16 products teachers suggest for distance learning success
A few wise investments can make it easier for everyone.
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As a teacher and mother of a 6-year-old, I’ve been on the frontlines of the distance learning revolution from both sides. We were all scrambling in March! After all, there were no “Pandemic 101” courses in teacher training programs or in parenting classes. But as the 2020-21 school year begins we have a chance to be (at least a little bit) more prepared. I spoke with teachers from both public and private schools and from across the K-12 spectrum about what products parents can use to make learning from home as smooth as possible
For students of all ages
1. A dedicated workstation
Lolling on the sofa just doesn’t get kids into school mode. Whether they are 5 or 15, students need an “office” (er...nook) to transition into an academic mindset. Set them up for success with a dedicated workspace. This desk is mobile, length- and height-adjustable (some kids prefer standing), and even has a cool cup holder and tilting top. Pair it with this comfy ergonomic chair from Ikea and they’ll be ready for their morning meeting. Add a framed picture of fluffy as a finishing touch.
- Get the VIVO Mobile Heigh Adjusting Desk at Walmart for $149.99
- Get the Vimund Desk Chair at Ikea for $69.99
2. A WiFi extender to keep your kid connected
We’ve all logged enough Zoom time to know that there is absolutely nothing more frustrating than a person’s screen freezing up while on the verge of making a great point—usually in an unflattering pose. Teachers are forced to move on to the next student. This compact WiFi extender will give your signal a boost.
3. A digital camera brings work into focus
For kids without a phone, a digital camera is absolutely necessary for distance learning, especially when it comes to hands-on projects, like in science and art. The cameras built into computers seem like they’ll do the trick, but the angles can be awkward. Use this cute point-and-shoot to capture their hard work. Bonus: It comes with stickers.
4. Headphones with microphone
Comfy headphones stay securely on a kids’ noggins while the microphone allows their comments to be clearly heard. The earphones do a better job than earbuds of blocking out distractions. Teachers recommended these for their durability and foldability.
5. Stylus pens
Have you ever found yourself pounding on the back-of-the-seat airplane screen to order a ginger ale? Then you understand the frustrations of operating touch screens with nothing but your bare hands. A stylus pen provides more accuracy than even the most slender and dexterous fingers—not to mention chubby kindergarten digits. Just the way a pleasing, well-functioning ink pen coaxes expression, a stylus pen makes the thought-to-screen process more natural and fluid. This colorful 10-pack will ensure you have plenty to spare.
6. A mouse (or peacock)
Mastering a trackpad is tricky! Just like some of our favorite students, a trackpad is sensitive, hard to control, and small. A mouse, on the other hand, is straightforward and simpler to manipulate, especially for younger kids. Also, a mouse is easier on everyone’s wrists. This rather lovely mouse, available in other “animals,” is appealing and practical.
7. A printer with a scanner
As hard as teachers are working on creating a lively digital experience, printables keep lessons dynamic and give growing brains a rest from the screen. Whether it’s coloring a map, scanning completed worksheets, or simply printing the daily schedule and hanging it by their workspace, you’ll be glad to have a printer with a scanner, like this slim but solid model from HP.
8. A whiteboard
The wonders of a whiteboard never cease. Here are just a few reasons teachers think students should have them: completing math equations (“show your work!”), “brave spelling” words, planning essays with word webs, and storyboarding creative writing work. Important detail: Hang at the appropriate height.
9. A digital timer
A digital countdown timer like this one displays the amount of time left to complete a task. With no annoying ticking sound, this easy-to-set visual helper will assist everyone from the littles, the teens, and those in between to manage their independent work time.
10. A caddy of basic supplies
A handy, colorful caddy will keep supplies organized and in one place so no time is wasted searching for an eraser. Schools will most likely provide their own basic supply list, but here is ours just in case: pencils, erasers, colored pencils, scissors, crayons, markers, black Sharpies, a non-bendable ruler, and watercolors.
For elementary school students
11. Math manipulatives
Distance learning does not have to mean that kids miss out on hands-on experiences. Pretend money, linking cubes, small objects for counting, and a Rekenrek are all fun and inexpensive tools to help kids make abstract ideas tangible, problem solve, and test their reasoning skills.
- Get Learning Resources Pretend Money on Amazon for $9.99
- Get Linking Cubes at Lakeshore for $19.99
- Get Translucent Color Chips at Lakeshore for $12.99
- Get a Counting Frame on Amazon for $4.99
12. Elementary lined paper
When kids are learning to write, they need a developmentally appropriate canvas. Elementary lined paper is essential for scaffolding this process. I suggest stocking up on both landscape orientation with a space for pictures, as well as portrait style. Having a bunch on hand allows them to take risks, keep trying, and write on.
13. A sensory bin table to help students make sense of learning
Pre-K, kindergarten, and first-grade teachers love sensory bins because they genuinely appeal to kids’ natural curiosity and can be used in so many ways. Aside from themed play, parents can hide letters, sight words, flash cards, and numbers amongst beads, beans, sand, etc. Follow Instagram mama @coffeeandspitup for creative ideas on how to use sensory bins. I love her table from Ikea!
For middle and high school students
14. A selfie ring light
Teens want to look their best on Zoom (who doesn’t?), and chances are their desk lamp is doing them no favors. Everyone knows that when we feel better, we perform better. So why not give our teens’ confidence a boost with some flattering lighting? This selfie ring light and tripod will make sure they’re ready for their close-ups.
15. All the gel pens
Yes, kids need school supplies just like they need balanced meals. But who doesn’t crave dessert? The gel pen is the gelato of school supplies. They are inspiring, whimsical, and come in a delicious array of colors. Sweeten up the shopping cart with these well-reviewed gel pens.
16. A soft place to land
Even though a desk is ideal for synchronous time, something more cozy can be a welcome relief when it’s time to switch to asynchonous mode. I like this portable tuck-away camping chair, but whether it’s a pouf, a beanbag chair, or a hammock, flexible seating provides both comfort and a sense of control over their environment. For extra buy-in, try giving them a budget and let them pick a couple options.
- Get the Kelty Camp Chair at Dick's Sporting Goods for $29.95
- Get a Poof at Target for $49.99
- Get a Bean Bag Chair at Target for $49.99
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.