Tips for Virtual Summer School & Safety in The Digital World
The shift to virtual learning might be overwhelming for many. Here we list a few handy tips and tricks for students and parents to ensure a safe and motivated virtual environment.
VIRTUAL CLASSROOMS ARE HERE TO STAY
As the world reshapes itself to better face deadly pandemics, such as the one we are dealing with right now, a lot of things still remain unsure. Thanks to the information era and the innovations in modern technology, we are able to still go on with our daily lives, albeit mostly from within our house.
This shift to the virtual paradigm, while it has helped us immensely, has also caused mass confusion, especially for young students who had to go through a massive shift in the way they gain knowledge due to virtual classrooms, and the parents who are supporting their child.
Questions, such as whether virtual STEM camps would be effective, how to better help the students with remote STEM learning, how to prevent mental burnout due to online education, how to achieve success in this unique virtual setting, and how to ensure the students are safe while browsing through the web, etc. are common concerns for most parents.
These questions become even more pressing when we realize that these online platforms are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. In this article, we have compiled some tips and tricks for virtual summer schools which will help students navigate the digital world safely and help ensure students receive the necessary developmental support.
TIPS TO ENHANCE THE VIRTUAL SUMMER SCHOOL EXPERIENCE
Parents must understand that how each student learns is unique and they will have different needs in terms of developmental support. The tips presented here are not solutions for all students, rather they can be considered useful starting points to help students get a grasp of this paradigm shift and make the process a little bit easier for them.
- BRAIN BREAKS AND ENERGIZERS
Students with a healthy body and mind have higher attendance rates, higher test scores, and behave better in class. Integration of physical activity during the school day is, therefore, a no-brainer when it comes to getting the brain fired up. Even for online STEM at home, the tactic is no different.
Giving students periodic brain breaks and keeping brain energizers ready can be extremely helpful to students as well as parents. Brain breaks are an excellent means to refresh the students’ energy, even if it is just for a minute or two. These short, engaging activities are designed to stimulate the students’ brains while still switching things up.
A major part of virtual schooling involves sitting in front of the computer for long hours, which is a monumental task even for young students. Giving them short brain breaks and energizers would allow them to get the necessary physical activity while also reinvigorating their brains.
- MULTI-LEVEL ENGAGEMENT
Many studies suggest that under-participation and lack of proper engagement are at the core of many students’ frustration and failure to cope with virtual summer school. Therefore, engaging students on multiple levels at the same time is essential.
This means that parents should make sure the students are interacting with others by whatever means they find suitable. Frequent real-time feedback, opportunities to collaborate, and space for the students to safely connect with peers are extremely valuable.
While teachers can do their part by giving students group assignments, creating breakout rooms for interactive sessions, and talking with individual students as often as possible, parents can also do their part by having a casual conversation with the students at the end of the day and helping them in their assignments too.
- ADAPT LEARNING ROUTINES
Daily routines are very important to make online learning successful. A bad routine, however, can be worse than no routine at all. Parents must take their time to find an ideal choice for the students with whatever alternatives and level of flexibility that is possible.
Often, the least demanding time frame to make that change is after the day is finished, particularly in synchronous web & application-based learning. Solid after-day schedules can make as much of a positive effect as solid schedules during the day.
- PERSONALIZED PRIZES
It is easy to feel forgotten or stuck during long and generic online STEM learning at home. It is definitely advantageous to filter through what may be too simple or difficult for them, in order to find the perfect fit.
This also forms a great opportunity to encourage students to nurture their passion, be it in the sciences, technology, engineering or mathematics. It is important that students feel they are being cared for, rather than feeling like a cog in this system.
- BUILD A LEARNING NETWORK
In these uncertain times, everybody needs a support system of people who are dealing with similar challenges, and students are no exception to this rule. While the change would be slow at the beginning, students will definitely reap the academic benefits from this.
