A Simple In-Home Set Up to Help Your Kids with Their Homework

smartboardSummer vacation tends to be a break not only for the kids, but for us parents, too. We spend a lot of time trying to help our children with their homework, and that task usually isn’t terribly enjoyable for either the parent or the child. Both are tired after a hard day (especially the parent), and neither is really in the mood to take on another task. Plus, helping your child usually involves looking over her shoulder, trying to squint a book you’re sharing, or leaning across a table to check and correct her work. In other words, it’s uncomfortable, taxing, and, sometimes, even combative. Nobody is looking forward to resuming the old homework grind.

Can technology make helping with homework easier? I think it can. The best solution I’ve come up with is something I think of as a Smart Board for your home.

Smart Boards are interactive white boards that have become a tool of choice in grade schools and high schools. Yet, the kinds of interactive white boards you find in schools are prohibitively expensive and bulky for most people. You can achieve much the same effect, however, by using your TV as the projection system. Let’s learn how.

If you have an iPad, one particularly easy way is to get an AppleTV. AppleTV is a small device that hooks to your TV through an HDMI cable. It costs about $89 and links to your home network through WiFi. Through an Apple technology called Airplay, which is built into Apple devices, the AppleTV module will communicate with compatible applications on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod and display the application’s screen on the TV. There are many AirPlay-compatible apps available from the App Store. The one that I like most is called Doceri, which is free and can be used very conveniently as an interactive whiteboard. All you have to do is enable AirPlay in Doceri, and whatever you scribble onto the Doceri screen will show up on your TV. This provides a great way for you to explain some math to your kids, for example, or to go over spelling words or run through flash cards.

If you’re a Windows or Android fan instead, I’d recommend using Miracast to project your Android phone or tablet’s screen to the TV. Some newer TVs come equipped with Miracast, but you likely will have to purchase a device such as Netgear’s Push-To-TV ($60) to use this technology. The nice thing about Miracast is that it will project whatever you have displayed on your Android device or PC to the TV, regardless of the app. That gives you a lot of freedom to use the app of your choice to help your kids learn. For example, if you have a Samsung phone, you could use the S Memo app to scribble and type notes. This allows you to explain math and practice spelling or quiz on social studies or science without getting in each other’s faces. You could even flip to a YouTube video to explain a concept, so that you and your child can get a rest from Professor Mom or Dr. Dad. You could even just take an entertainment break to recharge.

My wife and I plan to use this “Smart Board in the Home” approach this year with our kids. I’m hopeful it will make my kids smarter and my home more peaceful.

Ray Klump

About Ray Klump

Professor and chair of Mathematics and Computer Science Director, Master of Science in Information Security Lewis University http://online.lewisu.edu/ms-information-security.asp, http://online.lewisu.edu/resource/engineering-technology/articles.asp, http://cs.lewisu.edu. You can find him on Google+.

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