Thursday, 28 August 2014

Who Teaches Parents Tech?

They do, their children do, but now with the help of the guys and gals at Google, Google does too.


For decades society has been dominated by media such as books, comics, cinema, radio, and television — all are technologies, whether or not the users recognise it, all of which now have a digital equivalent, so that even if parents weren't familiar with the particular content their children engaged with, at least they could access and understand the medium, so that, if they wished to understand what their children were doing or share the activity with them, they could.

However, with the advent of digital media, things have changed. The demands of the computer interface are significant, rendering many parents to believe that they are 'dinosaurs' in an information age inhabited by their children.

Only in rare instances in history have children gained greater expertise than parents in skills highly valued by society. More usually, youthful expertise—in music, games, or imaginative play—is accorded little, serious value by adults, even if it is envied rather nostalgically. Thus, although young people’s newfound online skills are justifiably trumpeted by both generations, this doesn't help their parents much. For everyone of these mouse wielding, track pad savant, 'tech-savvy' students there is quite likely at least two not quite so tech-savvy parents - parents who often find themselves on the less competent end of the conversation - a conversation often sprinkled with a fair amount of eye ball rolling, groaning and huffing and puffing. Thankfully, the people at Google thought there had to be a better way...

The result of their brainstorm is TeachParentsTech.org, a site that allows you to select any number of simple tech support videos to help ameliorate this situation, you might even want to send them to your own mum, dad or uncle Vinnie. The site is not perfect and hardly covers all the tech support questions you may be asked, but hopefully it’s a start.

Better than a click in the teeth, anyway.




With the considerable influx of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) this year, inevitably parents will find themselves increasingly faced with the challenge of providing adequate access to digital technologies at home, ie, a computer. To complicate matters further some of the resources that our students will be attempting to use can be quite demanding about the extent to which the home Windows PC or Mac is kept in efficient operating condition.

Troubleshooting


Following these (hopefully) simple pointers will mitigate a great many headaches for you as parents. For the purposes of this advice, I'm assuming you are using Chrome, you don't have to use Chrome, but it's the browser we recommend students to use in school, as it is the browser that plays nicely with everything Google.


  • Keep your browser/computer software up to date, the Internet is constantly evolving, and your computer needs to be constantly updated to keep up with it, so if you get a message prompting you to update your computer - do it! This not only keeps your machine working well, it also makes it less vulnerable to malicious attacks. An out of date computer is a computer that is vulnerable to exploitation, and one that will be frustrating to use as it struggles to 'keep up' with the pace of change of the Internet.
  • Direct your child to use the Google Chrome browser for their homework, this is the recommended browser at UWCSEA as well. Once your child as signed in and synced' all of the bookmarks, passwords, browsing history will magically follow them home as well as at school. The Chrome browser can be downloaded from here.
  • Keep your browser up to date! The above links above include a tutorial on this. This is very important, many of the Web 2.0 technologies your child will be directed to use are very demanding of the latest browser technologies. An out of date browser will struggle to cope with even the most basic tasks. The Google Chrome browser has a useful option of automating these updates, I highly recommend you use it.
  • Make sure your Adobe Flash Player is up to date. if in doubt click here to check to see if you have the latest version. This software is essential to run may of the awesome animations that are commonly used in these websites, such as Mathletics et al.
  • Check the speed of your home internet connection, either directly with your provider (eg Starhub) or using a free web service like http://www.speedtest.net/ (no account needed) where you should expect to see at least 4-5 Mbps (>10 is better) if you are attempting to access 'rich' media, like streaming video, presentations, or interactive media. 

Sometimes odd behaviour in a web browser can be caused by 'cookies' that are interfering with the way you want your browser to behave.

If you clear out your cookies (something you should do regularly anyway) you can often find that resolves many problems. For normal (non techie) parents, Cookies are bits of code that are stored by websites on your computer to enable a site to 'remember' or 'recognise' you when you return to their website, like remembering your preferences etc.

Confused? Never mind, every browser has ways to do this, in the Chrome browser, just click Chrome on the Menu, and choose 'Clear Browsing Data' tick or untick as you see fit, just make sure the Cookies box is ticked, and then click the 'Clear browsing data' button. Don't panic, you can't do any major damage to your computer here.


Another alternative in Chrome is to browse using an incognito window, (File > New Incognito Window) which will force the browser to behave normally, since no cookies are stored.


Sharing a Home Computer

If you are a Primary school parent, you will probably need to share your computer at home with your child for them to do homework from time to time. This can be made easier by using a separate user account for each child, this can be as fancy as a completely separate user account for your child, instructions on how to set that up on a Mac here. This effectively makes your computer feel like your child's own computer, but it's a hassle if you want to be able to hop on and off without faffing about with account switching.

A simpler solution is to just agree that you will not use Chrome, just your child will, or, if you really prefer to use Chrome, create a separate user profile for your child within the Chrome browser, instructions on that here, or this post here. Now all your child has to do is choose their account, with a couple of clicks, and everything they've been working at at school will magically appear in their own copy of the browser, without affecting anything in yours (or vice versa).



Always remember (and use) the '3 Rs' of troubleshooting:



Refresh (the browser)



Retry (Quit the browser and try again, or try a different browser)



Restart (the computer)




That's it.

Finally... you might want to consider creating a separate user account for your child/children, guidance on how to do this on a Mac can be found here. This in effect feels to your child like that computer is as good as their very own, until you log them out. Activating Fast user switching makes switching between their account and yours a very simple process.


Finally, maybe the best tip of them all?




Questions? Feel free to post them below, I will attempt to answer these the best I can ...

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