Guest post by Dhonam Pemba @dhonampemba
The past almost two years of the pandemic have not been easy for anyone. Millions of parents are home from work, with schools and pre-schools shut down. As the world shifts to an entirely online and remote environment, the youngest of our population can easily be overlooked when it comes to their early education needs.
Young children are struggling with learning on platforms not designed to meet their specific brain development demands when immersed in an entirely new learning environment. And although we have the technology, the transition from in-class to remote learning has not always been smooth.
Pre-K Unique Needs
Young children learn best through interaction and play. While this can and should be implemented with digital learning, one-dimensional screen experiences are not enough to stimulate early brain development properly.
When I saw my young nieces glued to their iPads, playing games that were educational but not hands-on, I knew there had to be a way to bridge online remote learning with hands-on play. With a Ph.D. in Neural Engineering and the creator of award-winning children’s educational apps, I felt uniquely suited to create something that would help young children learn in the digital age. With my team of educators, parents, and childhood development experts, I knew that we’d come up with a solution together.
Many parents have heard of Montessori education, a method where children learn through self-directed activity, hands-on learning, and collaborative play: a proven recipe for early childhood learning success that is extremely popular. But nothing on the market combines the unique Montessori method with hands-on remote learning for young children.
The Importance of Play
As I watch my three to five-year-old happily playing at home, I often need to remind myself how much they’re learning simply by having fun. The typical movement in play aid in muscle development, and children learn concrete skills from activities. For example, a child pretending to be their favorite superhero teaches kids to empathize with others and imagine the emotions of the people they’re pretending to be.
Furthermore, actual physical interactions with objects teach young kids about the world around them. Games without physical movement and interaction may help older kids, teenagers, and adults to learn, but it puts pre-K kids at a severe disadvantage.
Kids spend a lot of time on technology. And thanks to the pandemic, almost everything has shifted to a screen.
Pandemic or no pandemic, using a screen in a school setting is here to stay. This can be seen in the plethora of online learning apps on the market today, from STEM to language learning to homework help. Their scope and popularity are only growing.
It’s estimated that education systems in the future will be a hybrid approach between AI digital learning and traditional classroom instruction. The benefit of using these advanced technologies in the classroom and remotely means that education is becoming scalable and personalized to individual learning: something that cannot be achieved in a traditional education system.
Early Education and Remote Learning
Unfortunately, the lack of physical objects in remote learning has been especially challenging on young children’s brain development. The one-dimensional approach of zoom and educational apps may hold kids’ attention in the moment, but nothing they see sticks with them.
It’s estimated that pre-K children have lost months of learning experiences the past year due to many school districts scrambling to find suitable substitutes for in-person learning. Early brain development is such a critical time in education that even a worldwide pandemic shouldn’t impede our young children’s remote learning experience – even if they can’t play with a wide range of people like they used to.
Creating an infrastructure that combines remote learning with pre-K kids’ unique hands-on learning needs is paramount for our children’s future success. My particular interest is bridging young children’s early educational needs with modern apps for remote learning uniquely suited to a young child’s brain development.
We have to combine the personalized, remote, and evidence-based AI software with actual hardware that children can play and interact with. Distant learning is here to stay, but that doesn’t mean that early education should be entirely screen-based. My utmost priority is developing an instructional system that incorporates hands-on learning and Montessori method play while using scalable digital content. And, when children do use the screen, the app should closely mimic the real-world experience to uniquely tailor to their brain developmental level.
Only when we’re able to tap into the unique abilities of the young brain will our pre-K children receive an excellent education in a remote learning environment.
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