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5 Ways To Integrate Technology Into Your Child’s Education

Children Computer ImageJeff Galinovsky is regional manager for Intel’s classmate PC in North America where he focuses on expanding education products as well as building an education ecosystem. You can follow him on Twitter at @ClassmatePCDude.

Most of us didn’t have today’s technology options when we were in school, so while parents realize technology has become an integral part of their child’s education, they’re sometimes finding it difficult to incorporate it into the learning process.

It’s much more than choosing the right hardware (desktop, iPad, netbook, etc.). Parents need to consider several other factors: Appropriate software, interactive e-reading programs, how to educate children about online safety when exploring social media, and how to integrate technology into the current curriculum.

However, technology is important in today’s world and taking a comprehensive approach to technology education will ensure that children thrive in the modern education system and in the jobs of the future. Here are five tips for streamlining the process.

1. Get the Wiggles Out

zoo imageTake learning out of and beyond the classroom. Children learn in a multimodal manner -– they want to be able to touch and hear and see things up close. Netbooks or laptops that feature tools like a camera, writing stylus and audio recording capabilities help to encourage a multimodal approach to learning. The more learning modes (auditory, visual, and experiential) that are exercised, the more likely the material they are learning is likely to stay with them long-term.

Use tools and devices that help kids feel comfortable in their spaces and get them up and moving around when it’s appropriate. This can keep kids focus while making the lessons more interesting and exciting. For example, in a field trip to the Central Park Zoo in New York, a group of fifth graders measured the temperature and humidity in the Tropical Zone, drew penguins and built robots — all using tools and software integrated and available on their convertible tablet netbooks.

2. Make Topics Real and Applicable

Rote memorization is not always the best approach for teaching kids. It’s important to demonstrate how subjects like math and science are important and exciting outside of the classroom and in the real world. Having access to real-world examples can help bring tough subjects to life in new ways. Learning math is more fun and easier when fractions are part of a cooking recipe, for example.

In my daughter’s fifth grade science class, she developed an experiment to determine if she could generate electricity with a soda and Mentos reaction, using a convertible netbook and equipment from Pasco to test her hypothesis. She only became that excited about science once she got hands-on and explored things that were interesting to her. She told me at the end of last year that she really loved science. You don’t often hear that from tween girls these days, do you?

3. Give Kids a Sense of Ownership

red imageTechnology opens up opportunities for kids to really take ownership of their own educations and to be a part of the process. With 1:1 learning devices, learning becomes about students and their needs. This can mean more engaged learners with pride in their work and what they are learning about. According to a recent study by Project RED on the key technology factors for student achievement, a strong student/computer ratio is tied to improved test scores and graduation rates. Kids like to move around, so if you’re worried about the device taking a beating, look for netbooks or laptops that are rugged and offer some waterproof resistance.

4. Facilitate Self-Paced Learning

book imageEveryone learns at a different pace, and in a different way. Some kids do well when given a task and a deadline and then set free; others need more guidance and time. Technology allows parents and teachers to provide the right amount of discipline for each student individually, and to supplement where necessary. It also allows students to learn at their own pace, which can help keep them interested and excited about the material.

One example is McGraw-Hill’s LEAD21 reading program, which offers a personalized and interactive experience for various reading levels. It can adjust vocabulary, concepts, word counts, font size and spacing for different grade and age levels.

5. Create a Safe Environment to Explore

When left on their own, kids can independently explore, discover, and make learning more exciting for themselves. However, just as you want to make sure your children are safe playing in the neighborhood, you need to teach them about Internet safety. It’s important to warn about predators, inappropriate material and mature content, but hovering over them to ensure they are safe will only stifle them.

Look for built-in safety tools in computers that allow parents to ensure that kids access approved sites and content. Parents can choose when, where and what they want their children to access. According to a recent survey on kids and Internet safety, 68% of teens have at some point accepted Facebook friend requests from people they don’t know, opening the door to sharing personal information — like where they live — with strangers.

My 11-year-old daughter started a Twitter account unbeknownst to me. I am not ready for my 11-year-old to be plugged into the social web. When I found out that she had an account, I logged into her netbook and started using a monitoring software product. I could confirm that she did start a Twitter account and was sending messages to someone she thought was Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers.

This tool allowed me to validate the problem and to have a web safety conversation with my daughter. The software allows her to have freedom, and me to have peace of mind. We have been able to discuss what is good and real on the net and what is not.

What are your tips to integrating tech and education? How do you balance freedom and supervision? Let us know in the comments below.

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