What every parent should know about digital learning.

There’s been a lot of talk of iPads being used in the classroom recently, but do you know what smart technology really means for your child’s education? Many parents are in the dark when it comes to the details of digital learning. E-learning specialist Kirsty Chadwick explains what every South African parent should know.

What’s in a name?

Many parents have a vague idea of what the terms “e-learning” and “digital learning” mean, but would be hard pressed to define them if they had to. As it turns out, they’re essentially the same thing. E-learning takes the kind of information you’d normally find in a textbook and makes it digital (so that it can be uploaded to a computer or smart device), adding games, animations and other multimedia to make learning more immersive and entertaining.

How is e-learning used in class?

A common misconception is that e-learning is designed to replace teachers. It isn’t. Rather, it’s designed to add to the learning experience by allowing students to take a more active role in it. Children use e-learning to do research, to download learning material their teachers have put together, to download digital text books, to take tests and do quizzes, to access reference material, and to do a host of other things that add to the classroom experience.

Does my child need e-learning to succeed?

E-learning does not guarantee a good education; good teaching does. iPads and other tablet computers are very expensive devices that the majority of South African parents can’t afford. For this reason, even though they’re very useful learning tools, they’re only used in a very small minority of South African schools. Your child can be just as successful at school and, later on at university or in their jobs, as a child who was taught with the help of technology, tablet computer or not.

I’m concerned that my child will be left behind…

If you’re concerned that your child whose school doesn’t offer e-learning will be left behind their peers whose schools do, let your child grow up with technology at home. If you have a tablet computer, laptop or a phone with a touch screen, let your child use it (under supervision). Download simple games your child can play from a young age. As your children get older, let them play more advanced games and eventually show them how to surf the web. Make surfing the web, playing word games and solving maths puzzles online or on a computer a regular part of doing homework – but always stay close by if children are on the web to make sure they stay safe.

Kirsty Chadwick is a trained secondary school teacher as well as the founder and director of e-learning design and development company The Training Room Online.

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