We have three computers in our house – in our living room, actually – a desktop and two laptops. Nick and James use the desktop mostly, to play games, do typing lessons, and visit websites. I use my laptop primarily for work but also for personal things and for planning homeschool lessons for the boys. Jon’s laptop is also used for both work and personal things, and sometimes the boys use it for whatever reason.
I recently received a complimentary copy of LanSchool Technology software that allows me to link all three computers together through our wireless network. That’s the same network we use to allow all three computers to access the internet and to share a single printer. I didn’t need to set up a new network – the software simply detected the network we already have in place. This made LanSchool very, very easy to set up. I simply installed the software onto my laptop and onto our desktop (we haven’t put it on Jon’s laptop yet), and they were immediately connected.
LanSchool Technology offers numerous features to benefit homeschools and families in general. Though it was originally created for classroom use, I am finding plenty of uses in our home. Using the software, I set up my laptop as a “Teacher” system and the desktop as a “Student” system. This allows me to do several different things:
- I can view the desktop’s screen on my laptop. No matter which room of the house I may be working in, I can instantly view the desktop’s screen to see what the kids may be doing. The view is real-time, meaning that I can watch exactly what the kids are doing as they do it.
- I can send messages directly to the desktop. My messages appear on the lower right portion of the desktop’s screen, on top of any other windows that are open. I have the option to “force students to view the message” as well, though I haven’t figured out how they could refuse.
- The kids can send a message directly to me also. There is also an option to chat back and forth. This would probably be most helpful in a classroom setting where talking aloud is discouraged. For us, it’s just fun.
- I can “blank the student’s screen” which brings a full-screen window onto the desktop’s screen. It reads, “Eyes to the front of the classroom please.” It certainly gets the kid’s attention if needed! When the computer screen is “blanked,” the kids can’t do anything to make it go away. Both mouse and keyboard functions are disabled until the teacher/parent restores the screen.
- I can take control of the desktop – a smaller window opens that shows me the desktop’s screen. I can click around in this window to open programs, open webpages, edit documents, etc. This particular feature will be very helpful to us in our homeschool. From time to time, we watch an educational video or read from an ebook. In the past, we’ve all crowded around my laptop, which is uncomfortable and doesn’t give anyone a perfect view of the screen. Now, with the LanSchool software, I can look at my laptop while the boys sit at the desktop (which has a bigger monitor). I’ll be able to control the desktop’s functions to show a video, visit educational websites, etc.
- I can lock out the functions of the desktop with the click of a button. This may be useful if it’s dinner time and the boys won’t get off HotWheels.com!
When we first tested the software, I asked Jon (my husband) to use the desktop while I tested the Teacher functions on my laptop. While he surfed the internet, I periodically locked him out and “blanked the screen” with the “Eyes to the front of the class please” message. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time!
My children are young and we keep the family computer in a central room where an adult is almost always present to monitor what’s being visited, so I don’t feel that we particularly need the monitoring aspects of LanSchool Technology software. However, I believe that we’ll be using the screen sharing aspect frequently for many years. The software is quite easy to use and understand, and I think many families – homeschooling or not – could benefit from it.
A home license for LanSchool v7.5 costs $99 and can be used for homeschools. Licenses for public and private school classrooms vary in cost but begin at $199. Three years of technical support and three years of major upgrade protection are included with all licenses. More information about the software and about purchasing is available at the LanSchool website.
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