This blog article originally appeared here on the Act of Wellness blog.
While the uncertainties of public and private education will undoubtedly continue into the fall and beyond, one thing is for sure: online enrichment classes and activities will remain an option for many throughout the next year.
If it now suddenly seems that everyone is teaching online, it is because it’s true. Parents who were once limited to signing up for enrichment classes within driving distance now suddenly have thousands of classes to choose from in all 50 states. If you have searched for an online enrichment class for your child recently, you’ll notice that the search results on any parent website have extended either nationally or internationally to highlight the expansive options.
With so many opportunities, there are a few key things to consider and three imperative things to look for in the coming months. Online teaching isn’t new anymore and as we head into the 5th month of the pandemic, there are three key considerations of what to expect from experienced programs at this point.
In a time where isolation and remote activities are going on far longer than any of us hoped, it’s no secret that it’s hard to be as active as we would be if we could do classes in person. Therefore, it’s important that any online class has a physical component. Last year, yoga got some good press for being widely utilized as a successful alternative to detention in schools. In fact, even before COVID-19, it was widely known that sedentary classroom setups were negatively affecting learning and working environments. We weren’t developing standing desks, bouncing chairs, and encouraging walks on lunch breaks just for the fun of it. Teachers who coach students through physical exercises and mindfulness techniques when their classroom learning is otherwise sedentary have more engaged, interactive students. Especially if the class is an academic topic that isn’t innately physically active, find out if the instructor incorporates a stretch break, some mindfulness, or anything physical.
The most experienced online teachers know that eye care is a big part of online teaching. Look for teachers who subtly work eye care into class for their students. At Kidstock! Creative Theater, instructor Mara Stewart has been leading her students of all ages through facial stretches. “I ask them to squint their eyes shut tightly, look up, look down, and right to left. These exercises are traditionally part of classical physical acting warm ups but they are even more necessary now for students who are spending hours online.” Stewart and her colleagues remind students to look other places during class besides the screen, often encouraging them to use the “whole room,” switch positions, or blink. All of these techniques are supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics as guidelines of what adults can do to help support the eye health of children.
The Device Gap
There is a huge gap between devices with platforms like Zoom. What one person sees on their Ipad can look entirely different on a Chromebook and even more so different on a laptop. While it’s important to know your own device, or your child’s device before heading into a Zoom class, teaching teams who are not aware of the device gap are significantly challenged. Before signing up for an online class, check to see if the teachers have any online policies or explanations of resources. If they do, they’ve likely thought ahead and been through this before. If not, you might be in for a rough first class with a dozen other families who are not prepared. Think of the literature that the teachers give out beforehand similar to the syllabus or the supply list that you might get before an in person class. It’s the sign of a well prepared, functional team and equates a group of families who have access to the info they need to start learning. Without this preparation, part of the first class may feel more like a frustrating group Zoom tutorial and this many months into the pandemic, that’s likely not the lesson you signed up for.