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27 Jan, Friday
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Montreal Families

Is your child struggling at school?

It’s just before supper time and your child is sitting at the kitchen table, furiously erasing the answer to a math problem and loudly complaining that he “just doesn’t get it.” You leave dinner preparations to help, but it soon becomes apparent that the math being taught today doesn’t resemble what you learned as a kid. Arguments ensue, math problems aren’t solved and dinner is burning.

What many parents don’t realize is that help for these kinds of homework challenges — as well as for all kinds of educational issues — is no more than a click away thanks to a website run by an organization called LEARN Quebec. Started more than six years ago, this organization provides educational services and resources to the English-speaking community across the province. The staff is doing so through its website and by using other Internet-based tools like online videos and e-learning programs. This allows them to reach a wide audience that includes elementary and high school students, parents, teachers and administrators. All content is free and most is accessible to the general public.

LEARN Quebec’s innovative approach can be seen in one of its most successful services, Student Online Support (SOS). It’s real-time tutoring for students but done through the Internet. Students log onto the website with a username and password provided by their school, which must either be part of an English-language school board or one of the private English schools. Once in the password-protected area, a student enters an electronic classroom — she can see a picture of the teacher and, if the home computer has a microphone, can hear and talk with the tutor. There is a message area for typing out questions and receiving answers as well as an area where students can make notes or draw something, like a math diagram. Both students and teachers can download and upload documents to be shared.

Suzanne Longpré, communications and public relations director, notes the SOS tutors are qualified, trained teachers. “They know how to establish a rapport with students,” she explains, adding that students, who have grown up in a wired world, almost never find the technological tools difficult to use. Tutoring for students in Grades 3 to 6 is offered every weeknight while subjects for high school students are given on different nights. An online Writing Centre is open three nights a week, where teachers offer help with any part of a writing assignment, from brainstorming and organizing ideas to editing and proofreading.

The password-protected area also has a section filled with material from different high school courses. For example, students can study definitions of key terms, watch videos where a teacher explains and demonstrates different concepts and even use the “Success Checker,” an online set of practice tests for the math and sciences courses given in Secondary 3-5.

Longpré says there is also online classes for students in either remote areas of the province or at very small schools, where a limited number of students makes it difficult to offer higher level courses, especially in math and science. The organization has developed software that allows students and teachers to work in ways identical to what they’d do in a traditional class (i.e. write on a board, ask questions, correct papers, etc.). A complete list of the e-learning classes is available on the website.

Finally, students at all levels can do research in the VodZone, where they have access to more than 5,000 educational videos. Searches can be done by topic as well as by grade level (so younger kids can find suitable material). The videos cover a huge range of material, from how to solve algebraic equations to improving your public speaking skills.

With more than 250,000 pages of free content (and new pages being added every day), LEARN Quebec is an educational powerhouse. “It’s mind-boggling, really, how much information is available,” Longpré says. So don’t miss out; unearth that username and password and start discovering tools to support your child’s education.

How to use LEARN Quebec

The website, www.learnquebec.ca, has many resources available to the general public, including information on kindergarten readiness, the provincial curriculum in all subject areas, local and online education resources and more. It’s a great first stop when you have a question about your child’s schooling.

For a quick tutorial on its services, check out the videos on the website that explain the various programs; they’re short, informative and fun to watch.
To access the online tutoring and educational videos, your child will need a username and password. So make sure you obtain those, ideally at the beginning of the school year. Many schools send the information home in a letter or it may be found in your child’s agenda.

Students can register for the SOS online tutoring during the year; however there is no tutoring services or registration taking place during March.

Encourage your child to explore the resources before a big project is due, so he or she can quietly discover what is available rather than searching for information in a panic.

Explore the site together. Especially when it comes to using things like live chat and online messaging, kids are often the experts. Learn from and with them!

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