Talking to KooBits Founder, CEO & Father, Stanley Han on Parenthood & Encouraging Kids to Learn
KooBits Founder and CEO gives tips on at-home children education.
Amidst the current situation, parents may find it increasingly hard to keep their children engaged in educational activities. Recently, we had Stanley Han, the Founder and CEO of Koobits – a digital tool and platform for children’s learning – give us his thoughts on effective teaching methods at home and his own obstacles as a father. Here is the interview:
What inspired you to make KooBits?
On a personal level, I’ve always wanted to solve problems - my training is in engineering. My natural thinking pattern is to build things and to solve problems. I noticed problems in education, so I started KooBits as I believed I could solve the problems I saw.
I noticed a gap between how technology is used inside the school, compared to how technology is used in the consumer market. On one hand, teachers and students use very engaging consumer apps that handle many of their daily routines, but yet, when it comes to schools, both teachers and students often use things that are cumbersome and manual to get things done. I saw that as a great opportunity for innovation.
What is the most effective way that you have found to encourage children to learn?
At KooBits, we believe that motivating children to learn is about how learning content is delivered — when a child loses interest, it’s not that they lack discipline, but that they are not interested in the way information is being delivered or taught to them.
Likewise, if the method of teaching is engaging to them, they will be motivated to learn. Gamification — turning learning into games — is an effective method of teaching children, and encouraging them to practice and learn independently, but it’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fit-all kind of game that all children love.
How can you make learning fun for children?
On KooBits, we have a range of features that engage different types of learners. It’s hidden, and every learner has his or her own path. They can all find something that they can relate to. This is because we’ve realised in order to make learning fun for children, you need to understand that every child is different. Different children find different things fun: for example, someone who enjoys chess may not enjoy soccer.
To get started, you should pay attention to the games your child likes to play, or the hobbies they enjoy most:
- Do they enjoy social activities with a lot of their peers, or are they most comfortable alone?
- Are they competitive, or they prefer to do things at their own pace?
- Do they like complex games with a lot of rules to memorise, or do they prefer something simpler?
Once you understand what your child finds fun, you can start building a conducive learning environment for your child - for example, encouraging peer learning for children who enjoy social activities or, encouraging your child to enter competitions to test their skills.
What are some fun teaching methods parents can implement at home?
Here are some methods of turning boring things like homework and chores into fun games with your children:
- Break up big tasks into smaller bits, and set targets for your child: You can display them visually and use fun stickers or tokens to show which tasks are completed. If your child collects a certain number of tokens or stickers, they can exchange them for something fun — like an exciting family outing.
- Make badges your child can earn after completing specific tasks or achieving certain milestones: For example, finish all your vacation homework to be a Level 5 Homework Warrior! You can brainstorm the badges together with your child, and make it a fun handicraft project you can do together.
- Help your child see the bigger picture: Show your child how what they learn can be used in everyday life, like how Maths can help with monthly budgeting and groceries; how baking and cooking is chemistry; or make a trip to the park to learn about plant biology in person.
Remember that every child is unique. Pay attention to what they like, and whether they are engaged by your new teaching methods.
Are traditional teaching methods void now considering the amount of e-learning applications we have, in your opinion?
I don’t think e-learning will replace traditional teaching methods. They both have their own strengths and weaknesses, and we need both to maximise the learning benefits for each child. The human touch in traditional learning is valuable, and I don’t believe online learning can replace it. Rather, online learning (or EdTech at large) serves a different purpose and offers a unique set of values beyond what traditional education programs can do. For example, EdTech enables a child to learn at any time, anywhere; they are able to turn those casual in-between times (like getting stuck in traffic jams, queuing for food) into productive learning hours.
As a father, what are the obstacles you face when it comes to raising your daughter?
The biggest challenge for me is finding time to accompany my daughter. As I work very late every day, by the time I’m back home, my daughter is about to go to sleep. I feel I missed out a lot of quality time I could have spent with her. Therefore, I started a new routine – I wake up very early in the morning, around 4.30am to do my work for about two to three hours, so that by the time my daughter wakes up at around 7.30am, I can eat breakfast together with her and send her to school. I will also try to make my weekends available for my daughter.
What is your routine like with your daughter at home, especially during this time?
In Singapore, after the circuit breaker, my child was able to return to school, so the daily routine is quite similar to pre-COVID times. It’s just that we need to wear masks all the time, now. So, in the morning I send her to school, and when I’m back from work it’s usually her bedtime. If I’m lucky, I can still find time to read a book for her. I spend both Saturday and Sunday with her as much as possible, so weekends are the most challenging for me, because I need to do my work whenever she is sleeping, and I need to engage her whenever she is awake. It’s like doing a double shift, haha, but it’s all worth it.
Any funny encounters that happened with your daughter?
Once, I was trying to find some educational shows on Netflix to teach her language. I tried to “pitch” the show to her, by saying that the show is interesting and fun, and that it’s good for her. But, one day when she talked to grandma, she said something like, “She needed to watch the show Daddy asked her to watch, because it’s her homework.”
At that moment I realised kids know a lot of things at a very young age, and most importantly they know your intention very well. After that, I try to be honest with her, rather than sugar-coating certain communication. I think it pays off to be honest and frank with your child. I believe they’ll also appreciate it.
Should time on e-learning platforms be limited to children considering the ongoing debate of children and screen time?
As a father myself, I understand the concern about excessive screen time: I don’t want my daughter staring at a screen all day, too.
I believe it is not necessary for children to spend long hours on e-learning platforms to be productive: In fact, it is more effective to set up a routine of short, efficient study sessions. On KooBits, the average amount of time children spend on our platform is 20 to 30 minutes. Every day, they spend about half-an-hour revising Maths on our platform, and this consistent routine helps them maintain focused attention, retain information and learn faster — as well as build a habit of Maths revision.
What is the best advice you can give to other fathers out there when it comes to parenting?
I think designing a personal routine - whatever works for you - in order to maximise the time with your child is important. I know it’s very challenging for working parents. It’s so easy to get carried away by the outstanding issues at work, or bring work stress back to home. But if you can design a routine that works for your circumstances, you can enjoy the best of both worlds – keeping up with work, and yet spending quality time with your children.
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