Due to the pandemic, students worldwide were forced to study entirely online. The lucky ones were living in places where schools we are able to reopen for in-school classes after a brief stop however, many others to this day still have only a computer as their classroom. Online learning is nothing new, however we must take a seriously look at the plus and minuses to these systems of learning.
Who best benefits from this type of learning?
Online learning originated as 'distance learning' and was an added option for those who lived far way from the actual school they wanted to take classes at, perhaps even in a foreign country. Additionally, this mainly was for much older students of university or even graduate school level. Another reason was to create educational opportunities for those adults who worked a fulltime job during the day but wanted to continue their education in the evenings. Thus a flexible system was needed. In short, it was suitable for adults. Adults have already matured enough that they can be responsible to manage their own study schedule, have basic computer skills, and have already learned and (hopefully) mastered basic social interaction.
The covid-19 restrictions and subsequent school shutdowns have now forced a whole new type of student into the world of online learning - unfortunately without much consideration or choice for that matter to the students' needs or type. From college all the way down to our own kindergarten students - the schools were shut down and all students were compelled to learn solely online. This created a whole new frontier as staff, teachers, students, and parents all had to learn and accept a new way of life that included a new way of studying and being a student. Of course, this was all done and is still being done under the intent of promoting the overall safety from the virus. However, as we now know, many other social ills including both mental and physical health issues have risen out of the lockdowns and school shutdowns for students worldwide (but that is an entirely separate world for discussion).
What's to be done?
How can we as a kindergarten provide what our students really need? Kindergarten aged children need not just the academics - in which many, including our own online learning program can provide - but kids of this age group need much more as part of their basic education. They need daily physical exercise of both fine and gross motor skills. They should be outdoors with the sun shinning down on them (shout out to natural vitamin D). They should be on the playground running, climbing, and exploring. They should be getting their hands dirty and messy in our garden, in our sandbox, and in our river. They should be molding clay in their hands, touching seashells in the art room, and feeling the texture of the feathers of a bird in science class.
Most of all, children should be with their classmates and teachers - interacting daily. Learning how to communicate verbally and non-verbally to one's peers and to those in authority. These 'social skills' are the real skills kids of this age need to explore and experiment with. How to play with others? How to share the only pink horse in the class when everyone wants it for themselves? How to build a house of blocks together as a group? Why can't I just take the red crayon from her hand if I want it? What happens if I do? These are situations in the students development in which online learning cannot handle nor consider. Yet I'll argue that these are the ones that are the most important for this age group. This is what's missing. Let's get all the kids back to safely school as soon possible so that we can continue their development.