Tamara is a project scientist in the Digital Learning Lab at the University of California, Irvine and the national IES-funded WRITE Center. She received her B.A. in English and her Ph.D. in Education at U.C. Irvine. Tamara focuses on K-12 literacy education, technology-supported learning, and exceptional learners of all types. Her work has ranged from secondary analyses of the 2011 NAEP writing assessment, the first national US writing assessment given on computers, to a year long within-teacher RCT of a digital literacy intervention in 10 urban middle schools. She is also using longitudinal SEM and data mining techniques to analyze student online digital writing over 5 school years in two US school districts.
Dr. Tate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Her current CV can be found here.
Back to school: Navigating online learning
This fall, school looks different from years past--you might need to re-stock pencils and papers, but back-to-school outfits? Schools in southern California are largely required to teach remotely until they meet State guidelines for in-person instruction. With that in mind, and with an eye to online learning being a part of many K-12 students’ education, we’ve gathered some expert tips from UC Irvine’s School of Education and Online Learning Research Center.
#1: Perspective is important. Your child will have years of education. Children learn things informally that are key to future success. This is a pandemic. You are probably juggling some issues yourself. Kids feel the anxiety and stress in the air right now. Teach them how to navigate anxiety and stress with good habits -- exercise, fresh air, healthy eating, connecting with friends and family in a safe way. These habits will last a lifetime. Keep an eye on your relationships first and foremost and be kind to yourself -- even if you were trained as a teacher, teaching your own child is very different. Takeaway: Be gentle with yourself and your child. Physical and mental health are your first priority.
#2: Online learning is different. Without face-to-face interactions, it can be isolating and less engaging. Take opportunities to interact with the teacher and classmates when they are available. Online learning also requires a lot more self-regulated learning skills and independence. This is probably not a strength of most children (self-regulation is developmental and is not fully acquired until young adulthood). Online learning is also less linear and requires navigating often information-rich environments over multiple sites and apps. We have some strategies that may help (parents will do most of this in the early years, but gradually release the responsibility to your child):
Reading. Any where, any kind, any mode. Books, magazines, comics, graphic novels, online. It all counts. Let them follow a passion -- do they love trains? Super heroes? Plants? Some libraries are allowing curbside checkout, most have digital resources you can check out. Read together. Read outloud. Read silently. Just keep reading.
At this age, students should be learning the scheduling practices above in our general tips with supervision. This is also a great time to practice some highly effective study skills to prepare them for high school and college (see below, “High school”).
If you haven’t made sure your child understands digital literacy and safe social media practices, now is the time. Middle school students are very focused on their peers and during social distancing online may be the only way to safely connect with others (fun tips for all ages on socializing right now). There are great resources out there (check out Edutopia). Make sure to model good practices yourself--ask before you post pictures of your child.
While parents of little ones may long for older children, high school counts in a way that creates additional stress--grades are a key determinant of college access. Taking challenging courses online is daunting, especially when many teachers have not been giving the resources to devote time and energy into revamping their face-to-face curriculum. Our tip for this age group: double down on the most effective and efficient study skills based on research and science.
Rigorous planning, using the general tip above is key. Knowing what the instructor expects is especially important for an online course and something your teen should learn to navigate on their own. Students will need to read the syllabus carefully and keep up with course announcements.
Have your student take the time to learn how to actively study, using self-testing (old fashioned flash cards or apps both work for this), and how to space out their study rather than cramming. We have some great resources , and we also recommend the many 10-minute Crash Course videos on Youtube that are quite well-done and cover study skills, and planning (these are accessible for even later elementary students).
Check out the Online Learning Research Center's website. We have content for instructors, students, and researchers based on our research over the years on online learning. With the advent of Emergency Distant Learning, we curated some fantastic resources to help our community navigate the challenges of online learning.