Homeschooling: Tools and Tips for Home Schooling

When it comes to homeschooling, there are numerous hurdles. These tools and tips will help you study and teach at home in times of Corona.

Much has changed since the Corona crisis held the world firmly in its grip. Millions of people have been working from home for months and school will soon – at least partially – take place in the living room at home again. Even if the discussion about the lack of digitization in schools is currently heated, there are already numerous solutions that are specially designed for school at home, but also old friends from the home office, some of which are suitable for home schooling.

Learning via tablet or smartphone

If you want to practice reading, writing or arithmetic independently of the teacher, you can, for example, use the free learning platform "Anton", which is supported by the EU. The app for tablet, computer and smartphone offers important learning content on topics from areas such as German, mathematics or biology from the first to the tenth grade. An additional school license for "Anton" is chargeable. A chat function and own learning lists should be in the works.

School platform: everything under one roof

However, if you want to combine all functions relevant for the school in one interface, you cannot avoid so-called school servers. Cloud systems such as IServ, Webweaver, itslearning or Nextcloud are already in use at numerous German schools.

The "IServ" package includes, for example, functions such as a task module, e-mail, messenger, video conferencing, forums and a news system so that teachers can always keep their students and their parents up to date. It is also possible to share files, for example.

Particularly practical: the creation of exam and class schedules as well as a calendar function. Text documents can be created directly in the browser. With a corresponding license, users also have direct access to teaching content. A special exam mode prevents students from exchanging files or searching for solutions on the Internet during exams.

According to the provider from Braunschweig, special attention is also paid to the security of the server and data protection, whose offer is currently used in more than 4,200 schools in Germany. And what parents will be happy about: If the child surfs the Internet via IServ, a web filter for content harmful to minors, a spam filter and a virus scanner are used.

Tools for friends – or entire classes

The prerequisite for such school servers: the school is the customer, so it has to commission the system and then pass it on to students and parents. That means, a decision is not possible without the school. In case of doubt, parents can also look for suitable alternatives that do not have to be handled by the schools – although this is not recommended, after all, the teachers should also be able and allowed to communicate via the systems, and not just the children among themselves.

Tools such as "Microsoft Teams" are suitable for communication in work groups or in classes. Members can chat, make phone calls, make video calls, send files and work together with one another. It also contains web versions of programs such as PowerPoint, Word and Excel that parents of schoolchildren should be familiar with from everyday office life. The basic variant is free for educational purposes. The extent to which Microsoft can guarantee the necessary data protection is controversial at the latest after a ruling by the European Court of Justice in July and is currently causing problems for schools.

As an alternative, "Slack" could be suitable, which works similarly but independently of Microsoft. Disadvantage with these tools or "Google Meet": The companies are based in the USA, the data is usually also stored there. This makes it difficult to use them in German schools according to European data protection guidelines. Stefan Brink, data protection officer of Baden-Württemberg, even warned of serious security and data protection gaps with the initially hyped provider Zoom.

What do you have to pay attention to when using it?

So the question of data protection is generally important, ideally the students' files are located in Germany or, even better, on a school server. Data security also includes regular updates or security mechanisms such as encrypted connections or two-factor authentication.

It is also important that the tools used can be used on as many end devices as possible. After all, a full-fledged PC is not always available; sometimes a tablet or smartphone is also required.

Regardless of which software or device is used, in the end the data is always transmitted over the Internet. This means that while the child is streaming a video from the classroom or working on an online task, other data-intensive activities should be paused, such as video conferences with office colleagues or customers.

The children – like the parents often too – should have their own corner for the virtual school if possible. So they are not disturbed by little siblings or the activities of their parents.