Would you like to have more of an insight into how your teen is using their online time, but spying on them using tracking software is not your style? How would you like a tool that helps your kids manage their time online so they’re better able to balance their productivity with their downtime?
An Australian physician and entrepreneur has created just such a tool, and at the moment, it’s completely free.
Without getting too technical, LearnMeter analyses your teen’s computer use and study habits, feeds the results back to your kids to steer them towards learning, and sends the results to you in easy-to-understand infographics. Understanding your children’s digital learning world helps with managing their homework and screen time, without having to look over their shoulder.
We had a chat with its creator, Dr Michael Cejnar.
So, how does LearnMeter work?
LearnMeter is able to differentiate ‘learn’ time from ‘leisure’ time, so you know if your kids are doing their homework or playing around. It also analyses attention span, distractibility, and various learning skills within their homework time, making it possible for the first time to measure their true online learning skills.
It uses ‘learning analytics’, which is already being used in universities. This is the study of student behaviour through patterns in their digital world: how often, when and where they log on; the digital resources that they use; the websites they visit and the social media platforms that they use.
What information can LearnMeter give parents?
LearnMeter provides real-time monitoring of your children’s online activities from the main display window. You can see what all of your children are doing online at a glance, both from home and remotely. LearnMeter also provides detailed reports for each child including time spent on social media, games, video websites, device use and more. Parents are emailed weekly progress reports on their children’s activity and learning skills, showing trends and ranking against their peers.
The team at LearnMeter are working with research teams at two of Sydney’s top universities to continue to develop the product and what it can offer. Users of LearnMeter can expect to be provided with further insights, knowledge and resources about ways to improve learning in the near future.
Your background is as a cardiologist. How did you come to create LearnMeter?
The inspiration came from my attempts to improve the online learning experience for my teenage daughters beyond just restricting Facebook and game time. The product design is based on extensive literature research, which suggests that technology use by children in schools and at home is failing to consistently improve educational outcomes – some children know how to learn using computers and forge ahead, while others get distracted by the leisure content and fall behind, in what is described as the Second Digital Divide. I worked with an experienced team of education and technology experts to develop a product that will empower children to use computers constructively, and we’re continuing to improve it.
There are products on the market that can restrict, censor, track and spy on children. Does LearnMeter fall into this category of software?
No. LearnMeter is non-restrictive and non-censoring. It cannot track children’s location, block apps or block content, and does not monitor children’s communication.. From a cyber security point of view, it reports a history of your children’s top activities, revealing any significant problematic use as well as excessive gaming and social networking, without preventing experimentation, especially in older teens.
However, this is not LearnMeter’s priority or intention. LearnMeter gives children a learning framework to provide information, motivation and study skills to assist with their online learning.
Could you please provide some examples of how you might use the information you gain from LearnMeter?
Measurement of learning activities alone focuses children on learning as does discussion of the results, showing progress trends, and rewarding improvements.
In one family, just putting on the system triggered 10-year-olds to compete for higher learning scores. For teens studying for HSC, the feedback can help time self-management with or without parental discussion.
One of the families using LearnMeter had long suspected that their son was highly distractible. LearnMeter gave them proof of their concerns. With this objective information, they were able to provide the guidance their son needed.
Another family told us that their daughter was a procrastinator and struggled with time management when she was trying to do her homework. LearnMeter provided her with the tools to learn how to focus on the task at hand and manage her time more efficiently.
What is the age range it’s aimed at? Do you use it differently for different ages?
LearnMeter can be used from as young as eight years old to about 17 years old, and it can be tailored for the age as well as parenting beliefs and attitudes.
Younger kids up to tweens will rely on parental feedback and rewards and may benefit from parents reviewing their top activities with them, pointing out the better sources of information.
Teenagers will increasingly use the product more independently, self-monitoring with parents checking in on them occasionally and having discussions only as needed.
LearnMeter also provides age-categorised Edusafari – hundreds of learning websites, also categorised by topic and self-rated by children.
Great! So where do we sign up?
LearnMeter is free to use, and easy. Go to www.learnmeter.com and just install it on any PC or device that you wish to include in your family account and then login to your LearnMeter portal to see your children’s online activities.