1. Become one with the technology
Instead of waiting until they have their 1st online class, take some time to host a practice session with your child. Each platform has a free tier that you can register for. Just like you normally attend open house at your school, make sure that your kid has an opportunity to see what they are getting into before the session starts. Every videoconferencing platform will have different menus and toolbars. The more time your kid has to practice these tools in advance, the more comfortable she will be once the session begins. And after their sessions ends, continue to allow them to have opportunities to work with the technology outside of class. Eventually, navigating between their instruction and the technology will become seamless.
2. Create a learning environment for your child
When people work from home or remotely, they take a great deal of care to make sure that they have the proper environment. From a study desk to the right dual monitor setup, the details of your child's learning environment matter. While we are not suggesting repurposing an entire room to be their remote classroom, there are things that you can do to put them in the right mindset for learning. Make sure their workspace is free and clear of clutter. If there is an area that they can host their lesson that doesn't have distractions, that's likely a great space. For lessons on science, technology and math, make sure that they have scratch paper and a pencil in case they need to do any calculations.
3. Manage your child's expectations
Many of us have been on a number conference calls where you can't quite hear what your boss or your colleague is saying. Or, your computer freezes right when someone asks you to report out on your agenda item. There are many unexpected issues that can and do pop up when we are connecting with classmates across town or across the globe. By talking to your kid about these potential issues in advance, they will be better prepared for how to respond when something does happen. Let them know that things aren't always going to go perfectly. But, as long as they are able to have a few takeaways, that's ok.
4. Utilize existing classroom norms
In classrooms, there are all types of expected norms and behaviors. These 'rules of the road' help the classroom run smoothly and gives everyone an opportunity to participate in the lesson in a respectful and courteous manner. Shouting out, not raising your hand, chewing loudly, slurping an ice cold drink or listening to loud music in the background can have an adverse impact on everyone's learning. Even though instruction is from the comfort of your own home, make sure to let your child know that he should try to utilize the same behaviors that are expected in a traditional classroom.
5. Be patient
In online classes, there can be a high level of sensory overload. Each student can see each other and the teacher. In a traditional classroom, the environment facilitates teachers being able to hone in on students who need assistance while providing whole group instruction. Since the teacher appears to be right in front of your child, there can be the expectation that she can immediately help out. However, the instructor is not only trying to guide the students on the lesson but is also functioning as a mission controller. She has to manage student volume/muting, switch between student screens, and rapidly assist students who need assistance. In this sensory rich environment, it is important to remind your child to be patient. While it can seem like the instructor is taking a long time to respond to your child, I can guarantee that she is trying to address your child's needs as quickly as possible.
6. Encourage frequent saving
Nothing can be more frustrating for a child than to lose all their hard work. The increased bandwidth load from videoconferencing software means that computers are under additional unexpected load. In most cases, many of these computers are up to the task. However, we also know that from time to time, computers can be unpredictable. To help mitigate any issues, encourage your child to frequently save her work. That way, if the computer that she is working on suddenly crashes, she will only lose a fraction of her progress versus the entire project. It makes a big difference for a student when they only have to redo a small portion of their previous work instead of the entire thing.
7. Check in on your kids
While most online learning and instructors will be safe, the reality is that we have to always be mindful that there are those who will seek to abuse a new technology. Since our children are often vulnerable, it is important that those on the other end of the platform know that you are a parent that is looking out for their kid. If possible, it helps to even remain in the same room while your child is doing the lesson. This can be a great time to catch up on email or just grab a cup of coffee and read a book. By making your presence known in advance, those who may have bad intentions will not have an opportunity to take advantage of your child. And, if you hear anything during an online class that seems inappropriate or doesn't quite sound right, you can always raise that concern with the instructor or the leadership team where your child is enrolled.
While many of us are rapidly adjusting to an all new reality, it is important to realize that online learning is brand new to our children. By talking through these simple tips with them, you can prepare them well to be successful with the online classes. And, as they become experts in this new medium of communication, they can hopefully help mentor and guide those who come after them on the proper way to utilize videoconference technology to create an ideal learning environment.