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Five Tips to Protect Your Child’s Data Online (Part One – Children on Computers)

With most schools running either part- or full-time remote learning programs (or a combination of both), parents are advised to stay vigilant about doing everything they can to protect their child’s data online. At Sprig Learning, we take online security and privacy very seriously and go out of our way to ensure that parents, educators, caregivers, and communities are protected at all times while using our online apps, programs, and services.

In part one of this data privacy-focused series, we have put together a list of the top five tips that we suggest to help parents make home-based online learning safe and secure:

 

1.Change default passwords: School boards often provide default usernames and passwords; and it is essential that you change these passwords to something more secure right away. Pro tip: never use the same password twice and consider using a password manager.

2.Use secure passwords: At a minimum, create passwords that are at least 12 characters long. Be sure to include a combination of alphanumeric and special characters (ie. exclamation marks, stars, hashtags, etc.) and don’t ever share your passwords. Pro tip: password managers can generate random passwords for you!

3.Identify real time web risks – Make sure that you’re always using the latest anti-malware software to identify risks while on the Internet. Pro tip: There are many free versions that we recommend, including these offerings available from companies such as: Sophos, AV, and EVS.

4.Create user profiles for your child – Keep your main computer admin accounts separate from those your child uses by creating individual accounts for each member of the family. Malicious actors (also known as threat actors) will often use the main admin account/admin rights to install software on a computer without your knowledge. By creating separate accounts for each child with limited access to local user rights, you greatly reduce the ability for unauthorized software and trackers to be installed.

5.Update Software Regularly – Be sure to turn on automatic updates to ensure you’re always running the latest versions of all software that has been provided by the operating system and applications being used. This ensures that any security patches are quickly installed to greatly reduce your level of exposure to potential malware and viruses.

 

With these five tips in play for children using computers, you’re doing your part to keep your data safe and secure. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for Part Two when we will discuss security tips for families using mobile devices.

In the case you’d like to do more research into this topic, here are some helpful links to review. Please note: Sprig does not endorse or receive any monetary rewards for any of the software we recommend. We have first-hand experience using them and have found them to be useful in providing the additional layers of protection for our staff.

Passwords – Resources on how to create strong passwords/remembering them:

howtogeek.com/195430/how-to-create-a-strong-password-and-remember-it

cnet.com/how-to/9-rules-for-strong-passwords-how-to-create-and-remember-your-login-credentials

mentalfloss.com/article/504786/8-tips-make-your-passwords-strong-possible

 

Resources on Real Time Web Risks:

avira.com

avg.com/en-us/free-antivirus-download

avast.com/free-antivirus-download#mac (Mac, Android, and iOS)

 

Tips on creating user profiles:

support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4026923/windows-10-create-a-local-user-or-administrator-account
(For Windows Users)

support.apple.com/en-ca/guide/mac-help/mtusr001/mac (For Mac Users)

About the Author

Faud Khan, CTO, Sprig Learning

COVID Slide: How COVID-19 Affects Young Learners

COVID-19 brought the entire world to a standstill. Arguably, the education sector was the most impacted. School closures for nearly six months are having a profound impact on young learners.

According to UNESCO, approximately 1.5 billion children were affected by school closures across 195 countries due to COVID-19. While school closures were in the interest of children’s physical health, students are impacted differently depending on their ability to access consistent, support-based remote learning opportunities. It is estimated that this has widened existing gaps in learning needs for many marginalized students, when compared to their peers.

 

The ‘COVID Slide’

Researchers from across the world are using historical studies on summer learning loss to estimate the impact of academic achievement from school closures due to COVID-19. They have termed this the ‘COVID Slide’.

An analysis from Illuminate Education found coronavirus school closures have likely caused a COVID slide of two to four months of learning loss.  The gaps are expected to be less pronounced for students who have frequently interacted with teachers compared to those who did not. Specific to young learners, the research suggests students will have significant gaps in both reading and math skills, with reading loss of about two months across the K-2 grades, and greatest for kindergartners.

NWEA research suggests students will return to school in 2020 with roughly 70% of the academic progress in reading skills relative to a typical school year. The impact on math skills is expected to be worse as students are likely to return with less than 50% of the normal skills acquisition, causing students to be a full year behind from what we would observe in a typical year.

 

The impact on marginalized students

September is here. In North America, teachers are welcoming students back the way they  do: with open arms and nurturing hearts. Of course this year, their classrooms look different and there is a focus on physical distancing and other measures to keep children safe.

