Top 5 Supplies for Distance Learning

By Annalese Duprey

So, you have your computer or iPad, a bunch of pens at your desk, some old post-it notes, your trusty calculator, and your phone. Are you ready for distance or hybrid learning this fall? How are you going to make sure that you’re bringing the right materials with you to class during your hybrid learning plan’s in-school component? Have you thought about how you’re going to get your online classwork done without having to hunt all over your house for your materials? These are the supplies I am recommending that all our students have this year to make their transition back to school and into distance or hybrid learning smoother and more successful. You’ll quickly notice that this isn’t quite your typical back-to-school shopping list, but then, neither is this your typical back-to-school season.

  1. Planner, Assignment Notebook, or Calendar. It goes without saying that you need a place to keep track of the work you’ve been assigned to do, deadlines and due dates for tests and projects, and also a way to tell whether it’s Monday or Thursday (I can’t be the only one struggling with this, right?) A simple assignment notebook or planner is fine but look for one that offers both monthly and weekly calendar views so you can track the big picture and the day-to-day details. Another great method is to use a whiteboard specially printed with a calendar that you can prop near your work space—just make sure it’s big enough for you to record all of the information that you’ll need to keep track of. I particularly like the magnetic ones, so that you can use small magnet to denote what day it is. Has your school implemented a block schedule? If so, it’s not a bad idea to take the month of September and color-code your days so that you have a visual clue to keep you on track.

    Planner with monthly and weekly views

    Whiteboard with calendar and color-coded days

  2. 1-3 three-ring binders with tab dividers. Even if you are distance learning, you will still have readings, assessments, study guides, and homework (or answer keys) that you will benefit from printing out and having in hard copy (stay tuned for a later post on the exciting realm of annotations). Folders are great but they have small size capacity and if you drop them or chuck them out your window in a moment of frustration, your papers are likely to scatter willy-nilly. At a minimum, one 1-2″ binder with tabs for all of your classes gives you a single space to store your homework, printouts, and notes on loose leaf papers. Add in a second binder if your school gives you a lot of work or you take a lot of notes and you can create an archive: Keep work for your current units in your active binder and file older work away in the archive where it will patiently wait until you need it to study for the final exam. If you are doing hybrid learning and your school has a block schedule, have a binder for each day of the schedule with just the subjects for that day. If your school color-codes its days, match your binders so that you know on a Blue day to grab your Blue Binder on your way out the door.

    Accessing current work in an Active Binder

  3. Hole punch. Ideally, two: one by the family printer, one at your desk. Doesn’t need to be big or fancy, but you’re not going to succeed in keeping anything in your binder(s) unless it takes you less than 5 seconds to file it away in there. If, say for a distance learning day, you know all your work will be posted before you start school in the morning, sit by your family’s printer and print out everything you need for the day, then take it to your work space, punch it, and put it away. If, on the other hand, you need to print things throughout the day as you receive them, do that. Just make it a rule that no piece of paper touches your workspace until it’s been punched and filed.
  4. Earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones. Our next blog post will cover how to establish a good work space in your home, but even under the best of circumstances, you might still be contending with noise from outside your home, from  your parents’ or siblings’ conducting their own school or work activities, or just from the fact that there are other people in your home throughout the day. You might not have a fully private work area. You should be able to make your environment quiet enough to work without much effort. Earplugs, if you can tolerate them, are the cheapest option. Noise-cancelling earphones are another nice option. Listening to music while you’re working can be dicey territory, but even headphones through which you can listen to quiet, wordless music or white noise can help you cut the chatter around you and focus.

    Make your work environment quiet even if it’s not private

  5. Digital timer. Human beings are not great at sustaining vigilance for extended periods of time. The Pomodoro Technique can help students maintain focus and better allocate physical and mental energies by breaking work into short, 25-minute sprints with 5-minute breaks between. It also increases one’s ability to estimate how much time and effort are required for projects, helping to increase efficiency and decrease frustration while completing academic work. To learn more, click Pomodoro Technique or Pomodoro Methods. It is imperative that you do not time yourself on your phone. Every time you touch your phone during your working day, you invite temptation and distraction. In fact, it’s best to banish your phone entirely from your work area! An inexpensive “egg” or kitchen timer will help you stay on track without offering you any temptation to make a quick Tik-Tok. Visual timers can provide motivation by giving you a real-time cue to the flow of your time. Cube timers, equipped with accelerometers, are a fun and easy tool to use. I even found a cool timer for less than $10 at Ikea!

    Left to right: digital clock and timer (IKEA), green time-timer with visual indicator and beep, small cube timer with 1, 3, 5, and 15-minute settings.

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