Technology for Virtual Learning
From Zoom meetings to Google classroom to online educational websites, there are a lot of tech items that are incredibly helpful for a successful virtual learning experience. As part of our How to Setup a Home Classroom series, a fantastic group of teachers, parents, educators, and other incredible members of our Facebook group put together this helpful list of must-have tech gadgets for virtual learning and homeschooling!
20+ Must-Have Tech Gadgets for Virtual Learning
- Laptop vs Chromebook vs Tablet
- WiFi Internet Range Extender
- Chromebook / Tablet Stand
- Cable to Duplicate Screen to the TV
- Dual Monitors
- Computer Monitor
- Laser Printers
- Inkjet Printer
- HP Instant Ink
- Smart Pencil / Stylus
- Headset with Microphone
- Charging Station
Laptop vs Chromebook vs Tablet
One of the most used items in your distance learning classroom will likely be a laptop, Chromebook, or tablet. Deciding what device to get is extremely important (and somewhat intimidating to non-techies), which is why we simplified the decision-making process by putting together this list of the Best Chromebooks, Laptops & Tablets for Kids.
WiFi Internet Range Extender
Do you have a weak WiFi signal in various spots throughout your house? The head of a major tech company suggested this TP-Link WiFi Extender. It covers up to 1200 square feet and is extremely easy to set up!
Chromebook / Tablet Stand
Ergonomics is so important, because your children will be sitting in front of devices much more than usual. A laptop / Chromebook / tablet stand is very helpful. I like this laptop holder because it allows you to adjust the angle, while looking minimalist and chic.
Cable to Duplicate Screen to the TV
Someone in our Facebook group shared a BRILLIANT idea! Rather than standing over your children’s shoulders to try and monitor what they are doing on their laptop, computer, phone or tablet, mirror the screen of their device to your television! Then, you can see exactly what they are working on, while giving them some space.
If your child’s computer and your TV both have HDMI ports (which most newer ones will), then just grab one of these HDMI cables. Make sure to get a length that is long enough to reach from where your child will be working to your television. When in doubt, opt for a longer cord!
If you want to mirror a phone or tablet screen to your television, it is unlikely that your phone or tablet will have an HDMI port. Therefore, you will need to buy one of the following adapters to connect your HDMI cable from your device to your television. Here is a list of the most common phone and tablet connections for an HDMI cord.
If you want two monitors for a dual monitor setup, then I highly recommend this HP 27″ dual monitor package which includes both monitors PLUS the desk mount clamp (to free up valuable desk space!) The package even includes HDMI, VGA and DisplayPort cables! If you want smaller monitors, you can get this similar HP 23.8″ dual monitor package, but for a little bit extra, I personally would get the HP 27″ dual monitor package!
If you already have one monitor, I would urge you to still get the above package, because you don’t want to use two different monitors for a dual monitor setup. The differences in screen resolution, how colors are displayed and even brightness will drive you crazy! However, if you happen to already have two of the same monitors, you can just grab one of these dual monitor mount stands.
If you are looking for a single computer monitor to hook-up your laptop or another device to, I love this HP 27″ monitor (and the reviews on Amazon agree!) It has VGA, HDMI, Thunderbolt, and USB Type C ports, which will work with Windows or Apple computers and devices. It has a sleek, modern look and the resolution and picture quality is fantastic!
I love laser printers for many reasons, but the biggest one is that they don’t use ink cartridges that cost a fortune and can dry out before you have finished them. The toner cartridges for laser printers cost MUCH less (on a per-page basis) and last forever. You can print out WAY more pages on a laser cartridge than you can with most inkjet ink cartridges.
The BEST Black / White Laser Printer
If you only need to print in grayscale, then you want this Brother Monochrome Laser Printer. It has 5k+ positive reviews on Amazon for good reason!!! The printer prints FAST, high quality, and handles all different paper sizes. It has Wi-Fi for wireless printing, so you can print from all of your devices (including tablets and mobile phones.) It can also scan, fax, and copy documents. Best of all, you can print up to 3,000 pages per toner cartridge and it is dirt cheap for a pack of TWO compared to inkjet cartridges!
