Anika Brain: "New trend – power of distance learning"

Social distancing has sent a message to many parents: children can be taught differently – now we have a choice! But at the same moment, there are lots of questions appeared:

· How do I understand which format of education is suitable for my child: online, offline, family?
· How to choose a school/kindergarten?
· Should the ratings be taken into account?
· What do parents, children, and teachers expect from school?

We have talked to Anna and tried to get answers on the most pressing questions.
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To begin with, Anna, please, tell us a bit about your personal experience concerning social distancing and education. What have you taken useful and valuable from distant learning?

Anna: Hello from sunny Israel everyone, nice to meet all of you today! My name is Anika Brain, I'm a mom of two, Bilingval online English school for kids co-founder, polyglot speaking 7 languages, and a lifetime learner!

I've been launching and testing innovative language learning technologies for the last 14 years, but the last one was eye opening for me as an educator and EdTech professional also as a parent!

My initial thought was: Oh my God! Will it work at the state level?

I've pleasantly surprised how myself and other teachers I know have been able to adapt to these seemingly difficult situations.

I could imagine the power of distance learning as I did so many distance courses and created them but now, I realized that we all could really start learning from the best teachers in the world reaching for all corners of the world rather than concentrate your audience in just one room.

You can use the forms and style that personally suit us choosing from thousands of education institutions and private educators as well. The same with the kids. We can easily start to collect our own learning puzzles wherever we live. That's amazing!

Overall, I still like face to face forms, they are more personalized but the whole world has had to adapt to this pandemic. These are the main adventures and I hope everyone today would be able to share his experience.
How do we solve the motivation problem in online learning, where less than 10% of people make it to the end?

To be honest, I could talk hours and hours about that, because motivation is the foundation of our educational strategy.

My experience gave me the answer: start from observation, getting to know the student, answering the easiest and hardest questions at the same time - who are you? What are your interests in life? your fears and faiths, what are you advantages and disadvantages, where you can be the best? How do you learn faster? What are your aims and goals for this course or training? Do you really have enough resources to proceed your goals?

When you make this analysis you release the energy of the student, you unpack and support the natural learning and discovering interest. Then you can use it!

My 8 years son has a slight form of ADHD so how could he study with the normal kids? Would it be effective for him? No. Knowing him well, understanding him and accepting him as he is let me build his personal education path.

He studies coding, he does surfing and swimming, he learns English and Math inside his favourite games Minecraft and Roblox with private tutors.

I'd love to thank our israeli public school for understanding, they do not push and punish my son with his bad results in hebrew, writing and reading. They understand it's hard for him. Israliens respect personal limits and feelings, they aim to build confidence and feeling safe for students, that's terrifically important for learning and for motivation.
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How do I understand which educational formats are suitable for both the child and the whole family?

It depends on the country I guess. I could share my experience in Israel, I've been living here only for 1 year but I can see the huge difference between Israel and Russia in that question. Especially in primary school.

Both family and school are focused to raise healthy, psychologically stable personality and a social member than acquiring academic knowledge

Up to 6 grade most of the school hours are dedicated to emotions, friendship, society, cooperation and learning how to learn. As a Russian parent when I looked up at the 2-grade school books I understood that my kids were able to learn it for 2 weeks, but the concepts they learn in the school are much more complex and important. The same concepts the kids learn at home, typical non-religious family in Israel is focused on family values, they spend a lot of time together in trekkings, walking, picnics, traveling together, visiting friends much more than on some additional classes after school or on weekends. Parents give lots of informal education to their children.

If you ask me as a parent, especially after the pandemic I would tell you - no, I'm not too concerned about my kids' diplomas. I'm more than concerned about the skills and knowledge they get, their psychological state, their development environment and the projects that they are able to execute in their life. But I would be a liar if I say I'm not interested in them becoming Stanford students, of course I am but not because of the diploma but because of the people, the network and innovative basis for their future careers and life.

I'd love to thank our israeli school that gave us the freedom to miss most of the zoom sessions in Hebrew during lockdowns (that my son still cannot understand because we've just come to the country) and dedicate that time to the subjects he understands and likes, such as coding, logic and English.

I suppose the answer for these questions changes while the child is growing. And by the ages 5-7 the children just don't know and don't understand themselves well enough, they don't realise the opportunities of the world. At the early learning stage we need to take more responsibility for the educational choices for them, but as soon as the personality strengthens we need to start giving the freedom, being just a support and mentors. My son at 8 years can clearly say which teacher is boring and unprofessional and which one is great, passionate and inspirational for him. I give him the right to decide.

My personal receipt is: Observation. Research. Self-confidence

Our prognostic abilities are extremely weak, we all saw it last year. We don't know 100% what to teach to our kids, and we don't 100% know how. So the only way we could act is to keep researching and observing ourselves, our children, the changing world, to be flexible, keep learning what we love and just see what puzzle could assemble from it.
Who is responsible for choosing the educational path: parents or child? Who to lean on when choosing, according to what criteria to choose an educational institution?

I believe that the answer to this question changes as the child grows up. Of course, when a child is 5-7 or 9 years old, he has not seen much in his lifetime and simply does not know much about himself and does not know which opportunities exist, so the responsibility mostly lies with the parents. Although I must tell you that my 8-year-old son has a strong character and clearly knows how to separate the grain from the chaff. He informs me that he will not go to these or other classes, because he is not satisfied with the format or the teacher, and he can clearly argue his position, I expect that by the age of 12, my influence on his learning trajectory will tend to 0. Therefore, my main task now is to be an authority for him and build trusting relationships so that he can rely on me in his movement.

Has the family become the main platform for education and upbringing?

The family has been the main platform for the education and upbringing of children, to more or less to extent from country to country.

In Israel, the school takes the child for half a day, the rest of the time he spends with his parents. But there is another nuance, the primary Israeli school is aimed at forming the personal qualities of the child, his/her introduction into society.

Most of the time of the lessons is devoted to analyzing the emotions of children, issues of friendship and interaction, teamwork, analyzing situations and discussing the structure of the surrounding world, the country and society as a whole, and academic knowledge is given a secondary place until the 6th grade.

At the same time, traditionally, families spend a lot of time with each other during weekends and on holidays, walking, trekking, socializing with friends and relatives, it is not customary to keep elementary school children busy from morning to night. This is a big difference from Russia.

And the last question, is there a real choice of educational trajectory? Track "garden, school, university" - is it possible to go out of the way and where?

Israel is inflexible in terms of the general outline - 1 year of compulsory kindergarten before school + school – this is a legal obligation of parents towards their children, but it is more flexible in terms of higher education and individual trajectories. Not everyone aspires to higher education, as there are jobs for high school graduates who are not considered shameful and are well paid, and there are programs for "not like everyone else", which are becoming more and more every year.

Here, both children of genius, and middle-class and two-year-olds feel good, and what is most interesting-children with developmental disabilities. There is serious state support for the inclusion of children with autism, Down syndrome, and ADHD - they live like ordinary people and have their own learning paths with mentors, supervisors, and special workers.

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