17, September, 2020 | EMPOWERING TEACHERS
Teaching Young Children Virtually
In this blog, Sonya Philip (M.Ed), a veteran educator, shares how online learning isn’t optimal for young children – but given the challenging and uncertain circumstances parents and educators are faced with, what can be done? Sonya emphasizes how the goal of the virtual classroom should be on emotional connections and relationships. Joy and laughter are essential while connecting virtually. The emphasis should not be on activities but rather on maintaining the heart to heart connections and bonds between teachers and children.
For several months now children all over our country are attending virtual classrooms. We are uncertain as to when schools will open.
Virtual learning, through a single dimension, provided by computer screens is especially inappropriate for young children. I am horrified to see promotion of online “classes” for children as young as 18 months! Not only are children not learning anything via screens but sadly, they are actually being harmed. There needs to be a statutory warning on the damage this can do to developing minds of children, minds that are being shaped during the key developmental stage between 0 to 5 years of age. Research suggests that early experiences form our brain’s architecture and determine who we become as adults.
If we are expecting our children to engage in developmentally inappropriate tasks( sitting, listening passively, not engaging in the give and take of language through active interactions….) we are losing the window of opportunity when their brains are optimally primed for growth and neural connections. Through developmentally inappropriate practices and expectations we add anxiety and stress. The impact of stress leads to the shutting down of the brain and can lay the seeds for behaviour and attitude issues that are often carried into adulthood.
Given the circumstances, how best to plan virtual teaching?
The goal of virtual classroom should be emotional connections and not activities.
Structure the online virtual space to build strong emotional connections and relationships with the children. With young children this should be with teachers and children already familiar to the child. This is the reason that at Learning Matters we ensured the teachers remained with their students.
The teachers need to see and affirm the children in their care and allow for participation by each child. All aspects of a child’s development need to be considered. Their physical, social, emotional, language and cognitive development should be structured into any online program.
Awareness and allowances for different attention spans need to be accommodated.
There needs to be joy and laughter while engaging virtually.
I believe teachers need to be trained in effective online classes since simply mimicking and transferring their usual classroom teaching practice will be ineffective.
We know that young children learn best through play and social interactions. I am hoping that our children will have opportunities to their right to childhood soon. Learning virtually is not what they need.