As technology becomes more and more pervasive in the educational setting, and teachers embrace it in the classroom by way of blended teaching, it becomes more difficult—and also increasingly more important—for parents to understand the tools available to help their children excel while participating in other activities they want to pursue.
Valerie Hartford has spent years volunteering at her two sons’ schools. Some time ago her younger son changed schools and had a lengthy commute to his new school. He is a very involved soccer player and has limited time at night, so it was quite a challenge to find the time to study for tests during the school week.
One morning he was panicking about an upcoming test, and Valerie realized she could help him by recording his outlined notes onto his cellphone. That way, he could listen to the notes instead of music when he was on the bus, getting ready for school or anywhere else.
The strategy worked—his grades improved—and Valerie thought about promoting this idea to other students. But she decided she needed a better solution to help them navigate their notes. If they needed to listen to a certain section, for example, they should be able to rewind or fast-forward to the beginning of a section instead of having to listen to the notes from the beginning again.
They should be able to pick up where they left off, and change the speed of speech, if necessary. She found a software engineer who helped bring her vision to reality via OutlinesOutloud, an iPhone app now available in the App Store.
Below are her recommendations for other technologies, educationally speaking, that parents should be aware of. Please note Valerie is detailing the technology her son currently uses; there are additional options available for younger and older age groups.
Quizlet.com – This is an app that lets you create flashcards. I really like it because of two particular features my son uses: audio and tests. Your student can listen to the content on their phone. This also means they get to absorb the information three different ways: reading, typing and listening.
The other feature that is very useful is the ‘test’ feature. Quizlet will prepare a quick test on the content of their ‘set’ of flashcards. It can create more than one test so they can re-test until they get everything right. They can share the set with their friends and now some teachers are creating sets online for their students to study.
Khan Academy.org – This is a website that offers video tutorials on a wide range of topics. My son first used it for math. He didn’t fully understand a concept his teacher had taught that day in class, and so went on the Khan Academy website to watch a tutorial. He was able to go through the math problem step by step, and replay it if he missed something.
This site is another way of reinforcing what he learned and making sure that he was comfortable with the information. I would really recommend this as a way for your student to review concepts they learn in class.
TeacherVision.com and EdHelper.com – These are sites that offer resources to teachers, but non-educational-professionals can access as well. As parents, we can use these sites to print off work sheets and answer keys so our students can practice in preparation for tests.
Questions covering a variety of subjects are available. You can also create your own worksheets—and puzzles (for younger grades)—or design lessons if you are volunteering in school, as well as downloading resources for class projects. Both websites will add variety to the information needed to review.
Textbooks: By now, most publishers have supplemental practice exercises and review tutorials on their websites. I strongly recommend students use these as they reinforce what their teachers have taught in the classroom. The practice tests on the websites are interactive, so students know immediately if they got any questions wrong and can take the tests again until they get every question correct.
OutlinesOutloud – This is a study tool that allows students to study anywhere without having to haul their textbooks or laptop with them. With OOL, they can study while they’re walking, commuting, waiting in between classes, involved in after school activities, or even just getting ready for school in the morning—in short, they can make more efficient use of their time, which gives them more free time later.
If they are auditory learners, it provides the opportunity to study in the way most effective for their particular learning style. If they are visual learners, it adds to the quality of their study by providing the opportunity for absorbing the information via another sensory channel. With increasing numbers of school districts making iPads available ,students can type and save their class notes straight to their devices (if the teacher permits that in class time), so the notes are ready to listen to right away. It’s a really convenient and easy way to study anywhere.
Valerie Hartford is a mom, founder of StudyOutloud and creator of OutlinesOutoud.
Valerie’s BIO: Valerie Hartford is an innovative mom who gets things done. She’s an advocate for broadening children’s opportunities through education and believes a child’s education is their passport to a more fulfilled life, which, not only allows them to make a positive contribution to society, but hopefully continues through to their next generations.
Valerie’s mission keeps her busy in California with her children, and internationally helping to provide children with a better life. Before leaving her native Ireland, Valerie was with the Investment Bank of Ireland, Dublin. She continues her interest in business as an entrepreneur.