Over the spring and summer, students who thrived during the unplanned remote-learning environment will return to their classrooms along with their peers—many who struggled over the same period. Many students may have experienced difficulty with internet connections, accessing computers, finding support from their families, and in some cases, simply accessing adequate food and shelter.

The shift toward remote learning at home during the pandemic exposed long-standing inequities throughout our education system—highlighting divides between socioeconomic, geographic, and racial cohorts.

The wide variety of experiences at home over the past six-month period will be magnified in 2020, highlighting the existing academic gaps and diverse learning needs and abilities of students. Many students who find themselves behind their peers will need extra support from their teachers as well as their families at home.

 

What can schools and educators do?

This school year will bring a lot of exceptional challenges for educators. In a class full of 20 to 30 students with an increased gap in learning needs and abilities, it’s going to be more challenging than ever for teachers to support each and every student – especially those who require extra support.  Schools should look to immediately address the following:

 

Holistic Assessment:

Identify early and often the learning needs and abilities through the use of formative assessment in the classroom. Take the opportunity at the beginning of the school year, while students are in-class to conduct assessments:

  • Be mindful of direct and indirect cultural biases that arise from the existing assessment tools you may use in your classroom;
  • Look to adopt holistic assessment approaches (like Sprig Language) that take a more comprehensive approach to understanding learning beyond the classroom, and look to support learning in the home and community.

 

Personalized Learning:

Schools and school districts will need to support teachers with innovative tools that will support the delivery of personalized learning for each and every student. Going back to school will require more differentiation than ever before – we need to look at technologies to support this:

  • Use data gleaned from early assessments to help inform differentiated instruction to ensure individual learning gaps and needs are addressed immediately;
  • Our Sprig Learning Engine can help teachers to do this at scale to ensure no students are left behind.

 

Support Parents at Home

In the early years, parents are pivotal to a child’s educational success, and this has never been more true than it is today. Given the reliance of at-home learning leading up to this school year –  and increased dependence as the pandemic continues – schools and teachers need to dedicate time and resources to provide the necessary support for all parents but especially those who need it most:

  • Resources should include simple, easy to follow instructions for all parents and need to recognize the added stress all families are under during this pandemic;
  • Parents need help navigating curriculums and in understanding their child’s learning needs – which requires consistent communication between teachers and parents;
  • Look to Sprig Home as a tool that can provide parents of young learners with access to simple, easy-to-implement learning activities that they can complete with their child; turning everyday moments into learning opportunities.
  • For more on supporting parents at home, read: ‘When Parents Get Involved, Early Literacy Grows’ by Maureen Taylor, Sprig’s Strategic Advisor of Learning and Governance.

As schools reopen, everyone must be prepared to support students, especially those who may be academically behind. Every learner is truly unique. In order to adequately support them, we need to understand their individual strengths, challenges and interests across a multitude of learning environments.  Support is essential in all areas: their school, their home and in their community.  We need to work collaboratively to determine the best way to assess and utilize data to help us mitigate the potential impacts of this pandemic.

 

About the Author

Jarrett Laughlin, CEO & Founder, Sprig Learning

Jarrett has worked with educational organizations across the world developing holistic and innovative approaches to measuring success in education.

His recent passion involves mobilizing research into action through socially innovative, community-based projects through his educational technology company, Sprig Learning.

Innovation meets Indigenous pedagogy: the Canadian company revitalizing Indigenous languages

This article was originally published at https://www.canadadownunder.org.au/sprig-learning/

Jarrett Laughlin comes from a family of Canadian educators. As someone with nearly two decades of experience in the Canadian education sector, his passion and work are dedicated to closing the learning gaps for marginalized students.

During a routine parent-teacher meeting when Jarrett’s son was five years old, the teacher told Jarrett that she was concerned about his son’s oral language development.

The teacher was unable to assess his son Jacob, because he didn’t talk at school.

Jarrett knew where this was going. He knew there would eventually be discussion about putting Jacob on an Individual Learning Plan, but he also knew Jacob’s speaking skills were not the issue.

“Jacob is the last of my four children, and at home he’s always trying to be heard and does not stop talking,” said Jarrett.

“He has one level of volume – and it’s really loud!”

“It dawned on me that he must have been shy or uncomfortable in the classroom – not in a space where he was willing to use his voice.”

This moment led Jarrett to reflect on the wider challenges that communities, schools, teachers and parents face in supporting and shaping children during their early learning years.

These foundational years are so critical to a child’s long-term educational success, and Jarrett acknowledged that without intervention that “this could have really influenced Jacob’s learning path and learning journey.”

Working together, Jacob’s teachers and Jarrett supported Jacob and boosted his confidence, so he could demonstrate his oral skills in the classroom.

