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The best free resources to keep students engaged while stuck at home

As teachers, parents, and students of all ages adjust from having the structure of classrooms and schools to the world of distance learning at home, there is at least one small bright spot amid the hardship brought about by the global spread of COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus. Several companies and education tech developers have opened up their tools and materials for free access to help make the transition a bit smoother.

Preschool and elementary school

This is arguably the most difficult bunch of students to keep on track with learning goals. Screen time limits may need to go out the door.

Childrens’ museums: Take a look at the website of local museums that are likely closed due to COVID-19 but may have some videos or tours set up to keep kids occupied.

Wonderopolis: Featuring a “Wonder of the Day,” the site’s aim is to spark curiosity in children. Each day, there is a new question, video, and set of online and offline activities. The site is available in 60 languages and is text-to-speech accessible.

BrainPop Junior: Especially great for the K-3 set, families, teachers, and even entire schools can request free access to enhance distance learning through the lockdown. Science, math, reading and writing, social studies, and even arts and technology lessons are included and feature colorful drawings and graphics.

Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet

Middle school, high school, and beyond

Carnegie Mellon University Computer Science Academy: The world-class university is offering its flagship classes for free to middle and high school students and teachers. Offerings include 40 to 120 hours of instruction and live webinars.

Codecademy: The site is offering 10,000 scholarships to high school and college students due to COVID-19, which has put graduation ceremonies, internships, and other opportunities on hold for thousands of students. Students can learn web development, mobile development, and data science skills through nearly 2,000 hours of lessons and unlimited mobile practice and real-world projects. There is also the always-free option, which offers 180 hours of instruction.

All ages and resources for teachers

Your local library: Take advantage of the online collections of your local library. While the buildings may be closed, the apps each uses for accessing digital catalogs are still functional. It’s a great way to catch up on reading or even try audiobooks for free.

JStor: The digital library of nearly 2,000 academic journals and thousands of primary sources is now offering free access to its database, which is full-text search capable.

Quizlet: This flashcard tool has always been free, but due to COVID-19, the service is opening up its premium Quizlet Teacher version for free as well until the end of April to help with remote learning. Luckily, it is also available as a mobile app for when broadband is out of reach. Quizlet lets students study any subject by allowing them create on-screen flashcards and by using other learning tools. Teachers can create custom notes with audio and diagrams, and also have access to an assessment tool to track students’ progress.

Khan Academy: The online learning database has always been free, but being homebound may be just the motivation students and others need to dive into one of the thousands of classes available through video lectures and practice exercises.

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