Distance Learning Growing Pains
I have a 12-year-old middle schooler. Her school, like so many others, was forced into a remote learning model as a result of COVID-19. We were sort of lucky since this school provided laptops to all their students as part of their regular learning model, and much of their curriculum was already online. That meant a limited learning curve with the equipment, and mainly a need to learn the platform the school elected to use. I’ve been using Microsoft Teams for years — an exceptionally robust and approachable platform — and found my experience helped with her modest learning curve.
Over the past few months I made some observations and some notions of how, should this persist longer-term, we might make the learn from home model a bit better for our daughter (and us, too!).
Isolate the Noise
We set up our daughter’s room to include a dedicated space for her school time. We started out with her in the living room, mostly to make sure she participated, but also to make sure we could help as she got underway with this new model.
We quickly learned that the competing noise between all the various work-from-home needs demanded some individual space for each person. We added a desk to her bedroom, set some ground rules, and invested in a decent headset. This made a huge difference. (Check out our Remote Worker Hub for a multitude of options.)
Technology and Devices Setup
Much of the school day consisted of watching the teacher lecture or screen share content. Now, my daughter, like many other kids, already gets plenty of screen time — we understood this would be part of the equation by necessity — but she began to express frustration at the small screen size, especially when trying to see the shared information.
Her first request was to have my setup: 27-inch dual monitors. That didn’t happen. But I did pull out of storage a 22-inch older display monitor that we set up for her — a big difference going from a 13-inch! We also connected an inexpensive docking station to help with the overall setup of USB devices.
Schedule Routine Breaks
In terms of simple in-home management (i.e., parenting), one of the things that I have found makes a big difference in my daughter's... well, it isn’t really enthusiastic adoption so much as tolerant acceptance… is maintaining a routine break schedule. This includes sharing lunches, taking the dog for a walk or two, and convincing her to pull her face out of a screen and do something else.
That last one is a biggie. Our kid has a phone, a tablet, and access to a big screen TV, so mandating alternative activities where possible just makes sense to me. But this has an added benefit for the adult who is also working from home. It has made me pay closer attention to my own need to create boundaries between work and home, as we are all aware how easy it is for that line to blur.
Small Improvements for Long-Term Benefits
Like most people, we are hoping for a return to “normal” as soon as possible. But if we can add small improvements to the learn-from-home model — making the experience as positive as possible while also providing the backing behavioral support — I believe it will go a long way in helping our families and our educators overall.
UnifiedCommunications.com is working to develop some Remote School Kits that include the equipment your family needs. Please stay tuned for information and in the meantime, check out our Remote Worker Hub for a multitude of options.