If there’s one issue that parents, educators, and administrators all agree on, it’s that kindergarten is the foundation for a lifetime of success. To this end, getting children ready for kindergarten between the ages of three years and five years has become a primary focus for educators. But do educators currently have all the tools they need to prepare our next generation of learners for a successful entry into kindergarten?
Increasingly, technology tools and resources are used in primary, secondary, and higher education. Now through a blended learning approach, which combines online tools, classroom materials, and the insight and nurture of an early childhood educator, online learning programs for kindergarten readiness are beginning to gain traction within school districts. From early exposure to engaging, interactive technology across multiple subjects, to close monitoring of student progress to inform the need to reinforce or extend concepts, there are many benefits to incorporating online learning into the pre-K classroom.
A Multidisciplinary Approach
Just as in K-12 education, pre-K curriculum options should include language arts, math, science, social studies, art, and music. A well-designed online learning program will mix fun, age-appropriate online activities with a variety of hands-on classroom materials and manipulatives. Further, an online program can provide strategies to support the needs of English Language Learners.
Flexible Delivery Options
The most common objection to online learning—especially for younger children—is rooted in the fear that the role of the educator will be diminished and that children will be left staring at screens for the duration of the school day. A good online learning system integrates technology—through tablets, computers, or interactive whiteboards—into classroom instruction and uses it strategically in circle time, in creative learning with manipulatives, and during music, art, and other activities that take place during limited times throughout the day. Online learning can also be used to complement other programs already in use in a pre-K classroom.
Assessment and Evaluation
Although the formal grading is definitely not part of a pre-K learning environment, the ability to assess students against key learning benchmarks is an important tool for educators. Through the use of online learning modules, teachers should be able to monitor individual and classroom progress. This enables teachers to not only tailor lesson content to extend students or reinforce in areas of need, but also to identify potential learning disabilities and remediate with early intervention strategies.
So, what should educators look for when evaluating online learning courses and technologies for kindergarten readiness? There are four criteria that provide some strong guidelines for educators evaluating pre-K online learning programs:
- A pre-K online learning program needs to be based on recent research conducted by respected organizations such as the National Research Council, the American Psychological Association, the National Reading Panel, and the American Education Research Association.
- The program must be aligned with national and state standards based on core concepts of early childhood education.
- Look for inclusion of Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) guidelines from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
- The program should employ technology as a tool to enhance and support the role of the teacher.
While there are many changes in the 21st Century classroom—from the makeup of the student body to the inclusion of technology in the classroom—the teacher remains at the heart of the classroom learning experience for all students. Where online learning can make a significant contribution to the educational environment is in extending the reach of the teacher to support students more fully through tailored curriculum and improved observation, assessment, and evaluation.