Up skill and exercise your brain with a free online course

Published on Tuesday, 31 March 2020
Last updated on Monday, 07 September 2020

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Back in the day, undertaking extra study was locked into a physical location like a classroom or conference centre, not anymore. Today, thanks to technology and remote access, online courses are booming and there are countless options for early childhood educators to develop and refresh their skills. 

With this in mind we have curated a collection of diverse short courses. Some directly relate to learning and teaching in the early childhood sector, such as phonics and child development. But we have also included lateral programs for mindfulness and wellbeing as well as nutrition, gardening and mobile photography, which can build knowledge and confidence among educators. All, except for one, are free. 

Why continuing education is important?

Online training is a proactive and personalised approach to professional development offering a great deal of diversity and flexibility. Early childhood educators stand to gain plenty from continuing education and professional development, and the flow on benefits for children are important as well. 

Some of the benefits of continuing education are:

  • It supports professional development: Devoting time to continuing education builds on your expertise and can sustain your professional creativity and passion. 
  • It is good for your health: learning is like exercise for the brain, and just like exercising the body, it contributes to better physical health and mental health. It keeps your mind sharp, improves your memory and can boost confidence.
  • Heightened awareness: By learning new skills or refreshing your knowledge, continuous learning opens your eyes to the latest developments in a field of interest or one that is key to your role.
  • It drives a cycle of curiosity: When learning our levels of curiosity can be raised and curiosity makes our brains more receptive for learning, and as we learn, we enjoy the sensation of learning.

Whether you want to learn more about a subject you find interesting or want to refresh your skills, online courses run repeatedly throughout the year and there is a wealth of programs on offer. If any of the listed courses are already underway simply enrol for the next intake. Here are some examples.

Learn what phonics is and how to teach it in the early years 

Developed by Queensland University of Technology, this course contains evidence-based skills for teaching phonics to young children. Intentionally and explicitly teaching the relationship between letters and sounds through play-based pedagogies is a crucial part of children’s literacy development. There is much popular debate surrounding this topic, amongst researchers, teachers, parents and education authorities. This course shares research-based knowledge and skills around code-based literacy in early childhood.

Understanding child development: from synapse to society

This course looks at the brain and motor development, cognitive, language and social-emotional development and all the factors that have an influence on development. To illustrate how an interdisciplinary approach helps to understand child development you will learn how researchers from various disciplines and backgrounds study child development at Utrecht University, Netherlands

Children Acquiring Literacy Naturally

In this short course you explore the possibility that children might acquire written language in a way that is similar to how they acquire spoken language – without instruction. Discussed are aspects of behavioural science and technology that are relevant to this proposition. You learn the perceptual, cognitive, and neurological capacities of children during their first years of life. You will advance your understanding of children and how they learn language. You will also be more attuned to current advances in the technology of human machine interactions, and what these phenomena imply for learning to read at an early age. Offered by University of California, Santa Cruz.

Introduction to Growing Organic Food Sustainably 

This course offers understanding on how to grow a large variety of vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, lettuce, and many others. It covers maintaining a vegetable garden plot, how to improve garden soil, and how to make compost. Creating a raised garden bed, sowing seeds, and effectively implementing crop rotation are also discussed.

Stanford Introduction to Food and Health

 Around the world, we find ourselves facing global epidemics of obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and diet-related diseases. To address these public health crises, we urgently need to explore innovative strategies for promoting healthful eating. In this course, learners will be given the information and practical skills they need to begin optimising the way they eat. By the end of this course, learners should have the tools they need to distinguish between foods that support health and those that threaten it. Offered by Stanford University, you can view a trailer for the course here

Child Nutrition and Cooking 

Eating patterns that begin in early childhood affect health and wellbeing across the lifespan. This course examines contemporary child nutrition and the impact of the individual decisions made by each family. The health risks associated with obesity in childhood are also discussed. Participants will learn what constitutes a healthy diet and how to prepare simple, delicious foods aimed at inspiring a lifelong celebration of easy home-cooked meals. This course will help prepare participants to be the leading health providers, teachers and parents of the present and future. Offered by Stanford University.

Introduction to Environmental Sustainability - Revised

 This course will teach you about the basics of environmental sustainability. Everything we do affects our environment and the people that live in it. This course offers insights about the varieties of energy and resources found around the world, environmental impacts, transport, sustainable communities, globalisation, and fair trade. 

The Science of Wellbeing 

In this course you will engage in a series of challenges designed to increase your own happiness and build more productive habits. As preparation for these tasks, Professor Laurie Santos reveals misconceptions about happiness, annoying features of the mind that lead us to think the way we do, and the research that can help us change. Offered by Yale University.

Mindfulness and Resilience to Stress at Work 

Stress, anxiety, and burnout are rampant across workplaces today: 80 per cent of workers feel stress on the job, and nearly half say they need help learning how to manage it. This course offers research-based strategies for building resilience to stress and fortifying our wellbeing in the face of challenges. It explains the biological and psychological impact of stress, helps you distinguish between harmful and helpful forms of stress at work, and provides strategies for handling stress in healthy and productive ways. Offered by Berkeley University of California.

Mobile Photography for Beginners 

This is the only course with a price tag, but costing less than NZ$20.00 (at time of publishing) it’s reasonable – every early childhood service needs their own creative photographer. In this course you learn how to improve smartphone photography skills and improve your images, understand the smartphone camera and settings, and gain knowledge on how to apply composition to your photos. 

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