An elementary school girl attending class remotely on her laptop and raising her hand.

Technology Tips for Remote Learning

July 31, 2020

From the outside, the growing generation of digitally-literate youth appears to be the most adequately equipped to overcome technological setbacks relating to the shift to online learning from the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Children are granted cell phones and internet access at younger ages than ever before — often assimilating to cyberspace years before they reach puberty or earn a driver’s license.

Despite this inadvertent preparation, the lack of an online precedent for every facet of regular classroom instruction poses a series of obstacles for current and rising students. As Natalie Wexler observes in an article for Forbes, “Even in the best of circumstances, remote instruction can intensify challenges inherent in face-to-face settings.”

As many of us are now finding, focusing throughout a work or school day at home is not often a straightforward task. When coupled with the interruption of technical challenges, distraction and frustration can all too frequently derail productive momentum. To help your child get the most out of their distance learning experience, we’ve assembled some technological guidance for navigating and troubleshooting a few of the most popular remote education tools.

Etiquette and Preparation

Until now, the use of video call platforms among children was largely informal — generally limited to Facetime with friends and out-of-town relatives. Take this opportunity to remind your child to model appropriate classroom behavior throughout remote meetings, despite the familiarity and comfort of home surroundings. Review the following checklist together ahead of their next virtual class session:

  • Test your computer camera, microphone, and speakers. Try to eliminate background light and noise for a clear image and sound. 
  • Adjust your camera angle to eye level, and ensure the area visible behind you is clean and free of clutter. Alternatively, you can use a virtual backdrop if your video application and teacher support them. Virtual backgrounds are also beneficial for adding a layer of privacy between your classmates and home.
  • Prepare ahead of time to avoid needing to leave the screen during class time. Refrain from other distracting actions, such as eating, grooming, or excessive fidgeting. 
  • Remember to continue participating in class discussions and asking questions for clarification. You’re more likely to enjoy each session if you’re engaged throughout rather than waiting for it to end, and your instructor and peers will appreciate your effort!

Training Resources and Computer Requirements

With the rise of distance learning comes an abundance of video call applications for remote connection and education at our fingertips. Here are the more commonly used, teacher favorites:

  • Google Meet and Google Classroom: Google has developed an extensive remote work resource page with links to product tutorials and helpful content for students, teachers, and employees. In response to COVID-19, the company has also enabled free use of premium features for its new video platform, Meet, for a limited time. Both Meet, which will soon replace Google Hangouts, and Classroom, Google’s digital hub for remote education, have dedicated help center pages with further materials for troubleshooting, training, and exploring features. Classroom can be used in conjunction with Meet and is free for educators and students at schools enrolled in G Suite for Education, a collection of complimentary Google applications specifically modified for schools.
  • Zoom: Zoom has created a COVID-19 support page with quick access links to training resources, a schedule of live daily demos, and additional materials covering topics like online learning, privacy, and security. Basic use of Zoom is free to everyone, although access to premium capabilities is available through a membership subscription.
  • Facetime: If your child has access to an iOS device such as an iPhone, iPad, or Macbook, they can access Facetime. Apple has guides on its website for using Facetime via Macbook or an iOS device, such as iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

Keep in mind that all video call applications require a webcam, which can be purchased separately if your child’s laptop or home computer is not already equipped with one.

Internet Access and Wi-Fi Offers

Video conferencing applications will also require cellular data or internet access. Many service providers, such as Spectrum/Charter and Comcast/Xfinity, have updated or announced free and low-cost internet offerings in response to COVID-19. Campus Technology offers a continuously updated list of companies offering free Wi-Fi access.

Digital Citizenship and Cyber Safety

COVID-19 has forcibly ushered the majority of the world into a heavily digital age. Between distance learning, remote work, and plain boredom, we are all spending more time than ever online — our children included. Take this time to introduce or review proper online conduct and cyber safety protocols with your child.

The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children has collaborated with notable tech companies and several countries to launch an international campaign connecting families with straightforward steps and further resources to keep children safe online, both during the pandemic and after.

Remote learning, like all other unfamiliar things, requires time and patience. Encourage your child to show themself some extra compassion as they acclimate to this new mode of learning and have them proactively communicate with teachers if a technical issue prevents them from participating in class sessions or in completing assignments.

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