Fighting ‘Zoom Fatigue’ with ‘Zoom Intrigue’: Keeping Kids Engaged in Online Learning
In a recent HuffPost article, writer Catherine Pearson says that her 5-year-old went from being excited about video calls to “basically hating it all.” In her story, Pearson offers tips for what parents can do when their kids are “over” video calls. “’Zoom fatigue’ (or whatever your preferred video call platform) is a real issue for both adults and kids, which is, of course, a problem,” Pearson writes. These past few months have shown that there are countless kids – and adults, for that matter – who are “over it” when it comes to video calls and online get-togethers. The novelty of the online experience has worn off, and many parents find themselves pleading with their kids to be actively involved with their online learning. Social, fun learning is key Parent Christie Garton of McLean, Virginia, says that has not been a problem at her house. In addition to her online school classes, her daughter, Georgia, participates in one online enrichment session each day, after school, and looks forward to it. “She’s an active child, and has taken Taekwondo, gymnastics and really loves the hip-hop dancing class, too,” says Garton. Garton believes her daughter has been engaged, in part, because her online enrichment sessions are social. Georgia gets to see other kids her age having a good time too, and she connects with them. Seeing their peers at a time when everyone is at home “gives kids a sense of normal,” Garton says. ‘Rock Star Instructors’ Another factor in Georgia’s online engagement has been the quality of the instructors in her online programs. “The instructors have been a huge part. They’re very engaging. They maintain class focus,” says Garton. Parents who report positive experiences with their kids’ online enrichment repeatedly cite the instructor as one reason why. Kendall Musgrave is the Environmental Education Supervisor at Stamford Museum & Nature Center in Stamford, Connecticut. Her online program, Zany Zoology, is one of dozens of enrichment sessions offered by Flex Academies, a national online enrichment provider. Musgrave credits the animals she introduces to kids as the “ambassadors” of her educational program. But she also says that it’s important for the online instructor to be flexible and prompt kids to interact. Musgrave says, “As they meet the animals, I encourage kids to engage with me. They can ask questions and even talk to the animals. In our turtle race, the kids were even cheering on their favorite turtle.” Although her session may not be in-person, the online platform does give Musgrave some advantages. For example, she can “virtually” guide young children around the 100-acre nature center, something that she couldn’t do if she were visiting a class. Musgrave says she’s not trying to replicate the classroom experience, but rather, use the online platform “to spark curiosity and interest” in innovative ways. “I try to meet kids where they are,” she says. Flex Academies CEO and Founder Joshua Chernikoff calls Musgrave one of the “rock star instructors” in his company’s network. Chernikoff recently appeared on news programs in the Washington, D.C. area, to talk about his tips for parents who are considering online enrichment for their kids, and the “rock star instructor” is one of them. “Instructors who are passionate about their subjects are excited about learning,” says Chernikoff. “That passion is contagious and makes learning fun, and really sparks a love of learning with kids. Kids explore areas of interest they never knew about, and they have the opportunity to learn from experts based around the world — something that wasn’t available just a few short months ago.” Chernikoff also talks about the positive feedback his company is getting with its online tutoring. He credits experienced “super tutors” who know how to work with students and keep them engaged in a remote learning setting. “We know that ‘Zoom Fatigue’ is real, but we replace it with ‘Zoom Intrigue,’” he says. ‘Don’t Overdo It’ Christie Garton says it’s important to keep the focus on fun, and not to “overdo it.” “Fatigue comes in if you try to do too much. We do one enrichment session a day in addition to school. It’s important to have a routine in place, and kids also need an outlet to have fun.” Musgrave agrees. She likes the way Flex Academies is set up, so that kids and parents can choose what programs to participate in each week. “It gives them a certain agency and allows them to participate where their interests are,” says Musgrave. “A program that has individuality and variety is the best model and allows kids to explore their interests.” It’s not the perfect scenario for learning, but at a time when in-person, on-site interaction is limited, the program you choose can make online enrichment learning something kids look forward to. “It’s all about having fun, seeing their peers, and learning something new,” says Garton.