Teaching a kindergartner through the digital medium is a concept that might turn some heads. After all, the traditional kindergarten model places 15 or so five- and six-year-olds in a brick-and-mortar building full of vibrant color, books and toys. But online kindergarten programs may be on to something.
Many parents and education experts are finding that the very same benefits young adults enjoy in the distance learning environment transfer over to the primary grades, as well. That said, a closer look at e-learning for kindergartners reveals a contemporary spin on an old-fashioned concept that works for many parents and students.
Online kindergarten programs encourage technology savvy at the earliest stages
While debate remains over the appropriateness of computer-based learning in kindergarten, consensus seems to be moving towards an increase in e-learning at this age group. The Northwest Education Technology Consortium (netc.org), a state- and federally-funded technology education network, posits that technology use in the kindergarten year can be an exceptionally motivating factor -- encouraging diversity in lesson delivery and allowing students to share their knowledge. The NETC recommends a blend of short lessons and project-based learning.
The digital kindergarten environment
Online kindergarten models vary widely from home to home, but the skills that are introduced are typically set by the state. Basic kindergarten skills cover the spectrum of observation, reporting, recall and recitation in order to prepare five- and six-year-olds for entry into first grade. To learn these skills online kindergartens include lessons that cover reading, language, mathematics, problem solving and manipulatives. The skills lessons are commonly disguised in fun, interactive activities that turn learning into an exercise in creativity and enjoyment.
Online kindergarten curriculum
HighScope Educational Research Foundation, an independent nonprofit research, development, training and public outreach organization, has pioneered one of the cornerstone kindergarten programs used in countries across the world. The program is highly-interactive and demanding of student and leader efforts. Adjusted for the digital format, the HighScope model might look like the following:
- Active learning approach. Learning experiences mean children are actively involved and "learn by doing."
- Child assessment. Parents document children's progress via anecdotal notes, portfolios of work samples and other documentation.
- Daily schedule. Each day follows a consistent and carefully planned schedule, balancing parent-planned and child-planned activities.
- Instructional activities. Parents plan digital and physical activities that focus on concepts and skills in each subject area.
- Parent-child interaction. Parents create a positive social climate in which expectations and limits are clear.
- Plan-do-review. Children are involved in planning, executing and then reflecting on an activity of their own choosing.
The role of the parent in online kindergarten
The value of parent involvement in early learning simply cannot be understated. Because the very nature of five- and six-year-olds is to mimic what they experience, parents play a pivotal role as supervisors, leaders and teachers for their kindergarteners. Web-based science, research and technology news service PhysOrg.com cites a Penn State research intervention designed to improve parent support for child learning at home. Given a laptop computer containing applications and educational games that build vocabulary and reading skills, parents were encouraged to build skills into the child's daily life -- a process resulting in gains in child oral language skills, emergent literacy skills and adaptive approaches to learning.
How kindergarten e-learning extends from mind to body -- and beyond
A final word on the appropriateness of an online kindergarten education concerns the physical and spatial skills that such a program can deliver. For example, San Diego, California-based EducationWorld (educationworld.com) features the experiences of Hickory Ridge Elementary technology facilitator and infusion lab specialist Susan Brooks. Brooks, co-founder of Internet4classrooms, a free online resource for K-12 teachers, encourages the use of computer-based lessons to teach cursor control, basic typing and mouse maneuvering. These activities, cleverly disguised within games and other pleasurable experiences, form the basis of the more advanced technological functions students will be expected to perform in later grades.
This fusion of knowledge, motivation and physical benefits establishes a convincing argument for online kindergarten programs. Parents considering this contemporary learning model may be pleased to discover that advantages of incorporating technology at such an early age can establish a solid foundation for success.