By Raising Children Network
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Two teens working on a laptop
Online educational tools, such as the internet and computer games – as well as technologies such as CDs and DVDs – can be used to develop literacy, numeracy and many other skills in children. Teachers now use online education, together with more traditional ways of teaching, to help your child learn.

What online education looks like

Online educational resources come in a wide variety of forms. At your child’s school, for example, students might be:

  • using ‘interactive whiteboards’ that give them access to the internet, and video conferencing tools that allow them to connect with students, teachers and experts in other locations
  • researching and presenting projects using software, multimedia (such as video and music files) and internet resources
  • learning more complex information, such as scientific terms, with the help of online testing 
  • building and contributing to class websites
  • brainstorming classroom projects with each other then getting feedback from the teacher in real-time chat rooms. Teachers are finding that these sessions help students focus on the subject and develop thinking and analytical skills
  • posting ideas, opinions and feelings on discussion boards
  • creating ‘wikis’
  • working at their own pace using educational websites such as Mathletics or Spellodrome, to improve their knowledge and specific skill sets
  • writing and uploading content to blogs, which can be a great form of creative self-expression
  • using netbooks, consoles, iPads, iPod touches and iPhones. For example, students might use an iPhone on a field trip to access a website, such as Biodiversity Snapshots, where they can look up and identify birds, animals or plants, record their observations and upload photographs.

Benefits of online education

Online education needs expert teacher assistance and well-trained teachers to be effective. It also requires fast internet access and good software to work properly. When it’s used well, online learning can help students to:

  • actively participate in their learning
  • develop critical thinking skills
  • use different learning styles
  • develop their questioning, thinking and problem-solving skills
  • improve their communication skills
  • work collaboratively
  • develop creative and presentation skills
  • develop a more global perspective on topics.
Online project-based learning is very effective, and research shows that students, teachers and parents enjoy it. Students can find material that suits their learning style, teachers are able to include flexibility, collaboration and creativity in their lessons, and parents can enjoy helping their child research and find resources online.

At home

There are lots of ways you can use online educational tools and learning techniques at home.

Some families enjoy setting up a combined Facebook or MySpace page, with everyone in the family contributing information and pictures.

Another option is a family wiki or blog to share interests and ideas. For example, your child could upload links to her favourite websites on the wiki or blog, and explain why she thinks others might enjoy them. She could also add an interactive photo album, a video she has made, or her own movie, music and TV reviews. All these activities encourage your child to write and express herself, as well as enabling her to develop useful technical skills. 

Building a family tree using online resources might stimulate your child and get your family members to try doing a fun activity together. This project is also educational as it requires reading, researching, design and analysis skills. There are websites such as Family Tree Builder that can help.

Blogging is something we do as a family. We discuss story ideas together, then we help Max and Alice with grammar and punctuation. The children enjoy it and it doesn’t really feel like homework, but it’s still building a lot of skills and education for them.

There are many online resources you can use to help your child improve his reading, writing and maths skills. These include:

  • Last updated or reviewed 23-12-2011
  • Acknowledgements Content developed in collaboration with Lee Burton, imMEDIAte issues.