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Our favorite school equipment for distance learning

With millions of students preparing for distance learning by 2020, back to school the transition will look and feel dramatically different this year. But elementary school, high school and even college students will need many of the same necessities as always – plus a handful of new ones specific to the ongoing pandemic.

My children will go to school in person two mornings each week with the rest of the time they spend “learning” at home. We are working on the basics ̵

1; from pens to laptops to art accessories – as well as more modern infrastructure including a robust Wi-Fi network, headphones and a versatile charger to keep all these devices running.

With contributions from parents around CNET, we have put together some of our favorite school equipment, home office equipment and educational equipment that will enhance online learning. Here are our top picks – but we would love to hear about all the good distance learning materials and notches that you have cooked up in the comments.

Chris Monroe / CNET

When family members work and learn from home this fall, wireless home networks will be tested like never before. We installed a Google Nest Wifi system in our house this spring and have been impressed by its fast performance – the connection is noticeably faster, more expansive and more robust than our previous installation. It is easy to set up and configure and one of the extensive Wifi points also acts as a smart assistant from Google Assistant. With that said, keep an eye on the Eero mesh network set – the three-node version of it sometimes drops as low as $ 200, with a freebie Echo speaker tossed in. Read our Nest Wifi review.

Some school-released tablets are not that good. The beginner 10.2-inch iPad is not cheap, starting at $ 329, but it is a fantastic versatile device that is versatile to serve as a primary educational tool – especially when paired with a fixed keyboard such as the $ 100 Logitech Keyboard Case and entertainment centers for all primary or secondary schools. And it’s often on sale for under $ 300 ($ 250 to $ 280 is the sweet spot). Read our review of the Apple iPad.


There is a lot of lousy combination cover and stands out there, and many children will be challenged to keep their tablet properly placed, whether they are typing, swiping or on camera. This simple, sturdy stand should hold most iPads (and other tablets) and is both vertically and horizontally adjustable.

Old navy

Whether your children are in a real or virtual classroom, the CDC recommends that you wear a face mask or face shield for all outings. Children lose things. So save now. Check out CNET’s summary of children’s face masks.


Some younger children are not big fans of the masks. They may be happier with a loop-and-tie style mask – but they may not be able to tie a knot. These small gears help secure a mask without having to attach it.


Children who attend school in person may be restricted from sharing school supplies. The problem: every child has to bring – and keep track of – their own things. The solution: label everything – including clothes and supplies.

Sarah Tew / CNET

With parents and children sharing the same workspace, everyone must have their own headphones – to block ambient noise, follow a lesson and listen to music (for concentration purposes). Skullcandy’s Riff sells for about $ 50; its pillow-like ear cups are comfortable enough to wear for an entire school day and it has great sound quality and full bass. Check out CNET’s compilation of the best headphones for work at home for recommendations tailored to the adults in the house.


There are just so many things you can do with a large whiteboard: Use it to mark the week’s priorities, assign tasks, practice an equation, capture ideas during a brainstorm – or just draw a fun picture to pierce the lasting veil of 2020. gloom. Regardless of your specific use case, these are the markers you want.


This small portable charger has a USB-C Power Delivery port and a good old-fashioned USB-A port, so it can charge virtually any phone, tablet or wireless headphone. It can also power up a Nintendo Switch and even most newer laptops, as long as they have a USB-C power port (like all the latest MacBooks).


I am someone who has strong opinions about pencils. I have been using these for decades. Smooth and precise, without dirt or bleeding. They are the best. Not me.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Rocketbook’s reusable notebooks and planners make it easy to send notes, calendar items, and other comments to email or cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Evernote. On the one hand, using the Fusion notebook is only marginally more convenient than taking a piece of paper and sending it to yourself. But the notebook has some nice usability – you can select an icon at the bottom of the page to direct notes to up to seven different destinations – and the durability angle is convincing. Included in the laptop is a nice Pilot FriXion pen (which acts as an eraser) and a microfiber cloth that effectively wipes the sides clean to be used again. Rocketbook also introduced its own version of the popular Panda planner earlier this summer.


During the first months of the pandemic, it was almost impossible to find a webcam for a brand at a decent price. The Logitech C920 webcam, now available again for a reasonable $ 100 (ish), delivers a comprehensive solid video chat experience with 1080p video and two microphones that capture clear and sharp sound. If your student works from a desktop computer or even a laptop with a substandard built-in webcam – yes, Apple, we’re watching you – this is a worthy upgrade.

At home

There are plenty of cheap chipboards on Amazon – but they are low quality, made in China and more shaky than you want. A better alternative can be easily assembled with a couple of affordable components:

If you can pick them up at a nearby Home Depot, this installation will cost you less than $ 100. If you choose shipping, it will go closer to $ 160. Anyway, it’s a reasonable price for a hardwood table top, four sturdy legs and a workspace large enough for any laptop or tablet, art project or lunch break.


If your child is sitting in front of a white wall or nasty windows, their webcam will try to balance it and cover them in a silhouette. The solution: Place a light behind the camera that glows on your face. We’ve heard good things about this affordable 10-inch LED ring light.


Although most class assignments will be digital this year, some students – especially younger children – prefer to work with pen and paper. If you are looking for print information from time to time, this is your machine. The HP LaserJet Pro M15w is perfect for practical, uncomfortable tasks and its small footprint, which measures about 8 inches deep and 14 inches wide, fits perfectly in a bookshelf. And it connects via Wi-Fi to almost any device, which means you can print from a laptop, tablet or phone.

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