Category Archives: ICT Blog

How to improve your home wifi

(Reproduced from Google’s blog. I thought the points made in this blog post by Sanjay Noronha are sound and worth repeating to our community.)

These days, access to a reliable Wi-Fi signal can feel as crucial as having basic electricity or plumbing. In fact, a recent study conducted by Kelton Research and commissioned by Google found that 28 percent of people don’t think they could last a single day without Wi-Fi. But in that same study, a whopping 81 percent of people said they have experienced issues with their Wi-Fi at home. So why is something so essential considered such a hassle?

Luckily, there are some simple strategies to maximize your home Wi-Fi network to avoid slow loading times or grumbling when you’re trying to get online. Here are a few tips for making the most out of your Wi-Fi.

Place your router as centrally as possible. 

Wi-Fi signals get weaker the farther away you go from your router, so if you keep your router by the front door, your videos might load more slowly if you’re trying to watch them by the back door. So if you can, place your router as centrally as possible within your home, though this may not always be possible depending on where your internet provider brings in the connection. And if you don’t mind your router sitting on the counter top, keep it out in the open. If you can avoid hiding it by a bookcase or filing cabinet, you can really help boost your Wi-Fi signal.

Consider a mesh network. 

A mesh network is a group of routers that wirelessly communicate with each other to create a single, connected Wi-Fi network over a large area. It allows you to have multiple sources of powerful Wi-Fi throughout your home, not just one from the main router. Having a mesh network solves the problem of having the router just relegated to a corner in the house. We created Google Wifi as a mesh system because having multiple points work together to create a seamless single network provides consistently strong coverage for all connected devices in every room of the house. 

Make sure your router is up to date. 

If your existing router is more than three or four years old, check to make sure it supports 5GHz Wi-Fi signals. Some older routers only support 2.4GHz signals, which can make your devices much slower. Think of it as having a car that isn’t fast enough to drive on the freeway. Upgrade your router to at least an 802.11ac system so you can also use 5GHz frequencies, which are like the autobahn of Wi-Fi. (There are more lanes, and higher speed limits.) 

Always, always make your network password-protected. 

Having an “open network” without a password might seem convenient, since there’s no need to remember a complicated password. But if you do that, anyone even driving by your home could join your Wi-Fi network and compromise your network, devices and data by accessing your drives or slowing down your network. Choose a strong password that’s tough for anyone to guess, but easy for you to remember. 

Create a separate Wi-Fi network for guests. 

If you have kids at home, or just get a lot of guests, chances are you’ve handed out your Wi-Fi password a lot. Setting up a guest network creates a second Wi-Fi network in your home so your guests can have a great experience while your own devices stay secure and private. 

How to restrict your child’s screen time

With the holidays coming up, the media is chock-full of advice on how you can restrict the screen time of your children. With all 3 major OS manufacturers touting methods on their operating systems (Microsoft -> Microsoft accounts, Google -> Digital Wellbeing and Apple -> Screentime), there is no shortage of avenues that the parent can take. This post isn’t about them.

There are some other methods in which parents can help ensure that their children are getting the benefits of technology. Here are a few that you could try during the holidays :-

  • Establish consistent “media free” times, particularly at meal times. (That means no hand-held games for older kids, or cell phones or iPads for grown-ups).
  • Make your own media. Give your child a low-cost digital camera and teach her how to plug it into your TV. This is a great way to review memorable events and can be a rich language experience for very young children, as they name family members from their last birthday party, for example.
  • Provide exciting non-tech options in your child’s life. Instead of trying to remove current media from your child’s life, continue to enrich her playtime with new, concrete, interesting alternatives, so your child will want to turn off the TV.

Having said that, media consumption on computers doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing approach. Computers and television can play a key role in helping children wind down and relax. For example, a half-hour session of Thomas the Tank Engine after dinner can help your 5 year old make the transition from dinner to bed time and this will be more beneficial than 3 hours of it on Saturday afternoons.

Monkey App

It has come to our attention that some students may be accessing and using a social networking application called “Monkey app”.

We strongly advise you to read the following review from a web site which investigates the safety of this and other apps so that you can be well informed about this and other possible on-line dangers to our students. 

