Caveat: We understand that not all families will have the ability to implement all the recommendations in this article, given a variety of different socio-economic factors and challenges. Having said this, even if a family is only able to institute a few of these recommendations, it can go a long way to enhance your child’s online distance learning experience.
Last School year, out of necessity, we were all (students, teachers, and parents) thrown into the “emergency” online learning environment as a result of COVID19. Many of us were totally unprepared, but we learned to adapt, overcome, improvise, and navigate our way through this new educational paradigm shift the best we could. Through the fog of COVID19 distant learning, there were definitely some lessons learned for parents, when it comes to ensuring that we are best preparing our homes to enhance the learning environment for our kids. Given the uncertainty surrounding this new 2020/21 school year, it is reasonable to believe that some form of “at home” online learning will still be a reality faced by many families. As a result, we offer this White Hatter checklist to help make this new school year more conducive to at home online distance learning:
Home Network and Device Security:
- If able, but not always possible, use a school-provided laptop or tablet for at-home learning. This helps to protect the privacy, integrity and security while doing online learning at home.
- Think about installing a router on your home network that helps to protect all devices from malware and Direct Denial of Service attacks (DDOS). During COVID there were more youth online playing games that could sometimes lead to them being targets of game rage by others who would then target the family home router via a DDOS attack and shut it down for hours. The result, no internet access for your kids our parents which could be problematic if a parent is working from home. We recommend the Gryphon router as an excellent option given its multi-functional approach to family safety and security.
- Change your passwords. A new school year is about to start, no better time than now to create new passwords. Here is a great and free site that will allow you to check the strength of your new password: www.my1login.com/resources/password-strength-test/
- Install or update good malware (virus) protection on all your at-home learning devices, We here at the White Hatter also utilize “BitDefender” www.bitdefender.com as our primary malware protection software. Those that decide to use a Gryphon router, it is built right in!
Enhancing Home Learning:
- Make sure before any new school session that your reboot the computer (turn it off and then back on) and make sure other programs, applications and tabs are closed. This will ensure that the chosen device is fresh to go.
- If your child was lucky enough to be issued with a school device (Chromebook, tablet) make sure both you and your child knows how it works. YouTube can be your best friend here.
- Before using any at-home learning conferencing platform (Zoom, TEAMS, Bluejeans, Skyp, ect) make sure both you and your child knows how to use the platform. Most are very similar to one another. If unfamiliar with the software platform, just head over to YouTube search the platform and watch some videos. Don’t be afraid to play with the platform being used, you will not break it. Also, ensure you ask for your school’s policy specific to online learning, read it thoroughly, and share it in a language with your child in a way that they can understand.
- Teach your child how to turn off the device’s camera and mic. There may be times, like having to go to the bathroom, or if something embarrassing is happening in front of the camera, that a camera and mic should be turned off. Again, YouTube can be your friend here in learning how to do this.
- Pick a space where the backdrop is a wall and not into your open home, and make sure the background is neutral and doesn’t show any personal or private information such as pictures or location information.
- Wherever possible, do not allow online learning to take place in the child’s bedroom or bathroom. If there is no other option than the child’s bedroom, ensure door stays open, screen and the back of your child faces the door so you can see what is happening. Once the online learning is over, ensure to remove the device from the bedroom.
- If you are working from home, it may be difficult to share a space with your child, so think about alternative ways that it could work for all. For example, could you work in your bedroom while they have the home office or living room.
- Structure is important, this is something school provided to students but often difficult to establish at home. One way to make this happen, have a “balanced” visual timetable, that uses both text and pictures of the day’s activities, can be really helpful to establish routine! Post on the student’s bedroom door and in the kitchen.
- If possible, use a hardwire connection when connecting to the internet, rather than a Wi-Fi connection. This reduces the chances of losing internet connection during online learning sessions.
- Make sure the identified learning space is well-lit, has a reliable power source, is comfortable and if possible can provide peace and quiet to reduce distractions to promote learning.
- Ensure any non-tech equipment such as notebooks, paper, pens, pencils water or juice, are within arm’s reach just in case they are needed. This helps to reduce distraction time.
- Make sure any mobile devices that are going to be used are fully charged if they cannot be plugged in. Nothing worse than a dying battery during an online learning event.
- If mobile phones are not needed during the online session, try to keep them away unless they are using them during a break, or per the teacher’s instruction.
- Make sure that your child is wearing similar clothes they would wear id they were attending class at school. No pajamas, unless it’s a pajama day event. Parents, you may want to also consider this suggestion as well just in case you are caught on camera.
- Do not hover over your kids when they are in class online unless invited. You don’t do this in the brick and mortar school room, the same applies to online learning.
- Constantly remind your child that although they may be in a private learning environment, everything they do online is public, permanent, searchable, exploitable, copiable and shareable.
- Remember, there will be some digital hiccups especially with younger students, this is where you will play an important role to help where reasonable and necessary.
- Encourage the American Ophthalmology Association’s 20/20/20 rule to help reduce eye strain. Ever 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus on an object that is 20 meters away while you blink your eyes. This will help to reduce eye strain fatigue and keep your eyes lubricated.
- Allow your child to take a break, rehydrate and enjoy/reward themselves between their next online learning session. If possible, get outside and engage in some form of physical exercise.
- Implement our “Family Collective Agreement” which clearly outlines expectations on the use of technology both inside and outside of the home: https://files.thewhitehatter.ca/owncloud/index.php/s/AjjifwXzZevgG2i
Remember, make the most of the space you have, but don’t get stressed if you can’t provide the perfect learning environment. If need be, your child can work on the sofa or their bedroom floor.
Please share this article with other families, teachers and schools
The White Hatter Team