We at LIYSF for example, have organised an exciting virtual platform which looks to recreate as closely as possible the networking and engagement opportunities that students get from our on-campus STEM education programme. Parents can encourage their children to meet up with international students online and have some fun whenever possible.
TIPS TO SAFELY NAVIGATE ONLINE STEM AT HOME
Safety in the online world is a completely different ballgame as compared to safety in the playground or safety on the streets. The internet can be an unpredictable and even dangerous place for young students. The tips presented should only be considered as valuable starting points, and in no way substitute for regularly checking in with the student and developing a customized plan that’s right for the entire family. With that said, here are some online etiquettes and safety protocols which if the students follow, will help in creating a safer environment for them on the internet.
- PARENT CONTROLS/SAFE VIEWING
There are services offered by your internet provider, web browsers and your computer accounts that enable parents to set safeguards in place to help foster safe web browsing. These parental controls and limited searchers are by no means foolproof, but go a long way to limit the chance of students finding inappropriate material. Be sure to use all the safeguards and controls you can, particularly for video-sharing sites and social media.
- BEWARE OF “ZOOM BOMBING”
Every video conferencing platform has loopholes which may allow unwanted and potentially unsafe visitors to wreak havoc in the students’ virtual summer school. These can be avoided by generating random meeting IDs, setting up meeting passwords and enabling waiting rooms, features that most prominent video conferencing apps have.
- AVOID SHARING PERSONAL INFO
Parents must make sure that young students do not share their passwords, addresses, phone numbers or anything else like that anywhere online. And even if it is for trustworthy websites, it is best they do it under adult supervision. This small step can go a long way in terms of online security.
- REMEMBER THAT THE INTERNET NEVER FORGETS
It is important to understand that once we post something online, unintentionally or out of context, can quickly spin out of control. Therefore, it is important to educate students to be alert and practise being careful while attending their online STEM at home.
Also remind students that what they see online is not necessarily true, students must think to check the site they are using, is it a trusted news outlet for example with verified sources. Many sites look very professional, but are not verified and are sending out incorrect information, often sensationalised “news” with dangerous messages.
Remind students that most images online are photoshopped, they are not real, this is particularly important when looking at social media.
- DISCOURAGE CYBER BULLYING
Cyberbullying should not be underestimated. Parents must encourage students to speak up and make them understand how important it is to report unsafe behaviour. These conversations can be tough, but they are very important.
Develop a habit of having regular conversations with your student about the internet, and create a safe space for them to share their experiences online.
- BE PUNCTUAL
Parents must encourage students to always be prepared and be on time, even for online STEM at home. They must learn to finish their assignment well before the deadline, keep track of the supplies they will need for their upcoming lectures and have them ready, and join the meeting a few minutes early, if possible. These simple things will go a long way in creating a punctual and positive lifestyle for the students and help them cope better with virtual learning.
- HAVE A QUIET LEARNING SPACE
It may be challenging to find a quiet personal spot at home, with limited space and everyone working from home. But it is a worthy effort to create such a space for the students so that learn in peace and don’t get interfered with by unnecessary background noise.
- NEVER BE AFRAID TO ASK
It’s always better to ask and get answers than stay in the dark, however, it’s essential to get them properly, which might sometimes require them to be done privately. Hand-raise, private messages, and emails are generally appreciated for this.
- BE PATIENT & RESPECTFUL
With everything that’s going on, everyone is entitled to some adjustment time, be it the students, teachers, or parents. Therefore, being a little bit more patient and respectful will go a long way in setting a good example and making this virtual summer school experience that much more accommodating.
While the pandemic has been a very serious and sad time for so many, we can have an optimistic view and see the positives that we were provided in the form of the virtual world at this time. If used properly, virtual learning can be an excellent means for young students to expand their knowledge in different ways than in traditional classroom education.
However, students must not get carried away by this newfound power of the internet and must understand that there are consequences for improper use of cyberspace. Parents should make sure that the students remain safe and motivated while they go on with their learning process.