Thanks to COVID-19, many schools have opted for remote learning as a means to keep students and teachers safe without forsaking education for the 2020 school year. Parents have scrambled to get laptops and desks so their children are prepared for virtual learning, but we found a few other accessories that’ll make online schooling a little easier.
Before diving into the best distance-learning accessories, you should ensure that you have all the basics for your child’s school-at-home setup first, including a good computer. And because virtual learning revolves around video calls and just generally being online, having a reliable internet connection is important, too. Lastly, know that you can find an online tutoring service to help your child if they are struggling with a particular subject, because remote learning can cause issues that students may not have in a physical classroom.
It’s also worth noting that we tried to keep a mix of options for both younger and older students here. Not every option will apply to every student, but most of these can easily go both ways (or at least point you in the right direction for other options).
A Poseable Adjustable Light
An inexpensive and flexible light can serve several purposes. It ensures your child can properly see their work area, and it can be rotated to illuminate them when they’re on video calls, so their teacher can properly see them.
This foldable and dimmable LED lamp from TaoTronics does a great job of brightening up a space, and has five color modes and seven brightness levels. The lamp head tilts up 135 degrees and swivels 90 degrees, and the base tilts down to 150 degrees and swivels 45 degrees, offering plenty of flexibility. Plus, it has a built-in USB port for charging devices.
Print, Scan, Fax, and More
An all-in-one printer is great to have in general, but it’s especially great for those that won’t have in-person classes. The HP OfficeJet 3830 All-in-One Wireless Printer lets you print, copy, scan, and fax. It supports AirPrint, and you can print things directly from your cloud storage (like iCloud and Google Drive) through the HP Smart app for iOS and Android. The printer works quickly and quietly, and the touchscreen user interface is easy to use.
Listen, Talk, and Limit Volume
Headphones are important for learning at home, as they make it easy for students to hear what the teacher is saying. But buying a headset with a built-in microphone is also important, as it allows your child’s classmates and teacher to clearly hear what they have to say.
These Mpow Kids Over-Ear Headphones with Microphone are comfortable and perfect for online learning. The 3.5 mm jack is compatible with most phones, tablets, and computers, and it can connect to another pair of the same headphones, which is perfect for siblings or friends. It also has a volume limiter, which restricts audio to 85 Db to protect your child’s hearing, but you can toggle it up to 94 Db if needed.
They don’t have high-end features like noise canceling, but they’re a good basic set of cans for kids.
Keep Your Headphones Ready
A headphone stand can make a workspace seem more organized and professional, which your child might appreciate. This stand keeps your child’s headphones out of the way when they’re not using them, and ensures drinks and food won’t spill on them. The New bee Headphone Stand is made of aluminum and has a minimalist design and small footprint.
Save Important Files
If you want a copy of your child’s important files, or just want to make sure they always have a backup, an external hard drive (HDD) is nice to have. The small form factor of portable HDDs makes them easy to store and take with you anywhere you go.
The Seagate Portable 1 TB External Hard Drive supports both USB 2.0 and the faster USB 3.0 for fast data transfers. It can be used with PCs, Macs, and Chromebooks, and its plug-and-go functionality makes it super easy to use—simply drag and drop files onto the hard drive from your computer. The portable hard drive also comes in 2 TB, 4 TB, and 5 TB varieties, or you can opt for the faster solid-state drive (SSD) version.
Plug in All the Things
It’s not uncommon to need to connect more devices to a laptop than it has ports for, especially if you’re using a lightweight device like the Microsoft Surface. But a USB hub, like the Sabrent 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub, can fix the problem without busting your budget. It’s perfect for connecting things like a keyboard, webcam, mouse, printer, or flash drive.
This hub has four ports, and each one has its own LED power switch so you don’t have to power a device that isn’t currently being used. The hub supports USB 1.1, 2.0, and 3.0, so it can transfer data in seconds. Its USB-A connector works perfectly on both PC and Mac computers—just plug it in and go!
A Portable Workstation
If you don’t have a dedicated desk area available for your child, or if they want a change of scenery, a portable lap desk is a great solution. The HearthSong Collapsible Folding Lap Desk offers a large flat surface for writing or for setting a laptop on. The surface lifts up to reveal a small storage area underneath, perfect for pencils, books, and more.
For Notes and Reminders
The Nøk and Cranny Desktop Glass Dry Erase Whiteboard is a terrific laptop drawing surface. As with any whiteboard, it’s perfect for taking notes, drawing, or creating schedules or reminders. It also has a wooden slide-out drawer that’s perfect for stowing away the included fine-point black dry erase marker and other supplies.
Stay Comfortably Supported
If your child has a long day of typing ahead of them, a wrist rest can keep their arms supported and comfortable while they work. The VicTsing Keyboard Wrist Rest is made of soft memory foam, and even includes a smaller rest for the mouse. Each rest has a non-slip base to keep it in place, and it fits with most keyboard sizes, even for laptops.
Storage for School Supplies
A simple storage caddy is perfect for keeping school supplies—like markers, scissors, glue, and pencils—organized. The mDesign Plastic Portable Storage Organizer Caddy Tote comes in nine fun colors and has a handle for easy carrying. Its four compartments are deep and offer plenty of room for storing essential supplies for school, plus it’s easy to clean.
An 8.5 x 11-inch planner is a must-have for students wanting to remember important events for school, like tests and homework due dates. The Global Datebooks Student Planner for 2020-2021 is perfect for keeping students organized. It has a clip-in ruler bookmark, and comes with tons of handy stickers for planning. It’s already dated and has monthly calendars and helpful class resources in the back.
Assistance, Routines, and School Bells
A Google Nest Hub is handy for parents and students alike. Google recently added a few homeschooling features like Family Bell, which can make announcements like “time to start math class” to help your child feel more like they’re in a serious school setting.
Parents or guardians can say “Hey Google, start the school day” or “school’s in session” and the Nest Hub will display school-themed art, play the sound of a school bell ringing, or other noises like a hallway with lockers opening. You can also use the Google Nest Hub to learn facts about animals or watch educational videos on sites like YouTube.
For Clean Professional Backgrounds
Green screens do more than just hide messy rooms (or keep video calls from feeling so invasive in your home)—they let you add a different background with your computer. You can key out the color and replace it with something more awesome, like a picture of a forest, a brick wall, outer space, or any other photo you want.
The LimoStudio Green Chromakey Muslin Backdrop is lightweight (but not see-through) and comes with three clamps for securing it in place. It does not have a glossy or reflective finish, and can easily be thrown in a washing machine if it gets dirty.