Can younger kids succeed with distance learning?

Cover Image

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) Governor Cuomo's announcement schools can reopen in the fall won't mean students will return full time. Many districts are planning on a hybrid of in-person and distance learning.

Can kindergarteners and younger students do well?

"Absolutely, they can," says Dr. Wendy Patterson of SUNY Buffalo State. "It depends on the quality of the adults in their lives and how much attention they can be given. Certainly, the schools are doing a yeoman's job making sure teachers stayed in contact with younger ones, particularly," she says. "I think it also kind of depends on the kind of supervision and encouragement and guidance they will get at home."

Patterson says some think online learning is just about delivering content, but students must be able to engage and respond to teachers' prompts. "Children like some of the more game-like environments, and we have come a long way in our ability to deliver core mathematics and literacy, as well as lessons on life."

Patterson says kids won't stop learning. "Their development, curiousity, and need to engage with learning will continue, particularly in this traumatic environment, so we have to remember to deal with the whole child," says Patterson. 

UB's Dr. Claire Crawford agrees parents can make the situation easier for younger kids. "Young children deal with new situations as they see those around them dealing with the situation. So, if families can present this as something new, something new for everyone to learn from it, they'll do better," explains Crawford.

Crawford cites the work of one of her students, Krystal Starke. "She works at UB's Early Childhood Research Center, and this spring, she ran distance learning for 3,4, and 5 year olds, so it's definitely possible," but Crawford notes there are other factors like digital access.