The best learning experiences are the result of a dedicated educator, a student’s curiosity to learn and a supportive environment that values academics. Using technology as a resource can enhance these learning experiences and academic environments, whether lessons are learned in a school or at home.
You’re not just the parent of a homeschooler; you are also a teacher. You want to inspire your child to think critically and stay motivated. Technology can cultivate new ways of thinking and new ideas. Android or Apple tablets can specifically serve as creative tools and interactive textbooks. Tablet materials and apps can customize the learning experience and tailor materials to suit the learning style(s) and meet the needs of a student.
Online Textbooks & iTunes U in Class
Enrich learning experiences at home with electronic textbooks on a tablet. Services like iTunes U provide customized, hands-on lessons for homeschooled teens of all levels. Texts and photos come to life when you use electronic textbooks. Think back to the days when you turned pages and used a marker or highlighter to note sections in printed textbooks. The postmodern student can learn by swiping a screen, engaging in interactive animations and even rotating a 3-D object. Highlight notes with a finger. Zoom in on a diagram. Create digital study cards. The tablet is a space-saving, all-in-one learning device that functions as any type of textbook, a note taker and study partner. Keeping learning materials on a mobile device can be handy for your student to study anywhere. Homework can be done on a car trip or at a friend’s house.
As a home educator, you can also use online educational apps to organize lesson plans and learning materials for a course in one central location. Build courses using the iTunes U Course Manager, and your student can listen to an audio lecture, watch a presentation and organize coursework notes. Then your student can complete assignments and share what he or she learns using any of the thousands of academic-oriented apps available, tablets and popular smartphones. Help your teen engender a multimedia presentation using special effects in Keynote or a visual web journal using multi-touch editing. A tablet-based learning curriculum is a dramatic improvement from the days of overhead projectors and plastic report covers and binders.
Smartphone Social Apps
While tablets enhance learning, reserve the smartphone for socialization and fun. A blog post by Heather Sanders from The Pioneer Woman writes that as a home educator and mom, she welcomes smartphones as a communication tool that “can help students expand their specific hobbies or areas of interests.” Her daughter Emelie turns to smartphone app Tumblr as her virtual inspiration board and Feedly as her blog reader. She uses Instagram and Snapchat to share videos and photos with friends. The Kik instant message app also keeps her in touch with international friends. Sanders’ other daughter, Meredith, likes Wattpad for writing books and reading stories from other authors. You can even use the smartphone as a study break or incentive. For example, if your teen aces an exam let her chat with friends on her phone or stream media from Netflix as a reward for meeting her goal.
With the sophisticated advances in technology, postmodern homeschooling can be a rewarding experience for both the teacher and student.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison