The kids are about to head back to school, and that means, among other things, you’ve likely started scheduling dropoff and pickup times and locations, packing lunches and figuring out after-school activities or care.
But, have you secured a reliable Internet connection?
Most parents don’t think of an Internet solution for back-to-school preparations. But, the truth of it is that, in today’s digital age, kids need Internet access to excel in school.
Technology — specifically Internet access — can make students more proactive in pursuing their own interests and give them vast educational resources to help them learn and complete assignments. It’s also helped create more flexible learning environments, allowing teachers to monitor students’ educational progress, create interactive lessons and personalize instruction to how students learn.
The 1:1 Initiative
You’ve likely heard of the 1:1 initiative, in which schools or school districts seek to arm each student with a district-owned device, usually a laptop, tablet or Chromebook.
In 2002, Maine became the first state to kick-start such an initiative, and it’s gained traction with the idea that it would rid the gap between students who had and didn’t have access to technology, strengthen students’ technological skills to prepare them for the onslaught of future jobs, encourage students to be more creative and take learning beyond classroom walls, and allow teachers to deliver personalized learning.
In the Consortium of School Networking’s 2017 survey, the firm found that about 40 percent of school districts had achieved true one-to-one computing.
The New Challenge: Internet Access
One-to-one computing is achieving when it comes to giving children access to technology, but it’s also introduced a new challenge. School districts have worked to get high-speed Internet for kids in school, but they have less control over Internet access at home.
In 2017, the National Center for Education Statistics found that 92 percent of home Internet users between the ages of 3 and 18 had access via a mobile Internet service or data plan, while 88 percent had access via high-speed Internet service installed at home. The entity also learned that, of those who lacked Internet service at home, a little more than one third said it was because services are too expensive.
While those figures seem all-encompassing, we should note that not all Internet access is created the same. Some may have access through a mobile device, which can be pretty limiting when it comes to carrying out homework assignments, while others may be sharing a connection with other siblings and you!
Finding the Right Connection
So, what makes a connection great? These days, it has to be secure and reliable, but it also has to have enough bandwidth for the entire household. After all, you don’t want your Internet to slow to a crawl because everyone’s doing his and her own thing online.
To calculate your bandwidth needs, you’ll need to take into account several factors, such as Internet activity, the number of people in your household and more. Consider how many devices are typically connected at once and what types of activities will be taking place simultaneously. Will you be streaming on your 4K television while little Jimmy is doing his homework? What types of school activities will your children be doing online?
Know the basics, such as the difference between download and upload speeds, and remember that certain activities, such as video conferencing, will likely require higher upload speeds.
Not sure where all this leaves you? Take our quiz to see how much speed you need.
Putting Those Connections to Work
Once you’ve got the right Internet connection, put it to work. Go ahead and download some back-to-school apps that can help parents schedule and stay organized, help with homework and ensure child safety!
Take a good look at some of the scheduling apps, like Google Calendar, Cozi or TimeTree, which could come in handy when you’re first starting to sort out everyone’s back-to-school schedules, practices and other activities. For meal planning, check out Lala Lunchbox, an app that gives children a virtual “library” of foods — fruits, veggies, proteins and snacks — to select what they want to eat for lunch. Parents can then use this as a pre-made grocery list.
For homework apps, try myHomework, which gives instant access to assignments, projects and tests and will help track due dates for each. This app would fit in seamlessly with school districts that have carried out the 1:1 initiative. Other apps, like gFlash and Quizlet, will allow you to create flashcards and other study sets to help your kids ace that test! And, for all you parents who are a little rusty in, say, math, take a crash course in problem solving through the use of Photomath, in which you point a camera on your mobile phone at a problem and see how it is solved, or Socratic, which works with other subjects.
And, don’t forget the regular day-to-day Internet usage, too!
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