With over 15 years’ experience working in Indigenous education, Jarrett recognizes that many students – especially those who are disadvantaged or from diverse backgrounds – often struggle to access the personalised support they need to excel at school.

“This [Jacob’s case] was a Caucasian child with a Caucasian teacher in a high socio-economic school. Think about how this happens every day, for thousands of marginalized students across this country.”

 

Sprig Learning is established

After this experience, Jarrett was driven to establish the education technology company called Sprig Learning. The company founded its first early learning program, Sprig Language, which uses a holistic approach to early literacy and language development by encouraging learning both inside and outside the classroom.

Having worked as a teacher, policy advisor and advocate at all levels of government, Jarrett has witnessed a number of heart-breaking journeys for students struggling to navigate the education system.

This experience has given him a rich understanding of the many educational challenges and opportunities that exist across Canada.

In particular, his passion lies in Indigenous education, where he has worked with Indigenous teachers and communities to identify and address the many disadvantages that are unique to Indigenous students.

“Many Indigenous students in Canada start their learning journey by leaving their communities and are enrolling in unfamiliar schools with unfamiliar teachers, who bring with them innate cultural biases and stereotypes about Indigenous children. In many situations, this scenario caused inaccurate assessments for students and has led to many students getting off on the wrong educational path so early in life.”

“We can do better. Every child deserves a fair shot of success in education.”

 

Sprig Learning’s Mission

“[At Sprig Learning], we focus on education equity. The foundation of successful learning is not just built on equality, but equity. The unique needs of every student, especially marginalized students, must be met.”

“We focus on the foundational key milestones in those early years that lead to success later in life.”

Studies show there is a strong correlation between reaching early literacy milestones by age eight and completing high-school by age 18.

“Generally, up to age eight, children are learning to read. After that, they are reading to learn. After age eight this is a pivotal point where curriculum often shifts and accelerates. This is the point where many students on the margins are lost, and teachers find it difficult in large classrooms to support these students.”

 

How does Sprig Learning enhance literacy?

Personalisation is an important element of all Sprig Learning’s programs, and Jarrett explains that Sprig Learning’s technology identifies a child’s unique strengths, needs and abilities.

“The first step is a holistic assessment. At the school, students have a conversation with a puppet – his name is Antle in the Mi’kmaw language.”

The teacher will hold the puppet in one hand and an iPad in another which observes and records the interaction, collecting data. Through this interaction, the technology assesses the child’s vocabulary, grammar, storytelling strategies, clarity of speech and comprehension.

The puppet and iPad are not only a fun way to engage children, but they help limit any cultural, racial or gender biases a teacher may have.

Sprig Learning’s technology then uses artificial intelligence to analyze the assessment results and personalizes a learning journey for each child.

The outcome is a set of personalized learning activities, for each child, that reflects their needs and interests. Teachers are guided to complete these activities in the school, while parents are supported to complete them at home with their child.

“Not only is there a student assessment, but we survey parents, and they [tell us] about how they support oral language in the home. Are they speaking in multiple languages? Are they reading to their child, talking with them, telling stories, counting, singing, rhyming? We engage with the elders in the community and also with the teachers.”

“So, we use multiple perspectives to help understand the child’s oral language learning in the home, the community and the school. It really brings out a holistic understanding about what’s needed to support that child.”

As was the issue in his son’s case, Jarrett knows that the right support doesn’t just improve a student’s academic skills, but also their social, emotional and mental well-being.

“When we can really recognize them, identify not just their learning gaps, but their strengths and their interests, the students feel respected and understood. They feel included in the classroom and in the conversation.”

“That trickles down socially and emotionally to so many other attributes,” he said.

 

Connecting within communities

Today, Sprig Learning is used in more than 100 schools across Canada and supports the learning and delivery of 11 different Canadian Indigenous languages.

Jarrett and his team have worked hard to advocate across Canada and internationally connecting with key decision makers within the government, school districts and community, including curriculum leads, early learning leads, and champions of Indigenous education.

“We do a lot of work to understand the challenges and pain points of education systems and to make sure that our programs are helping to solve their problems. Many of the challenges we hear are around equity and inclusion and providing support for parents and teachers.”

The ability to customise the platform for a range of languages was essential to the partnership in 2015 with the Mi’kmaw Indigenous community.

“With our widespread reconciliation work here in Canada, there is a real focus on the revitalization and reclamation of Indigenous languages which is a key part of the social fabric of this country.”

The Mi’kmaw not only wanted to enhance the English literacy of their students, but most importantly revitalize and grow their Mi’kmaw language with equal importance. Working alongside community and provincial education authorities, the Indigenous community led the way in shaping the program.

