It’s easy to stay with a temporary solution. For the final part of the school year, we used our kitchen table as an improvised workspace for schoolwork. My son sat hunched over the old family laptop, and I sat hunched over beside him, supervising him until class time was done. We made it work, but it was far from the ideal solution. Just ask my sore back. I realized that we needed to move away from the temporary solution and improve the workspace for all of us. For students, parents and educators, a good back to school experience needs the right tools. So set yourself up for success with the ultimate remote learning tech. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Now that we’ve decided to move away from the kitchen table, we need to find the right physical space for remote learning. If you are lucky enough to have a room you can dedicate as a workspace, take that opportunity. A room that has a door you can shut will help keep accidental noise interruptions to a minimum. In a smaller living space, find a spot that has power and good lighting.
You might not think of the furniture of your remote learning workspace as “tech” but it is. When you shop, look for products that have ergonomic support as a key feature. The attractiveness of your furniture is meaningless if your body aches after sitting there.
To start, you need to find a good office desk. Look for one that has enough room for the computer and peripherals, with room to take notes and do written work. A lightweight desk could be moved aside at the end of the school day if your space is limited, while a larger workstation allows for storage of educational materials.
And, spare a thought for your poor sore back (and behind). Sitting uncomfortably for hours will make it harder to learn and harder to stay engaged. Invest in a good chair that will provide support and comfort. Adjustability is also a key feature for a good office chair, especially if the primary user is still growing. A chair that fits them today might not fit next month.
Remote Learning Tech
A successful remote learning setup will need a dependable computer at its core. The best solution is a laptop that can adapt and travel with you. No matter how comfortable your workstation is, there will be days when sitting on the couch for a video call is a better idea. With a built in webcam and microphone, a laptop can allow you to remote learn no matter where you are. And a laptop will be able to return to the classroom with you when the time comes.
You probably won’t need a particularly powerful laptop as a student—although college and university students may require a model with higher performance, depending on their program). Some students who are into PC gaming are choosing to cover all the bases by picking a gaming laptop that doubles their school computer.
Educators on the other hand should make sure the laptop has enough processing power to create the learning materials their students will need. Editing videos can take a considerable amount of CPU power and RAM.
Don’t forget about the essential software tools for your laptop. Everyone will need access to word processing software, so a subscription to Microsoft Office is a good idea. Video editing and PDF software are important for educators creating content for their students. And you need to protect yourself with antivirus software.
When the laptop is stationed on the desk, connecting an external monitor increases its functionality and improves overall visibility. A second screen allows you to participate in a video conference on one screen and have the supporting reference documents visible on the second one. A large external monitor gives you the freedom to sit further back from the screen without sacrificing legibility, but you may not have the space or the budget for a massive new monitor.
As much as your remote learning will be predominately digital, there will still be a need for printed documents. Worksheets only really work when they are printed out. Find a printer that fits your space and budget. For younger students, colour printouts can be a nice addition to the learning experience. For everyone else, black and white printing is sufficient (and cheaper).
Your laptop will most likely have a built-in webcam, but it will have technical limitations. You’ll end up looking shady and grainy to the people watching on the other side of the screen. This is less of an issue for students but can become a real problem for educators and presenters. An external webcam and microphone will provide higher quality audio and video experience.
Your videos won’t look good unless they are properly lit, so think about adding a lamp to the workspace. A circular lamp is designed for cell phone photography but can easily be repurposed to add light to your web cam recordings. Or you can stick with a traditional desk lamp. As an added bonus of having a good video recording setup, aspiring streamers in your house will be excited that they can make high quality Fortnite videos, which will make it easier to get them to finish their homework.
Adding a wireless keyboard and mouse to your learning space will increase the flexibility and comfort, removing the need to be directly in front of the laptop with your hands on the built-in keyboard. In combination with an external monitor, the wireless keyboard and mouse give you the freedom to position yourself for maximum physical comfort.
Final Thoughts about Remote Learning Tech
You may look at these suggestions and feel a bit overwhelmed. That’s okay! We’re all a little overwhelmed right now. Start with the simple decisions and collaborate with everyone else who will be using the space to learn and to work. You can read the great back to school advice from the Best Buy bloggers over at the Back to School section to help you pick out the right gear for you. To set yourself up for success with the ultimate remote learning tech, ask the right questions and have some fun with the process.
We’re all concerned about safety for the upcoming school year and shopping for the things we need to make it successful. So is Best Buy Canada. They are continually updating and upgrading their services to make them as safe and helpful as possible. Whether it’s in-store or online shopping, you can shop with confidence.
image from Microsoft