Wednesday May 25, 2011
Your online tutor from Kinetic Education
By WONG LI ZA
An interactive online tutoring programme for Maths and English helps students learn at their own pace and achieve their full potential.
MARY SANGHVI refused to send her middle child to a school for the deaf and mute when he was young. Jonathan had a severe hearing problem, due to a middle ear infection, that affected his speech and learning process.
“We did not know he could not hear when he was two or three. He talked a little but was definitely behind in his development,” said Mary, a British native who migrated to Melbourne, Australia, with her husband Bharat Sanghvi in 1981.
Mary then took Jonathan to see a speech therapist when he turned three. To her surprise, the therapist said Jonathan should be sent to a school for the deaf and mute. Mary, a Maths teacher, was adamant not to. Instead, she gave him extra support and guidance in his learning.
Then, at age five and a half, Jonathan had an operation to remove his adenoids which resolved his hearing problem. However, Jonathan had to learn to speak from scratch.
When he entered Grade One, there was a spelling bee contest for charity which he was very excited about.
Mary then asked her husband, a computer programmer and systems analyst, to write a programme for their son to learn the words. Bharat, who holds a Maths degree, then created a hangman’s game for Jonathan to learn the spelling of 20 words.
At the contest, Jonathan spelt all 20 words correctly.
“After that, his concept of spelling improved tremendously. That contest was a breakthrough for Jonathan and it showed that learning can be engaging.
“When you make kids want to learn, their brains just click and everything changes. When kids struggle to learn, they lose their self-esteem,” said Mary, who used to write for scientific journals.
Bharat, a Ugandan native, continued to write programmes to help Jonathan learn mathematics and build his confidence. Jonathan went on to obtain an honours degree in Applied Science.
A few years later, in 1989, the first official version of the Maths and English Wiz programme was developed under Kinetic Education, of which Jonathan is CEO.
Mary is the key developer of programmes in the company and since 1989, the Maths and English Wiz programme has been improved and updated with more features.
“I am very passionate about giving children the same opportunities I had as a child because if I had not been given the right support, my life would have taken a very different path,” said Jonathan, 35.
Fun, interactive and engaging, Maths and English Wiz is essentially an online home tutoring programme developed for primary and secondary school students.
In Malaysia, it is available through Brain Bytes, Star Publications (M) Bhd’s principal partner in the group’s new education website gooroo.my.
Gooroo is a one-stop online repository of approved education resources, bringing classroom lessons to the home and making the process of learning Maths and English fun.
Maths and English Wiz is widely used in Australia and also in Canada, the United States, Britain and New Zealand. The programme can be tailored to any school curriculum using a special software.
For Malaysia, Maths and English Wiz caters to children aged five to 17 and focuses on early learning and all the major exams like UPSR, PMR and SPM.
“We look at what is taught in schools, the textbooks used, and the whole curriculum of teaching in customising the programme,” said Mary, adding that research on the Malaysian curriculum started five years ago.
“It’s exam-oriented and a great resource for kids to learn English and Maths,” said Mary, who holds an honours degree in Applied Physics.
The programme allows school work taught for the first time in class to be reinforced immediately so the student is thoroughly prepared for the next class and better able to listen and concentrate.
“It’s a teach, test and revision programme with structured step-by-step techniques to make sure kids understand the concepts at hand,” said Jonathan.
The programme also provides instant feedback so students can find out if their answers are correct. Questions and tutorial are designed to encourage, inspire and gently move students forward.
“Our programme gives teachers the ability to give more attention to kids who need more help. It is also a relevant tool to be used in large classes,” said Jonathan.
“I hated school when I was young because I was so far behind. Our philosophy is helping students learn at their own pace,” he added.
“I’ve always been passionate about helping other children who have difficulty learning because I know first-hand what it is like to be struggling in school.”
Mary said by age 12, Jonathan was confident of himself in school but still had a lot to catch up, especially with English.
“When you reinforce learning with a programme that’s available anytime, it greatly enhances a student’s progress,” said Mary.
In essence, slower students can work at their own pace, top students can move ahead to learn newer lessons, while average students can do catch-up lessons, she added.
“Some students’ maturity may not be that developed in the early years but when they reach Year Four to Six, they can catch up using our programme to revise earlier lessons to build a solid foundation,” said Mary.
Although the programme does not need parental or tutor supervision, parents’ involvement is encouraged.
“Even a five-year-old can use the programme without a parent. We have many icons, teachers’ voiceovers, animations and explanations,” said Jonathan. “It’s like having a private tutor looking over the child’s shoulders.”
Kinetic Education also has a school programme for teachers to assign different homework to individuals or groups of students.
“It’s a management system for teachers, who can view individual students’ progress over real time. Teachers can also analyse students’ progress and access students’ records,” said Jonathan.
For more information, log on to gooroo.my.