Getting students involved in online activities they can enjoy...5 part series

Many parents are now working with their children and setting up online and real-time schedules. As a former online teacher I thought it would be good to set-up a q and a area to help people out. Each day I will post some helpful suggestions and try to answer any questions that you might have.
1. Make the online experience a good one! Sounds simple enough but don't just turn your child lose online. They use their phones and computers for games (which can be educational) but normally not for academic purposes.
2. Know your child's learning style- are the auditory, hands-on, visual, etc...choose the right platform for them to learn. There are many out there and that means you have some Remember there are virtual and augmented reality sites, along with virtual worlds, video's and combinations of all these now available.
3. Set up a reasonable schedule...yes, include recess and time to play outside or with real/virtual games, etc. 2 hours goes by quickly online be sure to give students time to get off the computer.
4. Have simple but effective goals in mind each day. Let's do this today, ie we are going to go on a virtual field trip (by the way you. need to have already done this and set-up a fun activity with them).
5. Let them do activities with their friends. Maybe its a virtual chat, or online session using Zoom or Facebook. Be sure it is academic in nature so they are building something or putting together a project or presentation to you or some friends.

More to come....ask and ye shall find...out More tomorrow.

Part 2 of working with your kids in an online environment
We all know that students are social animals...(lol, no pun intended). Here are some tips and tricks to keep them excited in something besides playing games.
a. Set up a time that your child can do a lesson with some of their classmates or friends.
b. It can be an academic (math, science, etc), where they work on the same lesson together ask each other questions and compare answers.
b. Develop a social, global, local, or state community activity, or virtual world session. If it's not just a worksheet activity so make sure they have some specific goals in mind. Start by creating a question or having them create questions about the subject area. Then come up with a hypothesis before they do much research. They can then research it and see if there hypothesis is correct. Next, develop a solution to the problem. Then present their solution to you or some other expert and , finally, see what has to be done next. It's a great way to get the kids to critically think and get involved in real issues.
c. Another idea is that if you are going to go on a virtual field trip (museums, art galleries, et al) make it a place where it is a "treasure hunt" or a place they can share their reactions or questions.
d. One more thought, have the group go in and build a virtual world where they can explore or develop their own identities and environment. Maybe it's a place they build based on a book or story they are reading. A historical place or imaginary community based on a story.
Part 3 tomorrow.

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Day 3 posts on tips to a successful online experience with your child. Community connections are fun to use in the classroom. Global learning and connections would allow your child to talk to students who are having similar issues or would like to share cultural exchanges. These exchanges can range from simple this is my neighborhood to discussions of pandemics, digitial citizenship, et. al. There is always an issue of time zones when doing these programs but it is worth the try. Programs like Flat Connections sponsored by Julie Lindsay, iEarn, and the digital human library are great resources to check out and see what fits your child's needs. Having a small group of students or friends to do this with is really a fun experience.
If you want to connect within the USA contact friends and relatives in other parts of the country and allow students to do activities together. Simple IXL math or science programs that they do homework together is a good way to keep students involved.
Remember that CSpan, the National Park Service, Libraries all have programs set up to allow students to do activities together.
Day 4 on Monday....

Day 4 

Part 4 of working in an online environment from home. Some tips for parents and teachers on how to develop critical thinking for their child/student.
Developing a critical thinking mentality by using the controversy of key decisions.
Have you ever asked your kids, students, or grandkids the question, “How was school today?” There answer is almost always, “BORING!” Here’s an idea that just might change that answer. A lot has been written recently about the importance of getting your child and students to do critical thinking. Whether you are reading TeachThought, Edutopia, or We are Teachers it all calls for students to take the next step in learning. The goal of this article is to help teachers and parents understand the process of critical thinking with some very practical suggestions. It was early in my social studies teaching career that I realized that it was important to get students to see that every major decision in history was done through this process. That nothing they were studying is really set in stone and can still be changed or debated today. In order to do this my feeling was to introduce them to these very controversial topics, which are found in every subject, and allow them to discuss and decide who why what when and where and what were the reasons for these decisions at that time. How did these decisions impact societies and how are they still impacting them today.
It is important to find controversial subjects that do not have a right answer. With today’s online tools as help to find the information students can find almost any answer to use in a discussion. These critical tools will help them understand and learn the ideas of: fake news, how to argue or disagree, how to come to a decision, long/short term effects, and how to compromise to get at least part of what your community needs at the time.
Here are some simple examples of these controversial topics for social studies: the revolutionary war, the creation of the constitution, the decision on what type of country we should have agricultural or industrial, immigration, manifest destiny, slavery, the civil war, reconstruction, states’ rights, industrialization, the movement westward, rise of corporate powers, world power, world war, depression politics, social security, cold war, birth control, microchips, robotics, virtual worlds, climate change, and more. These are just a few of the topics that are available to any teacher or parent in any class and can be incorporated into a simple curriculum. In science, literature, math, history, and government there are such a plethora of materials it is hard to imagine.
The important thing is that students understand that their responses have to be centered on fact as well as opinion. Supplying them with 2 or more points of view and then setting the table to allow them to present their ideas and change their minds is critical. One of the most important lessons is for them to understand that there are not two sides to every argument but many sides to it. If they are working in groups, they have come to a final vote and make a decision as to what should have been done or can be done about it. Their arguments need to examine and address the long and short term effects of their ideas (solutions) on society or their community.
Of course there are all types of ways to do this, from role play, simulation, to presenting it to other classes or creating podcasts and tv shows, a what if series of lessons and ideas for kids….So when you ask your kids….”How was school today?”…well certainly it’s not boring!

Part 5 - Day 5 

Let’s start with the robust use of technology and move to a

simpler world. The robust use would include things like virtual worlds, virtual

and augmented reality, 3-D and more. I want to refer you to someone who is

using this technology in their classroom and it is amazing. David Deeds is an innovative teacher and uses these advanced technologies

in the K-12 world. Here is his Scoopit website ( and it would be well

worth your time and energy to check it out. His use of virtual programs are at

the next level. Remember it is not only about learning using the technology it is about creating by using technology too! 

For a more basic look students can create their authentic

presentations using PowerPoint, Word, Google, Audacity, Camtasia, Moviemaker,

etc. Face-to-face work can be done in synchronous tools like  Zoom, or Google hangout. These are easy

tools for students to use as a part of learning. Also, there are multiple tools

available to learn from such as iXL and many more. It is a matter of

preference and learning style. Right now many museums, parks, zoo’s and more

have virtual tours that are free. Apps are another great and cheap way to

gather technological tools for learning and creating. Many of these

tools or apps can be done via the phone or computer. 

It is important to do more than “homework”, it is important to critically think about what you are learning.  

With the issues going on globally with the coronavirus pandemic and teachers and students having to move to online learning, I feel the tips you are providing are very beneficial. 

thank you



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