Today’s children are being raised with the mindset that if they don’t know the answer, they can simply Google it. While in many cases that’s true, Google searching is not a learning tool. They’re not gaining more insight or understanding the material, they’re simply getting answers. Search does have its place in student’s lives, but it shouldn’t and can’t replace traditional tutoring. That isn’t to say, however, that technology can’t help students learn and tutors do their jobs.
Perhaps the most exciting new tool for tutors is the Hangout feature of Google Plus. Obviously, the ideal scenario is sitting with the student so you can see more easily what they’re doing. But often, life invades and you’ll need to be somewhere else during a regularly scheduled tutoring session, or a student may have a big test on a day you’re not scheduled to tutor them and you can’t make a drive to see him or her.
But when work can be done on a word processor or a spreadsheet, combining Google Docs and a Hangout session allows you to be completely in touch with your student.
Google Docs allows you to see real-time updates your pupil makes to a document. If you’re tutoring them in math, you can watch on your screen as they input formulas and insert graphs. For writing assignments, you can watch their process happen on the screen in front of you. Talk them through difficult questions and see them and their work as they begin to understand and write about it. Though the cost of being on the phone an hour may not seem like much, a Hangout session will also save you serious money throughout the course of a year, especially if one of your pupils is long-distance.
The fact is, however, that you can’t always be with your pupil while he or she studies. Sometimes you’ll have other students with needs or you’ll simply need a day off. Helping them build a toolbox of resources will help them make the transition between times you’re there and times you’re not. After all, one of the goals of tutoring is to help the student learn about and grow their own learning process.
Another way to help your pupil help themselves is by teaching them how to use Google to learn instead of just to fill in blanks on their homework. One of Google’s advanced search features allows you to limit your search to scholarly journals that are great for high school students in more advanced classes. They basically have access to what a college library’s database would have, which makes it perfect for admissions essays and AP classes.
For younger students, filters can be added to send back only basic or intermediate reading levels. File types can also be changed. Returning only PDF documents will be more likely to produce results with graphs and charts than simple web results.
Another tool students can use is their local library. It’s not quite as technology-based, but today’s librarians can assist students with performing online searches and help them with simple online tasks they may not know how to do yet.
Though tutoring’s goals have remained unchanged, the process is adjusting a bit to keep up with technology. Making sure your pupils are on the cutting edge while delivering excellent service and results will make you the different between a gold star and a failing grade.
*Jesse Langley is a freelance writer living in the Midwest. He divides his time between work and family, and writes on behalf of Colorado Technical University.