It was tailored to suit the needs of the community and incorporated the knowledge and perspectives of the Elders by integrating stories, language and cultural elements.

Jarrett said that the partnership has seen significant improvements for students, and this has been backed up by teachers.

“We are seeing lots of success [in student outcomes] already, including increased engagement, and increased language acquisition.”

“There is a formal study underway with St. Francis Xavier University who will assess the longitudinal outcomes.”

Jarrett is reminded of how one of the Grade 1 Mi’kmaw teachers said that the improvements were clear.

“She said she was already a month into the classroom and already the understanding of the Mi’kmaw language is ahead of where she would normally be two months from now.”

 

Lessons learned

The partnership has also been fruitful from a business perspective in working with other educational partners.

“My work over the years has helped me reflect on how Indigenous pedagogy and worldview can help support all education systems across the world as they look to improve and reform,” said Jarrett.

“Indigenous education is reflected through holistic, lifelong learning models, which are built on a community-based approach to education that supports each and every learner.”

Of course, closing the education gap is only one part of the reconciliation story. One particular moment that has stuck with Jarrett involves a parent of a child who was undertaking the Sprig Language program.

This parent had a grandmother who attended a residential school as a child, bringing with her decades of terrible trauma associated with this experience. This parent had found it difficult to participate in their child’s school activities or even visit the school. For them, school was not a safe place.

However, when her child’s class had a birthday party for their puppet Antle, the child and their parent both came to the school to celebrate the event.

Initially nervous, the parent stayed in the hallway before being welcomed into the classroom by the teacher and the puppet in the Mi’kmaw language.

This experience demonstrated to Jarrett that the puppet was not just a tool to teach language and build literacy skills, but also allowed people of all ages to break boundaries and build connections between the home and school.

 

The future of Sprig Learning

With these successes in mind, Jarrett believes that this is only the beginning for Sprig Learning.

During a trip to Australia to speak at the World Indigenous Education Conference back in 2008, Jarrett has seen the similarities between Canadian and Australian school system, realizing the potential for Sprig language in this country.

With a commitment of protecting and preserving Indigenous languages in Australia, Sprig Learning is a program with proven results and the ability to adapt to an Australian context. But whether the next step is to expand in Australia or elsewhere, it is clear that there are benefits to be realised not just by students, but by parents, teachers, and communities worldwide.

When asked about his hopes for Sprig Learning in the future, Jarrett’s passion for equitable education is clear.

“I want to see as many students and families have broader access to Sprig’s early learning programs so that every child can have a fair shot at success in education.”

For tips and suggestions on how to engage your kids at home, follow Sprig Learning on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SprigLearning
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SprigLearning
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spriglearning

For access to free educational resources for children aged 3-6, sign up to Sprig Home today for free: https://www.spriglearning.com/sprig-home/

When Parents Get Involved, Early Literacy Grows

Maureen Taylor is Sprig’s Strategic Advisor of Learning and Governance. After earning a B.Ed and M.Ed from the University of Saskatchewan, Maureen has spent 30 years in early years education working as an educator, administrator, superintendent, and consultant.

 

How many new parents have been told, by well-intentioned family or friends, that they need to do activities with their young children that promote learning? After all, we’ve all heard that a child’s education begins at birth and ultimately goes on forever.  

I know it is not always easy to see the impact of our everyday interactions with our children. As a parent and grandparent, I can attest to that. However, as an educator who has read the research and has years of practical experience, I can confidently say that the early years really are pivotal in a child’s educational development. It is my belief that parental involvement is a cornerstone to a child’s education.

 

Learning at Home is Important

Over five decades of research, and time invested from many institutions across the globe, suggests that students perform better in all aspects of life when their parents are involved in their learning path from an early age. Parents are a child’s first teachers and are by far the most influential people in their life.

“Children spend only 17 percent of their time in school and 83 percent of their time with parents. This out-of-school time is a huge opportunity to have parents collaborate to enhance the educational outcomes for their children.”

 

Debbie Pushor, University of Saskatchewan Curriculum Studies Professor

Talking to your children and reading to them before bed may sound like little things, but as it turns out, these little things aren’t so little after all. Everyday activities like questioning, playing, singing and rhyming have an incredible impact on your child’s learning. And, there is sound pedagogical research to back that up. In fact, Snow, Burns & Griffin (1998) suggest that while letter-sound correspondence learned at school is important, the motivation, comprehension, and strong oral language skills children develop through conversation and reading with their parents is even more consequential for strong literacy in the primary years and beyond.

