It can be difficult to motivate a child to learn, especially when classrooms are full of students and individualized needs are often overlooked. Curriculum can become so stale and hard to understand that children disengage completely.

Computer time, on the other hand, is often eagerly anticipated by children. On a computer the possibilities are endless. Nowadays, kids recognize that they can do almost anything using technology and, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be a waste of time. Technology, when moderated, can be used as an aid for learning. Here are some useful learning tools that are often overlooked by wary parents.

In Arthur’s Preschool, children are guided by a beloved character through fun activities that teach counting, spelling and music.

Computer Games

Computer games – or, “educational software for children” – have turned fun activities into opportunities for learning. There are games that can help your child with reading, spelling, math, or science. They range in ages from toddler to tweens, and feature childhood favourites like Arthur, Reader Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh. By playing the game Arthur’s Preschool, young children can learn about vocabulary, simple arithmetic, matching and sorting, and shapes and colours.

You can purchase these computer games, which have been updated for modern computers, through Software for Kids (http://www.softwareforkids.com/).

File Sharing Sites

A key aspect of learning is access to materials. The internet has been around long enough to have acquired a simple, easily accessible method of sharing resources from around the world. Sites that allow you to upload and download files ensures that videos, books, software, presentations, and every digitized file can be viewed by using only a computer and an internet connection.

Slideshare (http://www.slideshare.net/) allows people to upload a presentation and share it online. Your child can access the website, and then browse through eye-catching readings that focus more on visuals than text. The topics range from resumes to social media and nearly everything in between.

With the ReadingPen 2, your child can continue reading bedtime stories during the day.

Reading Pens

One of the most useful tools in allowing a child to discover independent reading is a reading pen. When your kid comes across a word that stumps him, he can press the pen to the word and it will scan, providing the pronunciation and definition. This tool is useful for small children, someone whose trying to learn a new language, or anyone with a reading difficulty.

The ReadingPen 2, a “Portable scanning translator to improve reading fluency and comprehension,” is provided by WizcomTech (http://www.wizcomtech.com).

Storybook Weaver makes storytelling a fun activity, either independently or for the whole family.

Creative Multimedia Outlets

Communication is a lot more interesting in the 21st century. Our wide range of digital media that is available to children promotes self-expression and story-telling abilities. Whether your kid is making a movie with Movie Maker, iMovie or Videospin, creating an image in Kid Pix, or writing a story in Storybook Weaver, they will be much more motivated to share their thoughts and feelings when they have a medium that supports their creative vision.

Garageband, for Mac users, allows you to create audio tracks with ease. You can mix samples, upload your own recordings, and all using a simple drag ‘n drop method. If you want to encourage your child to learn about music and express their creativity, this tool will motivate them to do so. You can purchase Garageband from the Apple store. If you are looking for a Windows alternative, try Jokosher, LMMS, or Audacity.

Website Builders

In this age, creating a personal website can be more fun for a child than watching television. Luckily, with online website builders, anyone with a basic understanding of computers can do this – and it doesn’t have to look terrible (or damage their reputation later on). Having a web address allows you to monitor what your child is putting online. It’s a great way to learn more about them, without asking them a million questions – something particularly useful for the teenage years.

Wix (http://www.wix.com/) is a free, online website builder that allows you to create a flash or html site simply by dragging and dropping elements onto the page and customizing it however you see fit. There are templates to choose from, but you can also start from scratch. Alternatives include Tumblr (http://www.tumblr.com) and WordPress (http://wordpress.com/).

TED Talks aim to spread ideas and encourage the development of new ones.

Ted Talks

TED (http://www.ted.com/), standing for “Technology, Education, Design,” provides free, streaming (and downloadable) videos of experts sharing their wealth of knowledge. Their aim is to spread ideas. As they describe on their website, they “believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world.” These videos will expose your child to inspired perspectives and encourage them to ask questions, analyze and discuss what they see.

One of the many themes for TED Talks is “Women Reshaping the World.” They feature “big, bold ideas about women’s roles in the world.” These include “data-driven insights that upend traditionoal stereotypes,” that will encourage your child to have a healthy respect for women and the value they bring to the world.

Technology has gotten a bad rap because, while it can be used productively, it can also be used to waste time. Admittedly, most children can’t be trusted to use iPads and video games responsibly. This is where the parents’ role of monitoring their child’s computer use comes into play. With your help, your child can not only learn, but have fun doing so. 

I am Hamilton-born and raised, and proud of it. I have had a passion for writing since I was a small child, when my father and I would rewrite Stephen King novels as bedtime stories. I spent my awkward adolescence writing fan fiction about Conan O'Brien; I have since graduated on to writing stand up comedy, still about Conan O'Brien. In the fall, I will be going to McMaster University for Communication Studies, where I plan on applying my hopefully entertaining voice to every imaginable medium.

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