The ongoing prevalent crisis in medical healthcare has given distance education and remote learning a universal forum. The natural outcome of the stay-at-home orders is the closing of school buildings across the country. This has led to the introduction of online classes for children in the absence of traditional schooling
Virtual classrooms and interactive online presentations for early childhood educators who promote play- or project-based approaches, can be a complex undertaking and onerous mission. As preschools keep their doors locked and have transited to virtual learning, the following core principles need to endure. Families need to establish play-based, child-centric learning that does everything to move beyond engaging with the screen. Examples of this are: At some schools, they keep virtual meetings for a mere 30 minutes and instead give families tools to foster learning at home. They host a giant group sing-along with about 30 families once a week. All other online classes for nursery students are conducted in small groups for three to six children to take turns, and to ensure that all children have opportunities to speak, and attendance is voluntary.
The Six Ways to Make Virtual Learning Effective in a Preschool:
1. Allow Children to Guide You:
Even as schools are shut and teachers are away from the children, they continue to play, explore and learn in their homes. One way to help is by asking families to put forward photos or videos of children playing and look for patterns in this documentation. During small group meetings, one can display these. These photos can be displayed during group meetings to hear children’s voices, so that teachers are not the sole captains and masters of remote discussions. An example of this is when one of the teachers noticed a pattern in the photos and videos they were receiving from families in a small group. It was seen that the images were repeatedly taken of children playing with trains, cars, or trucks at home. During a virtual class meeting, the teacher chanced upon an occasion to sing songs related to automobiles so that children could see themselves and their friends. The children were then made to discuss and compare their play.
2. Provide Valid Alternatives to Broadcasting Time:
Since children between the ages of 2 and 7 years are still in their preoperational stage, it is developmentally inappropriate to expect their learning to be entirely real-time. As in the automobile-inspired play, the teacher invited the children to continue their exploration after their virtual meetings by building automobiles using cardboard boxes. The teacher then invited families to share photos or videos of their children’s creations.
To inspire these guides from everyday life situations, families were invited to submit photos of their spaces or surveys to understand the resources at their disposal better. In one school, almost half of all the families shared these details with them.
3. Bear in Mind That Families Are Your Teammates and Collaborators:
Families are perfect assistants and can support you by extending children’s learning at home. However, one must keep in mind that families have other responsibilities besides lending support to teachers. One must, therefore, make attendance at the virtual meetings voluntary, and if a family-misses one or neglects to complete a project, one can send a note to check in and share what was missed, but participation should not be made mandatory. Remote relationship-building is pivotal.
4. Relationships Are the Foundation and Backbone of Your School.
Despite the inability to be together, students and teachers can stay in touch to show their concern. One needs to work as a staff member to connect with families once a week or over the phone, via video chat, or whatever best suits them. One can send school-wide emails every day. The work has to be spread evenly across staff and a schedule has to be created with this in mind; to rotate the responsibility for writing the daily mail to ensure that every person’s voice is heard. Daily emails can include: notes of gratitude, video recordings of read-aloud or songs, child—friendly cooking recipes, and directions to use household items to make paint or build an imaginary structure.
5. Music Is Transcendental:
It is evident that students respond well to singing and dancing online. For a child, participating in a song or dance is an easy way to engage with the computer display screen because they can follow the leader. Try a school-wide sing-along or use pieces periodically to reengage children who may become distracted during a virtual session.
6. The Tech-Savvy Team Members Are Your Ace Up the Sleeve:
Even if your school is typically a low-tech environment, there will be a few tech-savvy researchers, and one can rely on them for their creative insights.
One can finally conclude that making your school electronically available is a collective effort, which is worth trying. Previous metrics of success are outdated and are no longer applicable. If children are disinterested during a virtual meeting, one must reason and infer that they are young and this is a new monkey, and this is an entirely different story as things are different.