Technology for the young learner
Here are apps and devices that can expand your homeschool experience
As a homeschool family, we have found technology aids in the classroom help teach our children new concepts, reinforce their primary curriculum, and give them the ability to learn a range of new topics outside of traditional book content. With the aid of technology, the world can become the child’s classroom and educational horizons can be expanded. Here are some tips and suggestions for using technology with your elementary-aged learners.
Learning with a tablet
Pre-K and early elementary learners are growing up in a world where app-based learning will be the new norm. The first tablet these children touch may not be the chalkboard type, but the iOS or Android type. There are lots of apps out there that teach letter recognition, pronunciation, writing, and even basic math concepts. One that has stood the test of time for our family is the TeachMe series by 24x7digital (teachmeseries.com). Beginning with Pre-K, a straightforward “touch the right answer” teaching method asks the learner to simply tap the correct letter, color, or number that the teacher says. After a number of successive correct answers, the game rewards the learner with a sticker or coin. Parents have the ability to set the number of answers needed for the reward, and you can also track progress using the parental controls. As learners advance they are introduced to letter writing, Dolch sight word recognition, and math concepts.1 The TeachMe series are not free apps, but they are not subscription-based. They work in offline mode, and there are no ads or videos within the app that may distract a learner. These features are especially important to consider when looking for apps for beginning learners. ABCmouse, Hooked on Phonics, and Starfall Learn to Read apps are also good alternatives for those who are okay with subscription-based learning. Paired with Screen Time and other parental controls, tablets can be used for both entertainment purposes and as a valuable learning tool for beginners.
As a learner progresses, you may consider investing in one of the many peripheral devices available that expand the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning experience. Two devices our family have used and love are the Osmo series (playosmo.com/en) and Square Panda’s (squarepanda.com) interactive phonics learning system.
The Osmo curriculum spans spelling, creative art, coding, and many other fun activities that engage learners with pieces placed before them. The app utilizes the camera on the device to “read” letters, drawings, or coding parameters that become instructions for the app.
Square Panda’s letter reader playset is also a fun way for growing learners to reinforce letter learning, letter sounds, and spelling. There are a variety of Square Panda games that utilize the Bluetooth-connected base and accompanying letters. While the accessories for Square Panda and Osmo require an initial investment, the accompanying apps are free and the library of games is constantly expanding.
In the near future it is quite possible that a good portion of instruction will be done solely through online technology. Even now there are great curricula that can be purchased for elementary-aged learners that provide a full educational experience either through video instruction and traditional homework or through full online engagement assessed through online tests. For homeschoolers especially, video instruction could be a great way to give your child access to seasoned teachers for each subject. Many schools, like Bob Jones University, tie their subjects to biblical concepts and also have wonderful Christian history lessons taught throughout.
If you are simply curious how your student would do in an online course and are interested in seeing what that future may look like, check out Khan Academy Kids and Khan Academy apps at khanacademy.org. The apps are polished and updated regularly with new content. Khan Academy sees education as a fundamental right and uses technology to provide a comprehensive learning experience for all grade levels and all learners for free. The curricula they provide use proven methods and align with the current educational assessment testing used in US public schools. If you are interested in introducing your current elementary learner to an online course or if you are looking for reinforcements to their current studies, Khan Academy can fulfill that role.
Technology is the future of education. Giving young learners opportunities to engage with technology early on could help them on their learning path well into the future. Hopefully these tips will help you navigate the ever-expanding world of technology-driven learning.
1. Dolch sight words is a list of frequently used English words complied by Edward William Dolch, it was first published in 1936. It contains 220 words.