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How to create the best learning space for kids

Shruti Shekar
·Telecom & Tech Reporter
·4 min read
Smiling small African American girl in headphones watch video lesson on computer in kitchen, happy little biracial child in earphones have online web class using laptop at home, homeschooling concept
GETTY

Despite over 100,000 Ontario students returning to in-class schooling on Jan. 25, many more will continue learning online at home. For those, experts say a few simple solutions can create a smoother learning experience. One of the most critical is how to deal with technical difficulties like the recent video-call disruptions that affected various schools across the Greater Toronto Area.

Hardwiring a child’s computer through an ethernet cable to your WiFi router is the most effective way to avoid internet disruptions. But if your home doesn’t allow for that setup Daniel Bader, a tech expert and managing editor of Android Central, says a mesh WiFi router system can help your WiFi run effectively throughout your home.

In a mesh router system, there’s a main router and a second or third “satellite” that expands the power of the WiFi signal, Bader explained in an interview. “The reason this system is important is that if you have an office or a table in your basement or in a bedroom upstairs, the likelihood of WiFi dropouts reduces dramatically,” he said.

Bader warned against getting a WiFi extender, which many people end up getting. He explained many people will get a WiFi extender and place it where there’s a dead spot in their home to hopefully get a better signal.

“That is a very limited solution and does not fix the fundamental problem of not having enough WiFi power throughout your house,” he said, noting that a mesh system is also cheaper.

Bader added that you can get the Eero on Amazon for $279, or the Google Nest for $349.

Equally important is ensuring your child has the right hardware for school work, he added. Depending on their age, Bader noted that a Google Chromebook is built for kids and lightweight. Many Ontario school districts already issue a Chromebook to students, he noted.

“They’re just very difficult to mess up. It’s basically an internet browser and has a few apps,” he said. Bader noted parents can install specific software, like Family Link, to help monitor their kid’s internet usage.

“These are specific to kids who use a laptop for school and then they take it back into their room and use it as their primary computer outside of school,” he said.

Bader added that ensuring your kid is in a well-lit area and seated at a desk so they don’t slouch is also important. It can also help to get them a mouse pad, an external keyboard, headphones, and a comfortable chair.

Don’t expect learning at home to be the same as in-person

Ramona Pringle, a tech expert and associate professor at Ryerson University, says that while we are a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and some parents have struggled to support their kids learning from home, they need to remember not to have the same expectations as in-person learning.

“Don’t assume it’s going to be one-to-one. A school day that went from 9 am to 3:30 pm in-person isn’t going to be the same in front of a computer,” she said, adding that kids will find it harder to focus when all of their learning is coming from a digital screen instead of in-person.

“It’s too much of an expectation to think that kids can focus for a full day being in front of a computer screen. We know the toll it takes on us as adults, and that means there’s going to be a lot of other things you need to be doing to keep the day busy,” she said.

Pringle said that so much of a seamless experience for your child is dependent on their age. The younger they are, the more a parent will have to do to ensure their learning experience goes well. But it doesn’t mean that it has to be exhausting.

“If your kid is young, you’re going to be with them and you’re going to be helping them because they can’t focus for a long time and they press a lot of buttons and you know you’re going to be there overseeing their engagement with the computer,” she said.

But as kids get older, parents can start to teach kids about the technology they’re using, Pringle noted.

“There’s a lot to be said about using this as an opportunity for them to learn new skills and gain new skills,” she said.

Parents can teach kids what to do when computers need to be charged, what they look for on computers when something goes wrong and safely troubleshooting, she added.

On the advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Education minister Stephen Lecce announced on Wednesday that the following school boards will go back to in-person education: Limestone District School Board, Renfrew County District School Board, Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board, Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board, Renfrew County Catholic District School Board, Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board, and Bluewater District School board.