Expert Advice

How to academically engage your kids in the summer (without hovering)

Students are becoming more and more familiarized with technology, using it in their free time to browse the internet and play games. How can technology be used in the summer in a productive, academic way?

There are so many ways of learning, and technology is an enabler. Technology can be used to help identify and discover your interests, build on those interests, and then further study and learn the history around those interests. This will help plant the seeds for your future self, perhaps not in a specific future role but within the landscape that interests you most. Technology should not be seen necessarily as a product, but rather as a tool to access and enable success. Whilst we as parents are sometimes concerned about technology or screen time, engagement drives learning; it’s only the delivery method that has changed. We’d be happy if our kids were reading but not if they’re on their laptops or tablets. They’re reading and learning, just in a way that is relevant to this generation of learners.

With the summer coming up, children will be eager to get outside, but it is also a time that parents may want to use to fill learning gaps presented by the classroom this year. How can parents incorporate learning with fun activities this summer?

First, take a breath and drop your shoulders. Talking about “learning gaps” and “catching up” can be extremely stressful for parents; imagine what that does for kids. Kids have learned different types of lessons as a result of the pandemic. Parents should embrace these new skills and celebrate the small wins, instead of focusing on what was lost.

Second, tell your children to get out and have fun, be with their friends, and share experiences. Play is a lesson that keeps kids learning. These experiences help to define and build on their social and emotional well-being. At some point in their future, they will draw on what they’ve endured and learned through this period. I truly believe that this generation will bare fantastic leaders as a result, not only in a given industry but also as leaders on provincial and national scales.

Parents have witnessed their children feel “Zoom-fatigue” in the virtual classroom. How can they ensure their children are remaining engaged with technology in a positive way this summer, without hovering?

There is a huge misconception about engagement and disengagement. Kids don’t disengage, they merely engage in something more interesting to them. Talk to them about something that they are interested in, something that they’d like to do, a place they’d like to visit or travel to. Ask them to tell you a few facts about it, and how you could get there, how much it would cost, and what you would do when you got there. Include things like day trips, sites, and why are they interested in visiting that part of the world. They’ll rise to the challenge, learn along the way, and you’ll learn a thing or two as well. Encourage, trust, and don’t hover. You’ll be surprised at the outcome. 

If you could tell parents one thing to prepare their children for the next school year, what would it be?

We don’t know what our new normal is yet. Children could be in classrooms, or they may be at home some of the time. Agility and readiness for whatever becomes reality is the best preparation. Parents can prepare their children through encouragement and support, which starts with saying things like, “You’ve got this kiddo,” and, “Think of how much you learned and how much you have grown since you went through last year.” Positive reinforcement is so important to kids’ belief and readiness. Destress the situation, don’t create it.

How are online technology education tools, like Nelson’s Edwin, providing positive outcomes for students in a way that mirrors their use of technology in everyday life? The ideology behind Edwin was to give equal equity to all kids, no matter where they are in there learning journey. 

We wanted to create a relevant learning method that mirrored technology habits in people’s everyday lives. Think about every other aspect of a student’s life, from listening to music, looking at videos, and other aspects of non-verbal communication. It’s all digital and provides recommendation and ease of discovery. That’s what Edwin is, in all subjects and disciplines. Whether in video format, voice-to-text with Edwin reading to students, searching for a key word or subject, or having related content recommended to you and being provided content based on what the student is reading about. Students are offered suggested additional content they love through learning objects or videos or interactives. As a parent or teacher, you can be completely relaxed. Everything in Edwin is aligned with curriculum – it’s vetted, it’s safe, and it will engage students. It’s a safe, engaging sand box. Remember, through engagement comes outcomes.

What's a personal story of a child using technology in an educational way that you feel proud of?

I have so many, one that really always stands out is when we rolled out Edwin across one of the Atlantic provinces, and shortly afterwards, there was a press announcement about the change. At the event, there was a speech given by Ministry officials, school leaders, teachers, and students talking about their Edwin experience in the first months and how it had changed their learning journey. I opened with a short speech about Edwin, why we built it, and what it was and stood for. As the press conference proceeded, it was then time for the teachers and students to take the stage. One little girl, a sixth-grader, was asked a question by her teacher about what she thought of Edwin and liked the most about it. The student totally froze and couldn’t speak a word, let alone answer. The teacher recanted the discussion and the little girl’s answers she had given on the bus ride there that morning. Everyone in the room had hearts that just melted for the little girl, who was adored, and we all empathized with the stage fright. After the conference ended, I went and spoke to the girl and congratulated her and we laughed about the whole thing. I then said, “If there is one thing that you could tell me you love about Edwin, what would it be, just one?” She replied, “That’s too hard, there are so many things about Edwin I love.” “Just one thing,” I said. She replied, “Hmmm, I know, I used to hate school, now I love it.” That’s when I really knew that if you meet kids where they are at, in a way they they like to learn and in a methodology that is relevant to them, we can make learning fun. People perceived Edwin as a huge pivot for Nelson Education, Canada’s leading and largest educational publisher with 107 years of experience, but I don’t see it that way. We at Nelson delivered textbooks for over a century to almost every classroom across the country, but we never owned a paper mill. With Edwin, all we did was change the delivery medium.