Sheridan Family Distance Learning Technology Guidance & Information
We know that technology is a key factor in your family’s distance learning experience. Thank you for all that you are doing at home to make distance learning work while juggling other responsibilities. It’s a big lift and it’s not easy, but please know that every day we see you rising to the occasion and being there for your children in so many ways. Thank you.
Below are some technology-related tips and suggestions that we hope will make your distance learning experience as smooth as possible.
Improving Your Internet Connection
The most common tech concerns we hear from families are slow website loading speeds and choppy connections on Zoom or Google Meet. In many cases, the root of the issue is a delay (technical term: latency) on home networks that is typically caused by too many users competing for network access at the same time and high computer load caused by too many tabs/windows open on the computer.
Below are some tips from Sheridan and from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help you improve your home network’s performance:
- Check your Internet plan. Do you know the speed of your service and whether it’s the best level to meet your needs? FCC consumer guides on household broadband use and broadband speeds may be helpful for you to determine your ideal home Internet service plan. A number of Internet providers are providing free speed upgrades during this period.
- Test your performance. You can download broadband speed test apps, or visit speed test websites (we recommend MLab), to check your current broadband download and upload speeds. If your speeds are slower than expected, you should contact your Internet service provider to find out if they offer troubleshooting tips or if there is an outage or service disruption in your area that may be affecting your speeds. Sometimes a simple router reboot—powering it off and then back on again—can resolve a problem.
- Create an Internet schedule. Even the latest Wi-Fi routers with fast service speeds can get bogged down by a family of users trying to do things simultaneously like stream video, play graphics-intensive games, use virtual private networks (VPNs) for work, and video conference. Set guidelines with your family members and discuss daily schedules to avoid performance issues and prioritize usage.
- Go cellular. If you get a good cellular signal in your home, another way to alleviate home Wi-Fi network congestion is to disconnect your cellular devices from your Wi-Fi network. You may also be able to use your cellular device as a mobile hotspot, through which you can connect non-cellular devices like a laptop to your cellular service. However, before switching any of your devices to cellular-only service, check your cellular data plan to make sure you won’t go over any data caps and incur overage charges. The good news is many cellular providers have lifted their data caps during this period. Look for your carrier on this list and then confirm with them directly.
- Relocate. The closer you are to your router, the stronger the signal so try to minimize the number of ceilings and walls between you and your WiFi router.
- Save entertainment for nighttime. Limit streaming movies, Netflix bingewatching, large downloads, and online gaming to the evenings when work and learning is done. Any one of these activities on their own can have a big impact on WiFi speed.
- Close windows/tabs on your computer. Many of us like to work with lots of windows open, but this, too, can significantly affect your computer’s efficiency, particularly when video conferencing. Keep your active window/tab open and close the rest.
- Turn off your camera. If you start to have problems with your connection during a video call, turn off your camera. You’ll still have audio and often the connection will improve.
- Reboot. Don’t forget to occasionally turn your devices off to allow them to reboot. There is a reason why “Have you tried rebooting?” is often the first question you’ll be asked by Tech Support when troubleshooting.
Managing Students' Internet Use + Access
By necessity, all of our students are using technology to receive assignments, engage with teachers and friends, and complete work. Recognizing that screen time is always on parents’ minds, including how to limit it and how to monitor it, we have put together several helpful tools and guides.
Sheridan’s Acceptable Technology Use Policy: This chart provides an overview of our guiding principles for student use of technology at Sheridan. We recommend reviewing this policy and, if applicable, the Chromebook policy below, with your child.
Use of Sheridan-Provided iPads/Chromebooks Policy: All Sheridan students have been supplied with an iPad or Chromebook for home use during distance learning. The terms of this policy lay out the responsibilities of students, parents, and school in the use and maintenance of these and any other Sheridan-issued devices while the device is outside of school grounds.
Family Media Agreement from Commonsense Media: Some families may be interested in signing their own agreements like this one from Commonsense Media.
The most important thing to do is have open discussions with your children about your expectations for their screen time and their behavior while online.
Zoom + Google Meet Norms & Expectations
Regular Attendance: Students are expected to attend their live synchronous lessons each day for the groups they are assigned. Please help students stay focused and engaged by ensuring that siblings, friends, or family members do not join the lessons. If your child is unable to attend for any given reason, please let your child’s teacher know.
Setting up Technology: Devices should be positioned up close in a way that is stable for students and allows their hands to be free for instruction, writing, or activities. It should not be held in their hands unless they are using it to accomplish a task (i.e. posting a picture of their work and uploading it). It’s helpful to charge devices each night (or have them near an outlet) for continuous live instruction.
Entering Zoom Meetings: Students should join Zoom meetings on mute and be ready to listen to instructions from the teacher for connection, creativity & learning!
Proper Name: As we build community, your child’s name is important! Make sure your child’s name is properly written in their Zoom Box. Students with the incorrect name will be asked to change it. After a reminder, they will be asked to leave the Zoom until a parent is able to change it and attend with them.
Background: Background features should be school appropriate and non-virtual (other than a solid color) to minimize distraction. When appropriate, teachers may encourage students to change their background for specific lessons or reasons.
Chat Function: The chat function will only be used when directed by the teacher for a particular activity or to increase lesson engagement.
Speaker View: Students should “pin the teachers video” so that they primarily see them as the speaker during live lessons. When appropriate, teachers will change settings so that students can all see and chat with each other.
Taking a Break During Zoom: It’s helpful to remind your child that when they are “in Zoom class”, it’s no different than when they are learning on campus. If they need to take a break and use the bathroom, they should ask the teacher on the Zoom (instead of wandering away from the camera). Teachers will be teaching students how to signal or ask for these kinds of breaks. This will help minimize students missing out on core instruction.
Cameras On: Students should have their camera remain on during the entire Zoom lesson for safety and security reasons.
Parent Support: Our goal is to help students stay engaged with the learning during live synchronous activities, assessments, and instruction. We appreciate parents and family members providing space for their child to engage individually and allow teachers to facilitate participation. We know it’s hard not to jump in when students might struggle with something at first, but we encourage you to let them try on their own. Teachers will continue to adapt their lessons as needed to make sure they are able to meet students where they are at, so individual work is important.
Lower School Technology Tutorials
Who to Call For Tech Help
iPad/Chromebook issues: Email email@example.com
Zoom: Please email the teacher(s) hosting the Zoom meeting AND Director of Technology Derek Morton.
Google Meet: Please email the teacher(s) hosting the Google Meet AND copy Middle School Head Jay Briar.
Seesaw: Please email the class teacher(s) AND copy Lower School Head Kelly Nelson.
Internet connection: Email firstname.lastname@example.org