Alternative Method of Learning: Supporting Parents and Students at Home

Deb Dailey

All K-12 schools and universities in my state and in many other states have closed their doors and transitioned to an online or alternative learning format due to COVID-19. In recent years, many schools have developed an alternative method of learning (AMI) plan for emergency or exceptional circumstances. The Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) in Arkansas describes the goal of AMI “to strengthen and reinforce instructional content while supporting student learning outside the classroom environment. Effective plans address the involvement of all stakeholders including teacher, students, and parents” (Arkansas DESE, 2019, para 1). DESE’s stresses the avoidance of rote, non-engaging seatwork and recommends integrated application type activities resulting in some type of product. However, on the first day of school closure, I saw a Facebook post from a parent asking for assistance because her children completed their AMI packets in less than an hour. During a time of social distancing and confinement, a lack of meaningful and challenging “homework” is especially disconcerting for parents of gifted students.

Presented with some type of problem or just an opportunity to explore, students can use augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to gather information, data, and/or evidence from a seemingly authentic environment. Augmented reality applications such as QuiverVision allow students to manipulate various objects such as cells, volcanos, and the moon. My Incredible Body enables one to explore and dissect parts of the human body in the virtual world. A free VR/AR application is Google Expeditions. Students can visit a place of interest through VR and bring abstract concepts to life with AR...all in Google Expeditions. Through these experiences, students can visit castles and museums, explore the ocean, space, and other geographical areas, and tour landmarks and battlefields. VR/AR allows students to visit the world virtually, providing students immersive experiences not limited by space or time. Here is a list of 25 resources for bringing AR and VR into the classroom from the International Society of Technology Educators.

Ideally, all students would have the technology and internet capabilities in their home, thus providing access to online instruction, resources, and engaging activities. Unfortunately, there is a discrepancy in households who have access to internet services. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2018 there were over 14,000 households in the U.S. that did not have any type of internet services (broadband, satellite, dial-up, cellular data). Even though this is an improvement from 2013 (25,000 with no access), there are still a number of school children who are limited in their capabilities to do online work. With that in mind, teachers and parents should also provide technology-free activities for students to use at home. In a 2014 NAGC Parenting for High Potential (PHP) article, I provided 10 science experiments and activities using materials from home (Dailey, 2014).

Since the occurrence and threat of COVID-19, many educators and others have shared multiple resources to assist parents with homeschooling. Companies, including internet companies, have offered to waive fees so that students can have access, book authors have given permission to share and read their books online without violating copyright agreements, and educators have provided links to their favorite activities. Dustin Seaton and Monica Springfield, gifted education specialists from two educational cooperatives (Northwest Arkansas and Ozarks Unlimited Resources), put together an enormous list of resources for gifted educators and students to use on AMI days (Virtual Gifted & Talented Enrichment Support Materials-AMI Options). Hopefully, some of the resources that have been shared in this article will be valuable to you today or in the future. Additional resources are listed below.


About the author: Debbie Dailey is an assistant professor at the University of Central Arkansas, chair of NAGC's STEM Network, and co-chair of the NAGC Professional Standards Committee. Her interests include science education, engineering education, gifted education, teacher preparation, and professional development.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of NAGC.


Arkansas Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (2019). Alternative methods of instruction (AMI) 2019 – 2020 Guidance Document.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2018). Presence and type of Internet subscriptions in households.