How to get ready for your kids to start their school online

Entrespace Group
Aug 16, 2020 · 6 min read

As many schools switch to teaching online, students may need to spend up to 6–7 hours a day or more with their computers. With so much screen time, it will be important to set up an environment so that children can learn in the most effective way possible:

  • Less time and effort switching between tabs and apps
  • Less noise and fewer distractions
  • Less strain on the eyes
  • Less time and effort to manage and maintain equipment
  • Less confusion
  • Less time fixing things
  • Lower risk and more secure
  • Easy to use, and simple to set up
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Second Display

The less time students spend switching between different applications and windows the better. Otherwise it’s easy to get distracted and lose time trying to find the right window to open.

We recommend connecting a second display, so that one screen can be used for video meetings and the second screen can be used for taking notes, accessing reference materials, etc.

The second display does not have to be very big. A 19” to 24” monitor should be more than enough. You can order a 24" Acer Class FHD IPS Monitor from Costco, a 21.5" LG Full HD Monitor or a 21.5"Acer Full HD Monitor from Amazon.

Headphones with a Microphone

If you have more than one person participating in video meetings in the same area at your home, it can become noisy. If two computers are simultaneously used for video meetings, you will hear audio from at least 4 different parties — each person and whatever audio that will be heard on each of the devices. Noise can have an impact. Not only can it end up making everyone tired faster, but these audio distractions may interfere with each person’s activities by reducing their focus and ability to maintain their concentration, which in turn can reduce learning effectiveness for your kids.

We recommend using a pair of USB headphones with a microphone for each person. Another option is to use an USB adapter with 3.5mm Headphones with a mic (3.5mm Aux to USB to Audio Jack Sound Adapter for CTIA OMTP Headphone TRRS Jacks, e.g., by Koopao). Not only will headphones block out external noise (so one can hear their own video meeting without having to hear other people’s conversations nearby), but other people around will not be distracted or disturbed by the audio coming from each computer. While it’s possible to use regular headphones with a 3.5mm connector, a built-in unidirectional microphone with acoustic noise cancellation will make it easier for other video meeting participants to hear your child.

Headphones should be very comfortable to wear, given that they will be used 6–7 hours or more each day. For those who prefer an around-ear style, you can consider getting the Microsoft LX-3000, and for those who prefer an on-ear style, try the Logitech Stereo H650e.

Chromebook

When choosing a computer, we recommend going with a Chromebook. They boot quickly and are virtually maintenance free, easy to use, and secure (no need for antivirus and malware protection). In addition, no backup of your disks is required (files are automatically uploaded to the cloud with Google Drive).

You can read more about Chromebooks, e.g., How to switch to a Chromebook… (Forbes) and Best laptops for students (Verge).

Size matters here. Given that the computer will be the primary tool for learning and will be used for a significant amount of time each day, a 14” or 15” display will be less tiring for the eyes (reading small fonts is manageable for a shorter period of time, but not for a full day). A touchscreen is preferred. As a comparison, it is not typical for an average employee who uses a computer as the primary tool for their job to be issued a laptop less than 14” in size by their company.

Unfortunately, most Chromebooks do not come with an HDMI port (our guess is that they were designed prior to the current pandemic assuming that students would bring their computers to school without having to use two screens), thus it’s important to select a model that comes with a USB-C compatible with DisplayPort Alt Mode so that you can use a USB-C to HDMI adapter or USB-C to HDMI cable to connect an external monitor. Not all Chromebooks have this type of port.

However 13.5" Acer Convertible Chromebook Spin 713 and 14" Dell Inspiron 2-in-1 with Full HD Touchscren do come with HDMI ports.

Some ASUS Chromebooks come with a USB-C port that can be used to connect an external display, for example 14” display models C434, Cu433, C423, C425, C436 and the 15.6” model C523, or the Samsung 15.6” Chromebook 4+ and Lenovo C340 2-in-1.

If you have an older PC or Mac, you can install a CloudReady version of ChromeOS from Neverware (it is free for personal use).

Parental Control Software

If you’d like to use parental control software, you can try WebWatcher (which is available for Chromebooks, Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices), or FlexiSpy (it’s not available for Chromebooks, but can be used for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices).

Content Blocking DNS Services

Companies like cleanbrowsing.org. and Cloudflare provide filtering services that help block access to malware, adult content and other sites unsafe for kids. If you’d like to learn more about filtering services, check a review provided by Geekflare.

Family Filter provided by cleanbrowsing.org will help block access to

  • Adult, pornographic and explicit sites
  • Proxy and VPN domains that are used to bypass the filters
  • Mixed content sites (like Reddit)
  • Malicious and Phishing domains are blocked.

Family Filter will also limit Google, Bing and Youtube to Safe Mode. To activate the Family Filter provided by cleanbrowsing.org, you will need to change your router’s DNS settings to the following IPv4 addresses: 185.228.168.168 and 185.228.169.168

To activate the CloudFlare DNS Filtering service, you will need to change your router’s DNS settings to the following IPv4 addresses: 1.1.1.3 and 1.0.0.3

Summary

To set up an effective environment the following 6 items will make it easier for you and your children:

  1. Chromebook (13.5"- 15") with a touchscreen and either with an HDMI port or a USB-C port compatible with DisplayPort Alt mode, such as 13.5" Acer Convertible Chromebook Spin 713 and 14" Dell Inspiron 2-in-1 with Full HD Touchscren do come with HDMI ports, or ASUS 14” models C434, Cu433, C423, C425, C436 and the 15.6” model C523, as well as the Samsung 15.6” Chromebook 4+ and Lenovo C340 2-in-1
  2. External Monitor (19"-24"), such as a 24" Acer Class FHD IPS Monitor, a 21.5" LG Full HD Monitor or a 21.5"Acer Full HD Monitor
  3. Cables or Adapters to connect a computer with an external display, such as USB-C to HDMI adapter or USB-C to HDMI cable
  4. USB Headphones with a Microphone, such as the Microsoft LX-3000 (around-ear style) or Logitech Stereo H650e (on-ear style)
  5. Parental Control Software and Service, such as WebWatcher (available for Chromebooks, Windows, Mac, iOS, Android) or FlexiSpy (available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS)
  6. Content Blocking DNS Services, such as Family Filter provided by cleanbrowsing.org, or DNS Filtering service provided by CloudFlare

As always your comments and suggestions are much appreciated. If you’d like to find out more information about these and other options, please visit our webpage officeflo.com/school.

OfficeFLO

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OfficeFLO

As we discover, validate and verify good practices that we implement for our company, our clients, or, even, our families, we will try to document what we like and use, and share them in this publication.

Entrespace Group

Written by

A business design firm helping clients improve their products and services through innovation and analytics techniques and proven practices (www.entrespace.com)

OfficeFLO

As we discover, validate and verify good practices that we implement for our company, our clients, or, even, our families, we will try to document what we like and use, and share them in this publication.