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
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 a24″ Acer Class FHD IPS Monitorfrom Costco, a21.5″ LG Full HD Monitoror a21.5″Acer Full HD Monitorfrom 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. 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 theMicrosoft LX-3000, and for those who prefer an on-ear style, try theLogitech Stereo H650e.
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).
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 DisplayPort compatible with DP Alt Mode so that you can use aUSB-C to HDMI adapterorUSB-C to HDMI cableto connect an external monitor. Not all Chromebooks have this type of port.
Some ASUS Chromebooks come with a USB-C port that can be used to connect an external display, for example 14” display modelsC434,Cu433,C423,C425,C436and the 15.6” modelC523, or theSamsung 15.6” Chromebook 4+andLenovo C340 2-in-1.
If you have an older PC or Mac, you can install aCloudReady versionof ChromeOS from Neverware (it isfreefor personal use).
Content Blocking DNS Services
Companies likecleanbrowsing.org. andCloudflareprovide 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 byGeekflare.
Family Filterprovided bycleanbrowsing.orgwill 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 theFamily Filterprovided bycleanbrowsing.org, you will need to change your router’s DNS settings to the following IPv4 addresses:184.108.40.206and220.127.116.11
To activate theCloudFlare DNS Filtering service, you will need to change your router’s DNS settings to the following IPv4 addresses:18.104.22.168and22.214.171.124
Parental Control Software
If you’d like to use parental control software, you can tryWebWatcher(which is available forChromebooks, Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices), orFlexiSpy(it’s not available for Chromebooks, but can be used for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices).
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 as13.5″ Acer Convertible Chromebook Spin 713and14″ Dell Inspiron 2-in-1 with Full HD Touchscrendo come with HDMI ports, or ASUS 14” modelsC434,Cu433,C423,C425,C436and the 15.6” modelC523, as well as theSamsung 15.6” Chromebook 4+andLenovo C340 2-in-1
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