IN these times holding the attention of children is so much more challenging than before, what with everything being technologically driven and so fast-paced. Educators and those involved in the industry must constantly come up with novel and exciting means through which to grab children's attention and hold it long enough to effectively plant knowledge.
Lorraine Powell-Cadette is the creator of Hopalong Learning, a new online learning programme which targets pre-schoolers and primary school children up to Standard Three.
In an age of technology where information is virtually a click away, online learning or e-learning is fast becoming a growing trend in Trinidad and Tobago as many children experience the benefits of interactive lessons in various subject areas in the convenience of their own home.
According to Powell-Cadette, Hopalong Learning is the first educational website in Trinidad and Tobago which follows the local primary school curriculum and has a membership of over 3,000 children. Endorsed by the Ministry of Education, the programme assists children in areas such as Mathematics, Language, Science, Creative Writing and Social Studies, to name a few.
She said, "Our programme assists children who are struggling in school and children who are bored in class and want to move on. We are currently working with the Ministry of Education to have the programme implemented in other schools. Currently we are in 11 schools in Trinidad and two in Tobago."
"What is unique with Hopalong Learning is that it is the only website of its kind locally which does not only give children online practice with quizzes, but teaches them various concepts with over 400 videos in different subject areas. We also have a section for teachers that acts as a guide and when they become members they are able to request all sorts of educational material to make learning not only interesting but fun too."
According to Powell-Cadette, the programme is not to compete with an actual teacher or classroom setting but assist the child and provide support to parents and teachers.
She said, "Very often
teachers will tell you it's hard to find material for our children within a local context. Now they have somewhere to turn to. Teachers know what resources they want and it's easy for them to get the resources on the website. I know some teachers have already started using the website in the classroom," she said.
"Before the website a lot of people thought the Internet was something that children will need only in secondary school. Now parents and teachers are beginning to see how beneficial the Internet is at the primary school level," she added.
Powell-Cadette has taught in the local primary school system for 13 years.
Originally from England, her mother is a Trinidadian and father Jamaican. Her teaching career began in 1993. She attended Corinth Teachers' College and after earning a diploma she was one of five students awarded a scholarship.
On scholarship at the University of the West Indies, she pursued a degree in primary school education with a focus on Social Studies and Language. After earning first class honours and two other awards at UWI, she returned to teaching at the primary school level.
It was before beginning university, when she faced a class of about 20 Standard Three students up to the age of 13 who could not read that she realised just how severe the reading problems were in the Caribbean. After leaving UWI, she began a remedial reading class in the primary school.
But then she realised that too many children throughout the school could not read and that was when she requested a first year infant class so she could help to prevent reading problems at the foundation level.
It was whilst teaching the infant level that she found that none of the reading materials presented to her were the most appropriate for the pupils and so she set about creating her own programme.
The result was Hopalong Readers. An easy-to-use, child-friendly programme of books and flashcards which helps the children improve their reading.
In 2006 Lorraine left teaching and established Powell House Publishing Ltd. Through this company she was able to dedicate herself to the development of a wider range of learning materials for the young child.
Included in her efforts have been numerous workshops with teachers, parents and community groups to provide fundamental advice on helping to lay a strong learning foundation with preschool and infant level students.
She said, "We are constantly adding material so, for example, when you join Hopalong Learning, within months you are going to see 20 more quizzes and other materials and you don't have to pay anything for all the new material; our members have the convenience of e-mailing us at any time to make requests for materials. For one family the cost is $300 a month. If you have three or four children, the price does not change, all your kids can benefit from the programme and become members at the same $300 a month."
"Learning does not have to stop if you are unable to go to school or you missed out on some schoolwork and need to catch up, Hopalong Learning provides that extra support and helps to the child in all subject areas and also encourages him/her to explore other topics they have not covered in class," she said.
For more information, visit their website at www.hopalonglearning.com or call 222-8314.