Youth officer advises students how to pivot in online school

Youth officer advises students how to pivot in online school

Sunday, October 25, 2020

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THREE-year-old Amoya was excited to be attending school for the first time. However, this enthusiasm was short-lived as less than three days into the new school year she bemoaned that she would not be able to make any friends via online school.

Zoom is boring, and I miss the old way of school where I got to play and sing with my classmates,” she complained to her mother Sarah Jones.

Jones said that her daughter's reactions made her a little sad and frustrated, because she knows that Amoya is missing out on the usual new school experience, which every three-year-old usually gets to experience.

“Online learning is tough for this age group, as their attention span becomes shorter with each passing minute. However, this is our new normal, and we will have to adjust. The toughest part for me is that I actually have to sit and monitor her for the entire lesson and even for me it's rough. Therefore, I can just imagine these poor kids,” she related.

She believes that the emotional toll that it will take on children will be felt for many years to come.

Early childhood educator, Oneila Hamilton Robinson, agrees that children do have short attention spans, but the key to countering that is to keep them active.

“In order to keep my students engaged, we do short, fun activities, such as games, interactive stories, and puzzles. The activities can't be too long, because after a while, they will find them boring,” Hamilton Robinson explained.

She added that children are more attentive when they do several activities in short periods.

Speaking at a press conference on September 22, Minister of Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams noted that the Early Childhood Commission has activity sheets with prescribed guidelines for online schooling for small children, such as breaks from screen time every 15 minutes, and no more than two hours of schooling for the day.

Against that background, Shanna Kaye Wright Vaughn, youth marketing officer at JN Bank, who oversees the JN Bank Schools' Savers Programme in several primary schools, shared some steps parents can take to cushion the impact, which online schooling has on children, between the ages of three and 12 years old:

Plan the Entire Experience: Wright Vaughn believes that getting the students ready for school at home, in a similar routine to them physically attending school, gets them into a state of mental preparedness. Maintaining a routine, she said, will help them to readjust to face-to-face classes when that norm resumes.

Allow Children to Have Free Time: Ensure that students move away from their desks for a few minutes, at intervals during the day; allow them to relax and take a walk outside, so that they are better able to connect to the learning space and concentrate when they are back at their desks.

Arrange Parent Support Groups: She recommended that parents schedule virtual play dates outside of school hours, so that children can socialise and interact with each other, as they would pre-pandemic and, therefore, can identify their friends, when they return to the classroom setting.

“I am also encouraging first-time university students to participate in the various online activities and competitions put on by student unions, albeit in a different fashion from the norm, so that they can still feel that they are a part of the university community,” she implored.

She also urged them to develop a sense of responsibility in scheduling and using their time wisely.

“Journaling, scheduling classes with breaks in-between and spending time to relax and disconnect from the mundanity of online classes are also strategies to coping mentally,” she said.

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