2020 has been a year of learning a "new normal" and many parents and children are now navigating the world of home schooling. Not only are parents becoming a part-time teacher, they are most likely the on-site IT support person to help their child navigate the new electronic classroom they will begin the year in. Technology is not perfect, and a lot tempers have already been tested this week from reading my social media feeds and answering texts from friends in need of a helpful tech tip about Buzz, Zoom, wi-fi, and making adjustments to their school provided laptop or tablet. With those questions in mind, I thought it would be helpful to share a few of these tips with you.
Our Wi-Fi network keeps dropping connections during the day, and we drop from the Zoom call that our student is on, or they have to log back in to their lesson when the session ends. Is there something we can do?
WiFi issues have a wide range of reasons for happening, but the best advice is to make sure your wireless router is in the most central part of your home, where no one corner of your home is further away from the router than others. This will ensure the best distribution of signal to your entire home. If you are not able to centrally locate your router, consider adding a wi-fi extender to another part of the home. There are a wide range of extenders that plug into a wall socket and are easily set up with a simple phone app to augment your network. We recommend extenders or mesh systems from TP Link.
Other items to check are the age of your wireless router, and the speed of your internet service if you have multiple students in your home and are working from home yourself. If your router is over 4 years old it may be time to consider a newer model as well. Most internet service providers offer excellent modems with wi-fi capability built-in that broadcast at both 2.4 and 5GHz with built in security features and fast broadcast speeds.
If possible, the best option is always to plug directly into the modem/router with a network cable. If you're able to connect directly, it will always provide the best connection and experience.
My son/daughter is trying to install some software on their tablet/computer that the school provided to them and it will not install at all. Is there something we should be doing differently?
Many times, when you are working on a computer, tablet, or phone provided by your work or educational IT Department, the unit is configured with a management utility that helps the IT Department ensure the security of the system and the network it is connecting to. You may not see any evidence that the management software is there, but if you are unable to install certain apps from the Apple store, Microsoft store, or as a download through the Internet, it is most definitely preventing you from it completing. In these cases, you should contact your IT Help Desk to inquire whether the software can be allowed to be installed on your system. In some cases, the IT Department can remotely install the software for you via the tool installed on the computer/tablet. Other benefits to IT managing your equipment is you will receive regular updates, can count on active antivirus/anti malware protection, and the IT Department can remotely wipe the system should you lose it.
Our family has a tight budget and cannot afford to buy two or more iPads/MacBooks for our children, and we are not being provided anything from their school. Can we use some old computer equipment we had stored in a closet?
The folks here at Byte Squad love keeping technology out of the recycle pile, but sadly every computer will meet the inevitable day where it simply can no longer meet current standards of operating system and software requirements. Our rule is that if you have an older PC that you are looking to use, consider 4 years to be their useful lifespan. Easy upgrades to extend that lifespan by a year or two are to add an SSD (Solid State) drive, and to upgrade the RAM. Depending upon your model of PC, this may or may not be possible. MacBooks and iMacs have a 5-6 year lifespan in our opinion, and fall into the same situation as PCs. Some MacBooks can be upgraded with an SSD and RAM, but a majority of systems available have the drive and RAM soldered to the mainboard of the Mac. If money is tight, and your children's IT requirements provided by the school include the option for a Chromebook, we recommend them as a viable, secure, relatively inexpensive option. Most online education happens via a web-based portal, and a Chromebook is a perfect option to consider. We recommend reading this article from Laptopmag.com to learn more and to see the best Chromebooks available in 2020.
I waited on hold for an hour with our school's help desk and don't know what to do.
As everyone navigates the start of the 2020-2021 school year, we have no idea how long students will be learning remotely. Many of the systems being used right now may not have been designed for the level of use they are seeing right now, and problems are bound to happen. Many school IT Departments are working non-stop to ensure our students have the best possible experience to learn this year. In the short term, many IT departments may be overwhelmed and long wait times will result. Consider looking on the internet in a Google search for answers while you wait on hold. Online educational systems like Buzz have great support forums to look at should you have a specific problem. If all else fails, local IT service providers like Byte Squad can help over the phone, in a secure online remote session, or in a quick home visit complete with face mask and sanitizer to ensure your safety.
Thank you to all of the parents and educators out there teaching our bright young minds in this unique moment!