Technological Preparation for Online Education

Jody Steinglass Mar 2020
 

On the first day of any normal school year, parents purchase supplies to help keep their children organized and efficient and get them started on the right track.  While these materials do not need to be state-of-the-art, certain tools can be especially beneficial. The same is true for starting up with online education. Some of the technology is cutting edge and particularly sleek (and expensive), but most is affordable and can give students the necessary tools for success. 

At Empire Edge, we have conducted thousands of hours of online teaching and tutoring.  There is a wide range of technology that can greatly improve the experience and efficacy of online learning.  The following recommendations are very important regardless of what type of technology you have:

  1. Optimize your connection speed.  For video conferencing to be relatively glitch-free, it is important for your connection to be greater than 20 Mbps.  This might mean setting up your child’s workspace close to your Wifi Router or selecting a wired internet option such as ethernet.  Try different locations in your home and do an internet speed test to optimize bandwidth.  If you don’t have an ethernet port on your device, don’t worry.  You can buy (and have delivered) an adapter very inexpensively. 
  1. Use a headset.  A headphone/microphone system will greatly cut down on distractions, and it will improve your child’s ability to communicate with classmates, teachers, and tutors.  You may already have one that works. Many phones come with wired earbuds and built-in microphone. Apple Airbuds can be paired to work with both Apple and PC laptops and tablets (just make sure they’re charged!).  If you don’t have either of these, I recommend purchasing this headset which plugs easily into a USB port (and no charging necessary!).
  1. Download Zoom. Students should download and get comfortable with Zoom.  While some schools will opt for other platforms such as Skype or WebX, we have learned that many will move toward Zoom for online classes and collaboration.  Empire Edge will use this platform as well. Sign up for a free account, install the software, and explore its easy-to-use features. Set up a session with a friend or a tutor to iron out some of the kinks and increase your comfort level.  Just 30-60 minutes of testing it out might make you a pro for your first day back to class. Your teachers will thank you for being well-prepared!

Follow the flowchart below to determine your hardware setup.

After selecting your hardware configuration from the chart above, please use the list below to customize your setup. They are listed from most to least optimal.

SETUP A:

  1. Purchase an Apple Pen that is appropriate for the model of iPad that you own.  This will allow you to write directly on your screen.
  2. Buy a palm-rejection glove to avoid registering unwanted contact from the heel of your hand.  
  3. Use a free download of Microsoft OneNote for your iPad for smooth writing and extensible tools.  You can import documents and images directly into OneNote, share the screen with a tutor or classmate over Zoom, and save them for later use.
  4. If your Wifi is not strong enough for reliable video conferencing (at least 20 Mbps), consider purchasing an Ethernet adapter for your iPad.

SETUP B:

  1. Most PC tablets such as the Microsoft Surface or the Dell Latitude come with a stylus.  If yours does not, purchase a compatible pen from Amazon or from the manufacturer of your PC tablet directly.
  2. Buy a palm-rejection glove to avoid registering unwanted contact from the heel of your hand. 
  3. All new PCs (tablets and laptops alike) come with Microsoft OneNote installed.  If you have an older model, you can download OneNote here for free
  4. If your Wifi is not strong enough for reliable video conferencing (at least 20 Mbps), consider purchasing a USB Ethernet adapter for your tablet.

SETUP C:

  1. If you own a touchscreen laptop, you can use your finger to write directly on the screen.  That said, you’ll find that a stylus is much neater and more accurate. We recommend buying this stylus for a far more enjoyable experience.  
  2. In conjunction with the stylus, you should also purchase a palm-rejection glove to avoid registering unwanted contact from the heel of your hand as you rest your hand to write.
  3. Use a free download of Microsoft OneNote for your laptop for smooth writing and extensible tools.  You can import documents and images directly into OneNote, share the screen with a tutor or classmate over Zoom, and save them for later use.

SETUP D:

  1. If your laptop is not touchscreen, you should consider purchasing a stylus and pad to capture your pen strokes.  This will make drawing diagrams and doing math much easier and more enjoyable. After researching several models, Empire Edge recommends that you use the Wacom Intuos Tablet.  The tablet plugs into the USB port of your laptop and sets up in seconds.  We recommend playing around with the stylus for 30-60 minutes and customizing the pen and tablet buttons to your preferences.  
  2. Use a free download of Microsoft OneNote for your laptop for smooth writing and extensible tools.  You can import documents and images directly into OneNote, share the screen with a tutor or classmate over Zoom, and save them for later use.

SETUP E:

  1. If you own an Android tablet such as a Galaxy Tab, Fire HD Tablet, or Lenovo Smart Tab, your device may have already come with a stylus.  If not, consider purchasing an Android compatible stylus.  This will make doing math or drawing diagrams feel much more natural.
  2. In conjunction with the stylus, you should also purchase a palm-rejection glove to avoid registering unwanted contact from the heel of your hand as you rest your hand to write.
  3. Use a free download of Microsoft OneNote for your Android Device for smooth writing and extensible tools.  You can import documents and images directly into OneNote, share the screen with a tutor or classmate over Zoom, and save them for later use.

SETUP F:

  1. If you do not have a tablet or a laptop, then you can use your phone.  We recommend buying an adjustable stand for your phone so that you can remain hands-free for taking notes.
  2. Since the screen real estate on a phone is so limited, we do not recommend trying to use a stylus or your finger to record pen strokes.  Rather, consider purchasing a dry-erase board so that you can do your work quickly and then hold it up in front of the camera while in a Zoom meeting to present to the class, teacher, or tutor. 

We don’t know how long schools will remain closed and classes will be conducted online.  It may be well worth the cost to implement one of the more preferred solutions listed above.  Even when schools reopen, there is a good chance that many schools will see the benefits of online teaching and continue to offer some classes this way.  

Your school’s move to online classes will not be without its hiccups, but we at Empire Edge are trained and ready to help make the transition as seamless as possible.  We have also opened up additional hours in case students would like to schedule additional sessions as they acclimate to the new style of learning. 

Remember, we are all going through these difficult and uncertain times together.  Empire Edge is committed to facilitating education at the highest possible level.   As always, please contact us if you have any questions or if we can provide any further guidance.

Please read our post on The Right Mindset for Online Education for suggestions on how to get into the right mindset for online classes.


About Empire Edge

Empire Edge is a premier educational services company serving students in New York City and the surrounding areas.  We deliver exemplary academic assistance and standardized test preparation to students of all levels. Through classes and one-on-one meetings, our team strives to create a personal connection to the subject matter, bolstering mastery and self-confidence in the process.

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