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Moving the Classroom to the Home; How Parents Can Best Prepare Their Children

Given the closure of many schools across North America due to COVID-19, schools and districts have pivoted to online/distance learning. In our last blog article, we provided a checklist on how to best secure your home network for educational purposes (1). In this article, we are going to talk about some ideas to help make the home environment more congruent with online learning.

  • Before using any conferencing platform like BlueJeans, Zoom, or Facetime, make sure your child knows how to use the platform securely. Although all are similar, each platform has its own vendor-centric user interface. Play with the one your school has chosen to figure out how it works. In other words, role-play and set up all its functions so that it meets the need of your child. Teach your kids how to pause a broadcast, if they need to, for things like bathroom trips or water bottle refills. Proper planning prevents poor online performance.

  • Do not allow online learning to take place in your child’s bedroom or bathroom with a closed door. Very recently there was a video that went viral where a student took their laptop into the bathroom while participating in an online class. Much like school, online learning (whenever possible) should take place in a public place in your home. If you can, dedicate one area in your home where the online learning will take place.

  • Try to make sure that the identified space is well-lit, has a reliable power source, is comfortable, and can provide peace and quiet to enhance learning. Make sure the background is neutral and that it doesn’t show any personal information such as family pictures or location information.

  • Make sure that the child’s background while using their camera is not distracting to the other students who will be joining in. If you have pets, try to ensure that they do not introduce themselves to the rest of the class unannounced by popping up on your lap or onto your keyboard or laptop. Having the camera facing a wall is more desirable than facing into the home space where distractions are very common such as mom, dad, siblings, or pets walking around.

  • Ensure any non-tech equipment such as notebooks, paper, pens, and pencils are at hand just in case they are needed during their session. Some people learn more efficiently with the access to more traditional learning tools. Constantly walking away from the video session can be distracting to the teacher, other students, and it just does not look appropriate. So, make sure these things are readied before the lesson starts.

  • Make sure any mobile devices that are going to be used are fully charged if they cannot be plugged in.

  • If mobile phones are not needed during the class, try to keep them away unless during breaktime or per the teacher’s instructions.

  • Make sure that your kids are wearing the similar clothes they would wear were they attending class at school—Sorry, this means no pajamas! This will help them keep in routine and encourage the proper mindset for learning. This also can help them look more professional on camera. These are good habits as more workplaces in the future, and especially nowadays more than ever, are using virtual meetings.

  • Parents, you don’t hover over your kids when they are in class at school, so apply this to our “new normal” and do not hover over your child, unless invited, while they are online learning at home. Not only can it be distracting for them, but it can also negatively impact their learning.

  • Remind your child that although they may be in a private learning environment, everything they do online should always be considered public, permanent, searchable, exploitable, copiable, and shareable. Not all video conferencing platforms are as private or secure as many people think they are.

  • No matter how well prepared the student or the teacher, this is a new educational frontier for everyone. There will be some digital hiccups, like losing a connection or the screen freezing; this is where younger students may need your help as the parent. Know that teachers are going to do their best to connect with their students as seamlessly and glitch-free as possible.

  • Consider implementing our Family Collective Agreement as a contract outlining rules for technology usage (2).

The White Hatter Team