“Research has proven that, early in life, reading to your child every day has a direct positive causal impact on their reading and cognitive skills later in life.”

 

Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria, Australia

Having these positive literacy experiences, especially at home, encourages early learners to become strong and confident readers by the time they hit third grade, which is a key indicator for the prediction of high school graduation.

 

What Parents Can Do to Support Learning at Home

How parents are involved in developing their children’s oral language and reading skills matters. Research indicates that it is home-based activities that are most closely linked to students’ academic success in school. In Caspe and Lopez’s Seven Research-Based Ways That Families Promote Early Literacy (2017), they suggest the following activities as particularly effective in helping early learners develop literacy skills:

  • Read with your child and talk about stories. This supports vocabulary, knowledge, oral language, print awareness, and reading comprehension.
  • Share a book enthusiastically and with engagement. This fosters a love of reading and develops a child’s motivation and passion for reading.
  • Use rich vocabulary to converse with your child. This increases vocabulary and understanding of language.
  • Use your home language. Whether you speak French, Spanish, or Arabic, this encourages the development of language and literacy and promotes a healthier cultural identity.
  • Ask open ended ‘why’ questions. This develops knowledge of the meaning of words and their relationships.  
  • Visit a library. This not only promotes language and literacy development, but it also may provide new learning opportunities.  
  • Set high expectations for your child’s potential. This encourages curiosity to try new activities and builds resilience in persisting at tasks.

While these are all intentional activities, it is good to be reminded that learning is all around us.  By conversing with your child as you bake, count money, and set the table, you are developing math skills. By pointing out familiar signs in your surroundings, you are developing print awareness. By playing ‘I Spy’ and ‘Simon Says’, you are developing memory and attention. And lastly, by reflecting on your day, you are developing vocabulary and language.

Parent engagement encourages meaningful learning in a joyful way. By sharing and talking about different experiences in different environments, we are modeling and partnering in our children’s learning, and exchanging boring experiences for bonding experiences. Parent engagement with their children’s learning matters!

 


 

Sprig Home is a curriculum-aligned, at-home version of Sprig’s classroom-based oral language learning program for early learners that shows parents how to enrich the simple things they do, each and every day, to help foster their child’s learning. It is available at no cost for the duration of school closures.

With the launch of Sprig Home, parents have free access to high-quality learning resources for children aged three to six. Since Sprig Home is a derivative of Sprig Language, Sprig’s oral language learning program, parents can ensure that the activities they do at home with their kids not only support learning, but meet school curricular outcomes as well.

 

Start learning at home today! Sprig Home is free for parents during school closures.

Canadian EdTech Company Launches Free Early Learning Platform for Parents During School Closures

Across the country, Canadian families are feeling the effects of COVID-19 school closures. In some provinces, schools have been closed indefinitely, prompting many parents to seek credible learning resources that have been designed with them in mind.

In response, today Sprig Learning is launching Sprig Home, a curriculum-aligned, at-home version of its classroom-based oral language learning program for early learners that shows parents how to enrich the simple things they do, each and every day, to help foster their child’s learning.

Sprig Home will be available at no cost for the duration of school closures. Allan Gauld, Sprig’s VP of Business Development states, “We believe this investment is the right thing to do at this time. We are making Sprig Home available with no credit card information required. We are not selling your data, or collecting your personal information. It’s free to use, with no catch, and is for all Canadians.”

With the launch of Sprig Home, parents have free access to high-quality learning resources for children aged three to six. Since Sprig Home is a derivative of Sprig Language, Sprig’s oral language learning program, parents can ensure that the activities they do at home with their kids not only support learning, but meet school curricular outcomes as well.

“Parents are vital to their child’s learning, especially in the early years,” says Maureen Taylor – Sprig’s Strategic Advisor, Learning & Governance. “My 30 years experience as an educator shows that when parents are active in their child’s learning this drastically increases their success in education.”

The learning activities in Sprig Home encourage storytelling, cooking, playing board games, reading, counting, singing and rhyming. Time spent at home engaged in these activities provides the foundational literacy skills that builds confident learners.

 

About Sprig Learning

Sprig Learning is an award-winning education technology company that develops personalized, culturally- relevant learning tools and assessments. Sprig’s mission is to provide every student, educator, and parent with access to the tools they need to build a foundation for lifelong learning. To learn more, visit www.spriglearning.com.

(named Community Impact Award 2020 and Best Language Learning App of 2018).

 

Contact Info

For more information about Sprig Learning, interview requests, hi-res visuals or media inquiries, please contact Andrew Fraser, PR & Communications Specialist at 613.212.2225 ext 706, or email media@spriglearning.com.