The BEST Color Laser Printer
Especially for those of us who have kids, a color printer is pretty much a necessity. My absolute favorite color laser print (which is also a bestseller on Amazon) is this HP Color Laser Printer. In addition to having all of the features of the black/white laser printer above (wireless, capabilities to scan, fax, copy, and print from your tablet, mobile phone, laptop, or other devices), it also is Alexa enabled! Yes, you can ask Alexa to print things for you! The black cartridge and color cartridges will last longer than inkjet cartridges. This is definitely the printer to go with if you plan on printing a lot!
If you want a color printer, and the color laser printer is above your budget, then I would strongly suggest buying an HP color printer that is Instant Ink ready, like this bestselling HP Envy Wireless Printer. It is a bestseller for a reason! The printer is wireless, works with Alexa (yes, you can ask Alexa to print things for you!), and prints gorgeous quality images. It is also HP Instant Ink eligible which is an absolute MUST for an inkjet printer and comes with 2 free months of Instant Ink. However, before you sign-up for Instant Ink, come back here and read the section below for extra promo codes that will give you additional free months of ink! I was able to get 6 months of free Instant Ink!!!
HP Instant Ink
Make sure you pin this page and come back here BEFORE you register your printer for the HP Instant Ink program because that way you can get up to six months of free ink (instead of just one or two months!!)
Inkjet printer cartridges are expensive, but HP Instant Ink is a great way to save a TON of money on ink. With the Instant Ink program, HP will automatically send you ink when they notice that you are running low. You can get up to 6 months of free printing (with up to 700 pages per month!) After that, you may choose to sign-up for either a free plan (15 pages per month) or other plans starting at $2.99 a month to print more pages.
If you only print 15 pages per month, you can have free ink for LIFE!!! Plus, any pages that you don’t use in a month are rolled over to the next month. You can’t downgrade to a lower-tier plan at any point, however, please know that you cannot downgrade from a paid plan to the free plan. So if you plan to only use the free plan (15 pages / month), sign-up for this one from the beginning!
Another awesome perk is that HP doesn’t care if you print full-color pages at the highest possible quality (which uses a TON of ink.) HP only counts the number of pages that you print! No more printing in “save ink” mode that results in faint, poor quality images. You will print at the highest possible quality from now on! Plus, follow the steps below when you sign-up for HP Instant Ink and you can get up to six months of free ink!
How to Get the MOST Free Months of HP Instant Ink
Follow the steps in the list below to get the MAXIMUM amount of free ink possible, but you MUST follow these steps BEFORE you sign-up for the program! If you register your printer first, then you will no longer be able to add all of these codes to get up to 6 months for free!!!
- Get one month free just for signing up with this link!!! Pick the largest plan, because why wouldn’t you want to get the most free pages during your free months? You can always downgrade your plan at any time, and any of the pages that you don’t use during your free months get rolled over (SCORE!!!) The only exception is if you want to be on the free plan, then you must pick this from the beginning. Once you sign-up for a paid plan, you can’t downgrade to the free plan.
- Most new HP printers come with a code for a couple of free months, so have the code ready when you sign-up with the link above! If you don’t have a 2 months free trial offer with your printer, try code EASYWAYTOPRINT.
- Guess what? YOU CAN STACK CODES!!! I was able to get 3 additional months by using extra codes! Here is a list of some that have worked (not all of them will work with every HP printer, but try them all out because there’s NO limit to how many you can use!!!)
Smart Pencil / Stylus
A smart pencil or stylus can turn a tablet or touchscreen computer into an electronic notebook. It is an awesome tool to add to your virtual classroom. My kids use theirs daily!
If you have an Apple iPad or other Apple products, you DEFINITELY want to get this Apple Pencil. It is the #1 Best Seller on Amazon because nothing can compete with how beautifully it works. The Apple Pencil will turn your iPad or other Apple device into a canvas (hello art projects!) or notebook. It makes it a breeze for kids to interact with apps as well.
If you are looking for a generic stylus for interacting with your tablet or another touchscreen, this stylus is an excellent choice. It comes with two styluses and replacements for both the disc tip and fiber tip.
While many laptops come with a webcam built-in, a lot of people are upgrading to an external webcam for better image and sound quality. This Aukey Webcam has a 1080p resolution, noise-reducing microphone, and has been a top pick by many tech gurus around the web.
If you are looking for traditional headphones WITHOUT a microphone, many parents in our Facebook group recommended these Noot Foldable Tangle-Free Kids Headphones. They come in a bunch of colors, have absolutely spectacular reviews and are reasonably priced.
Headset with Microphone
If you are looking for a headset to use with Zoom calls or other virtual class meetings, a mom in our Facebook group highly recommends this wireless bluetooth headset. She commented, “My 10 year old uses them, they are sturdy, comfortable, good sound quality and affordable! She especially likes having one ear free so she doesn’t constantly have to take the headset off to listen to us.” Below is a photo of how they fit on her 10-year-old daughter (posted with her permission.) I love how they are wireless because that gives kids the ability to move around without getting tangled up!
On the other hand, if you don’t mind a headset with wires, our Hot Deals Facebook Group (which you NEED to join if you like crazy good deals!!!) posted this awesome deal on Kids Headphones with Microphones!
If your kids are going to use a laptop or Chromebook as their main device, a kid-friendly mouse is very helpful. This highly rated optical mouse has just one button (instead of two), which makes it much easier for kids to use.
With all of the tablets, phones, and devices being used, it is useful to have a charging station to keep everything organized (and charged) in one spot. Plus, it keeps your kids from being up all night on their devices. We have a rule that all devices are stored and charged in the charging station in our kitchen starting at a set time every night. This helps your older kids (and adults too!) resist the temptation of waking up in the middle of the night and checking messages because the devices aren’t charging on the nightstand. I love this USB charging station because it has 10 ports (which is more than most have!) Also, the “slots” are large enough to hold our devices with their thick, protective, Otterbox cases on! Let’s be honest, NOBODY wants to have to take off an Otterbox case to charge their phone!
Do you have trouble keeping track of everyone’s Zoom calls and virtual meetings? Here is a LIFE CHANGING hack from a mom in our Facebook group. Set up timers and alarms on an Amazon Echo or Alexa Device. Then, the device will keep track of all of the kids’ different virtual meetings and remind them so that you don’t have to!
“It is fantastic for making my own charts and small posters, it’s great for printable educational games or really anything you want to use again.”Amanda B., from our Facebook group
Here’s another brilliant use that we DEFINITELY will be doing this year, since our school will start the year in a hybrid model with three days of virtual learning (which means LOTS of passwords, websites, Zooms, etc.)
Kari K-S. said that she creates a “template for websites and passwords” which she then “prints, laminates and posts” in her kids’ virtual learning space. Then, she creates and laminates another few copies to send “to the 2nd parent or grandparents house on days the kids will work from there.”Kari K-S., from our Facebook group
How to Setup a Homeschool Room
You guys and gals send me the best messages (thank you! I LOVE getting to know you!!!) You’ve made it clear that you want help getting organized for whatever this school year may bring. Whether you are starting your school year off this fall with distance learning or not, you want to be prepared for if / when our schools go virtual again. Distance learning is not easy. Virtual online school is a challenge for kids, parents, teachers… EVERYONE! Therefore, this week we will continue focusing on how to setup a virtual learning space or homeschool classroom. Here are the posts we have done so far on this topic:
- DIY Home Gym for Kids
- How to Make a Homework Station for Virtual Learning
- How to Decorate a Homeschool Room on a Budget
Below are all of our previous (free!) virtual camps, in case you missed any:
- Back to School – Fight the Summer Slide!
- “Back to Basics” Life Skills Camp
- DIY Craft Camp
- Cooking Classes for Kids
- Science Experiments for Kids
- Kids Entrepreneurship
- World Traveler (Kids Geography Camp)
Don’t forget to join our Facebook group to see our live classes and follow us on Pinterest, so you won’t miss a thing! You definitely need to follow Hannah at Inspired Sparks too, because she is posting all kinds of awesome videos to teach kids about science, crafts and cooking.