Back-to-school looks a little different this year, and as a parent, you have your work cut out for you. Whether your student has a hybrid schedule or is learning exclusively from home, being tech-savvy will help you (and them) navigate the school year more smoothly.
LMCU is passionate about supporting families with school-aged children. Education has been embedded in our culture since we opened our doors in 1933 as Grand Rapids Teachers Credit Union. We hope these six tips will equip your family for taking on back-to-school tech.
1. Learn the tools.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with the tools your student will be using. If you’re used to a mac and your student was given a PC — or vice versa — learn the basics like how to log-in, search, and navigate files. It’s also a good idea to get familiar with the learning platform tool their teachers will be using. Start by asking the teacher for video tutorials. Just knowing the lingo and where to find essential tools can help you feel less frustrated when your child inevitably comes to you panicking the night before a project is due. You know, the project they were assigned a month ago. (We’ve all been there.)
2. Focus up.
A big challenge for virtual learning (or any learning for that matter) is limiting the number of distractions. It might be tempting to play games or surf online during school hours. To help them focus, set up a school only user account on their laptop. Try using parental control software to make other accounts unavailable during school hours.
3. Stay connected.
Wi-fi is the lifeblood of virtual learning, and constant streaming and video calls from multiple people is a tall order for most residential wi-fi systems. If you have a larger home or numerous people accessing the internet all at once, a mesh system will offer the fastest connection. Consumer Reports is a trusted resource for researching the Best Wireless Routers of 2020.
4. Get organized.
Your student will probably be juggling multiple passwords for several school-related accounts. A password manager will streamline the login process and keep everything organized. Some password managers allow for secure family-based sharing that will loop you into the process. This can be a powerful timesaving tool for both of you.
5. Set limits.
Between online research, video calls, social media, video games and tv shows, it’s easy for your kids to fill their entire day with screen time. Young eyes are especially susceptible to strain that can lead to nearsightedness, eye fatigue, and focus issues. Designating specific times without screens will help reduce these effects. Consider investing in a good printer and make it a habit to print off worksheets and smaller reading assignments. Ask teachers if they can provide physical books instead of online content. Any time you’re able to encourage your student to learn without a screen is an investment in their health.
6. Call with confidence.
Video conference calls are inevitable for virtual learning. Whether you’re using Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, or Google, try a test run before the actual meeting. Plugging in the ethernet cable should provide a stronger connection than wi-fi. Headphones are essential to provide privacy, avoid feedback, and communicate more clearly. Noise-canceling headphones are a great option for close quarters or larger families. Pro tip: make sure your headphone jack is compatible with your computer before the meeting.
Preparing your virtual set-up ahead of time will help you and your student feel more prepared and confident. As for helping them with their Algebra … you’re on your own for that.