These types of instant messaging applications are automatically blocked on the school’s network however we advise parents to monitor their children’s phones to see if they have downloaded it. We restrict the use of mobile phones at school and only allow their use to support learning e.g. recording a speech or Science experiment but these apps may be used after hours hence our communication on the matter.

 https://protectyoungeyes.com/content/monkey-parental-controls-app-review/

Flat Bush 7 Conference

We had an amazing day yesterday during the Flat Bush Cluster 7 conference held in the Mission Heights Schools. For the uninitiated, the Flat Bush Cluster 7 is an annual gathering of the 7 schools in the Flat Bush area, Ormiston Primary, Ormiston Junior College, Ormiston Senior College, Baverstock Primary, Willowbank  Primary, Mission Heights Primary and Mission Heights Junior College. Keynote talks from notable speakers and breakout workshops enable teachers to connect and learn more about their role as educators in Aoteroa.

One great takeaway from the keynote talks was the importance of education and its role in shaping society. Chris Clay touched on the need for educators to empower learners to harness the collective will to solve the world’s problems. Grant Pix emphasized on mindfulness as a competency to be developed and Prof Peter O’ Conner related his experiences on vitality and the importance of imagination and creativity in and through learning about a world of wicked problems and our learners’ places within it. It was amazing to hear Melinda Webber; her awesome wahine toa and korero touched many in the audience.

As an ICT professional in the education industry, it has been always my view that ICT in the school should be used as a tool and an enabler. While information technology is indeed a positive tool for many, its possible abuse is too well-known and needs no repeating here, especially in New Zealand. Our challenge is how we can help raise the importance of empathy in our dealings with one another, especially in the realm of information technology. This and many more factors will be instrumental in shaping the future of ICT within the two schools.

Communication Is Key

The Pew Research Center is an American organisation that conducts research into many facets of life affecting the average American home. One of the many interesting studies it performs is on the effect of social media use among teenagers. Headlining the report is that “fully 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% says they are online almost constantly”.

Netsafe, our local Internet advisory agency, shares similar findings in its report entitled “New Zealand teens’ digital profile : a factsheet”. In 2017, “a third of NZ teens spend 4 or more hours online in an average day” and that “teens regard themselves as confident technology users”. Most of the report corelates with our experiences here in the Mission Heights Schools, with students in both schools rating their usage of technology highly in both personal and school aspects of their lives.

What is of interest here is the personal aspect, and which is not often discussed openly enough. Our teachers play an important and active role in helping and advising students in their digital lives and how to stay safe online, especially during learning advisor time. Here, there is a clear focus on digital citizenship and how to behave online in a manner that is consistent with caring for others. There is also this desire for the students to bring these practices back home.

As a result, parents also play an important role in creating this atmosphere at home. The ICT team often receives requests from parents on how to help their children at home, and the most important advice we can give anyone is that communication is a key element in building trust and rapport between parent and child. Establishment of that brings along greater cooperation among all parties alike.

For example, putting a time limit on social media use is very often a cause for strife between parent and child. In fact, the average person spends nearly 2 hours a day using various forms of social media, with teenagers using far more than that. If both parties are made aware of the consequences of spending too much time on social media, and a common goal is formed where social media use is lessened to an agreed duration, the results may be more acceptable than simply removing the device from said child.

Theere is a growing body of knowledge amongst goverment agencies and academia about the way young New Zealanders interact with digital technologies. It is our hope that we learn to embrace the opportunities and be upfront with the challenges and potential risks that these technologies afford.

Devices in the Mission Heights Schools

Following our successful 2nd year with CYOD (Choose Your Own Device) in the school, we have reviewed our position on the type of devices allowed in the school and I am happy to announce that there is no change in the type of devices allowed in the school.

MHJC has always been a device agnostic school and we encourage students to bring devices that they already own to school, provided they meet the minimum requirements, which are as follows:-

For Windows and Mac laptops,

* 4GB of RAM * 64GB SSD

For tablets,

* 9.7 inch screen * portable keyboard

For Chromebooks,

* 11.6 inch screen * 4GB RAM * 16GB SSD

We have had feedback from teachers and students that it is easier to finish homework tasks on a laptop or Chromebook as opposed to an iOS tablet. We continue to advise parents that if new devices are to be purchased, a Windows or Mac laptop or Chromebook should be purchased.

Chromebooks continue to be a difficult recommendation. Android applications on Chromebooks have not gained universality as it should have over the past year and in our limited testing have proven to be problematic. They are sufficient in Years 7 and 8 but parents purchasing new devices for students in Years 9 and 10 should consider Windows and Mac laptops due to the workloads in those yearlevels.

The ICT team is happy to answer any questions posed to us – feel free to email admin@mhjc.school.nz with your question and we will respond accordingly.