700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Lessons in Online Learning: How to Navigate the School Year

Dec 03, 2020
Child using laptop computer

The education system, students and parents are in unusual times. Large school districts affecting millions of children have adapted to new learning environments while impacted by COVID-19. As a teacher and a mother, I understand the challenges from both sides. Below are lessons learned to help any parent navigate the 2020-2021 school year.


Learning platforms such as Schoology, Microsoft Teams, Seesaw and Clever are competing software products. Most programs try to win business by focusing on more than lessons. They may offer tools to email, conference, share screens, or promote interactive learning. When school districts purchase multiple platforms for elementary, middle and high school, they inadvertently confuse users. To better understand learning apps:

  1. Pick one way to communicate with your child’s teacher. When you email from multiple apps you lose track of how and when you communicated. This gets especially tricky when asking parents to, “Pick a time using sign-up genius to log into your school portal to access Teams and discuss student growth.” It is confusing for us all, I promise.
  2. At parent-teacher conferences, clarify which apps are essential for learning and which are used for extra practice.
  3. Delete apps not in use. Technology companies will sell memberships for all users, even through teachers may not use them. Because of how these products are sold, you may not use everything you see in your child’s account.
  4. Recognize most software is assigned to one teacher per child. Supporting teachers such as special education and therapies may NOT have access to your child’s learning.
  5. Contact your school’s technology program directly. They will understand questions about subscriptions, maintenance down times, and adapted technology more than the classroom teacher.


Virtual learning is here to stay. Large districts are investing in infrastructure, computers, and learning software to continue virtual learning long after the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions. If you and your family decide to continue distance learning, consider the follow accessories.

  1. Headphones with a microphone and volume control. When students use the microphone built into their device, teachers can hear everything: the TV in the background, other children receiving their lessons, and conversations in the room. The noise is distracting and makes learning harder for everyone on the call.
  2. A PC or Mac laptop. Chromebooks and iPads may not fully interact with learning software. To get the most out of screen sharing and interactive lessons, consider allowing your child to use the home computer. From personal experience, my kids can not use Core 5 Lexia on their iPads and it is assigned 30 minutes a day.
  3. A whiteboard. The most used accessory can be found at the dollar store. White boards allow kids to quickly work on problems, hold up their learning to share, and have a “cool” element with dry erase markers in color. It also replicates what they would use in a typical classroom.

Virtual Learning

Virtual or distance learning is very new for public schools and changes are happening at rapid speed. In order to keep up:

  1. Read district wide emails. These will have the most up-to-date policy changes regarding screen-time, attendance, and illness policy. They also have school calendars or district cut-off dates for upcoming virtual learning.
  2. Take 15 minutes each week to learn about new software your child is using. Know which apps support reading, writing, math, social studies and science. Chances are, they each have their own.
Check your child’s work weekly. It is very easy for kids to pick their favorite assignments while ignoring others. Have kids sign in and show you the completed work. Apps such as STMath and Lexia assign and keep track of how many minutes they need to complete. A quick look to verify their minutes are complete will save you stress and worry later. 
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Tabbetha Greco
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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.