where suicide rates among students doubled during the nine months of pandemic school closures, with the youngest victim only 9 years old.
While mental health is a critical crisis, isolation can also disrupt the social development of young children. Peer interaction helps preschoolers learn the social skills required for connection with others. Isolated grade-schoolers are more likely to turn to their devices, risking screen addiction as a replacement for healthy peer relationships.
Remote Learning Challenges for Younger Students
Another consequence for younger children, who often lack attention skills, is increased screen time. This can have adverse health effects, both physical and mental, for kids such as poor sleep habits and a rise in stress and anxiety. Too much time on social media can even lead to depression for some.
A new mental health crisis is the rise of Zoom dysmorphia. This is related to body dysmorphic disorder, when a person obsesses on their physical imperfections enough to disrupt their ability to function. When kids watch their own Zoom image for too long, it can lead to negative thoughts about their body image. This paves the way for mental health problems.
Finally, there are some practical challenges in remote learning for some subjects. Physical education, hands-on vocational training, and certain classes require an in-person presence. Students may fall behind on these skillsets when working remotely.
Children With Disabilities or Mental Health Issues
When typical school routines are disrupted for young children with disabilities or mental health challenges, psychological development and health may suffer. Consistent schedules are necessary to help these children manage their emotional and neurological challenges. Missing out on these schedules can lead to negative or harmful behaviors.
Some of these learners also require hand-over-hand learning or speech and occupational therapy services that cannot be easily delivered via a screen. Special attention must be paid so that all children are included if schools permanently shift to remote or hybrid learning.
Helping Kids to Thrive
By working together, teachers and parents can help all these students thrive in the age of online learning. Here’s how:
What Parents Can Do
The first step is for parents to make learning at home easier for their children. Setting up a dedicated workspace creates an atmosphere where kids can focus on their schoolwork without distractions.
Kids at home need regular breaks from technology. Parents should create familiar and regular routines for their online learners rather than just enforcing a schedule. Children know what to expect and when giving them a clear path for academic success.
Parents also need to become actively involved in their child’s schoolwork. If your kids are giving you a hard time with remote learning, become more engaged by encouraging their interest in schoolwork with enthusiasm and excitement. Reward them by providing them some say in their routines so they can feel vested in their education.
Socialization is not just the job of the school but every family member. Parents must find ways to help their kids interact with friends and family in person. Organize outings and events with their peers as activities begin to open.
How Teachers Can Manage Online Education
Teachers need to ensure that any online curriculum is adapted for the academic and emotional age of the student particularly when they are very young. Zoom meetings may not work well for early grade school children or kids with learning disabilities. Instead, interactive learning apps may provide a fun and engaging alternative.
Assigning hands-on activities is another way that teachers can reduce screen time for kids at home. Ideas include book reading, craft projects, outdoor research, and other tasks that let students demonstrate what they have learned. Facilitate a virtual “show and tell” Zoom for the class or let parents upload images of the kids’ work.
Teachers should be sensitive to the increased screen time that students are exposed to with remote learning. When hybrid schedules have kids back in the classroom, limit online teaching as much as possible.
Maximizing Effective Use of Educational Technology
Teachers should expand their use of technology beyond Zoom and educational apps. Think outside the box when planning curriculum to help young learners succeed in a digital environment.
Several EdTech trends can help faculty members improve curriculum, such as:
- Using analytics to track progress
- Gamifying tasks to create fun ways of learning
- Personalized surveys to customize learning for students
For Learning Disabled Students
In addition to all the options above, special care must be taken to ensure that children with special education requirements are not left behind. Educational accessibility through technology is critical for these learners. It ensures that students have the accommodations they need to achieve their learning goals.
This can mean the use of assistive technology outside of laptops and tablets. E-readers like Kindle, Livescribe Pen, and Dragon Speech recognition are tools that can help students with dyslexia or other learning disabilities. Special education teams and parents should meet via Zoom to discuss these accommodations in-depth and create a working plan that may need to be revisited.
Online school can be difficult for younger learners, especially those with learning challenges. Schools and parents must work together and use all available tools to enhance the remote classroom experience. When they take appropriate action, students succeed in their virtual learning experience.