Interactive electronic whiteboards offer many benefits to teachers and pupils in today’s smart classroom environment, but in the current climate, with COVID-19, self-isolation and online learning affecting day-to-day classroom activities, digital whiteboard technology can really come into its own. 

Interactive whiteboards with touchscreen displays can make a huge difference to education, allowing teachers and lecturers to connect with students whether they’re in class or at home, helping to increase student performance and comprehension.

One of the greatest benefits of this smart classroom technology is that it offers the ability to save, re-play and share entire lessons on screen. Not only does this allow teachers to pre-plan lesson content, including any corresponding videos, images and tasks, but also allows any self-isolating students access to the recording. This offers a relatively simple solution for what is becoming an ever-increasing occurrence. Smart whiteboard technology allows those children who can’t come into the classroom the chance to still learn and engage with the same materials as their attending classmates.

A digital whiteboard also offers the ability for students to engage with their learning much more deeply than they would ever be able to if they just had access to notes. These days, interactive whiteboards are an essential tool for delivering online e-lessons, offering a seamless presenting solution to deliver smooth, organised lessons to keep students engaged.

In the digital classroom, with internet connectivity allowing access to endless online resources and technology, there are now countless ways to collaborate with students in schools, colleges and universities. Smart, interactive whiteboards can help bring lessons to life no matter what the circumstances, or where the students are viewing from.

To learn more about the types and ranges of smart, digital whiteboards available, just get in touch with First Class Technologies on 01543 414152.

It’s happened to all of us at some point. Your Wi-Fi signal is strong but there’s no internet connectivity.

Frustrating as it is, it’s also explainable – because Wi-Fi and the internet are two different things, and understanding the difference can help you troubleshoot future network problems.

Internet WiFi

How is Wi-Fi different from the internet?
Wi-Fi is a registered trade name for a group of technologies that allow a device, such as a computer, smartphone or game console, to wirelessly connect to a local area network (LAN) using a radio link. Wi-Fi replaces the need for a physical cable between a networked device and a router – a device that manages connections between all of the devices on the LAN.

The internet is a general name for hundreds of millions of smaller networks, such as LANs, linked together and within these smaller networks are billions of connected devices. These computers can be linked together using physical wires, optical cabling and radio links.

So, when your device has a Wi-Fi connection, you are connected to a LAN. But…the LAN you’re connected to may not necessarily be connected to the internet. That’s where the problem lies. Let’s take a closer look.

Understanding the connection problem
Your device is linked to a router via Wi-Fi, forming a local network, and, when all goes well, your local network is successfully connected to the internet.

Sometimes, the link between your local network (managed by a router, hub or modem) and the internet goes down. There could be a temporary problem with your Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) equipment, physical damage to cables that link you to the ISP’s network or some other issue. In that case, you are still connected to the local network but your local network is not connected to the internet, in which case your device may show a strong Wi-Fi connection or signal but you have no internet connectivity.

What to do when your internet connection is down
When you have internet connection problems, first try restarting your device. If that doesn’t work, you can reboot your router. Some devices have a power switch, but the unplug-and-plug-back-in method applies to all routers. Whilst you’re waiting for it to power back up again, take the opportunity to verify all the cables are securely connected. Also, check for overheating as, like any other device, routers can fall prey. If the vents are blocked or you have it in a hot location, overheating can cause instability.

If all else fails, call your ISP and report the problem. Or, if you’re struggling with the above, give us a call at First Class Technologies! We’ll be happy to try to help.

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Using your voice to control Windows can be a helpful option if you physically can’t or don’t want to use your mouse and keyboard. You can dictate texts to create emails, documents and more.

Windows has long provided its own Speech Recognition tool to set up and use dictation. Windows 10 adds to the mix with its own speech settings. The trick is to get Windows to understand you clearly enough so the process is worth the effort. Learn the best way to set up and use voice recognition in Windows.

Setup in Control Panel
In any supported version in Windows, including Windows 10, you can set up voice dictation in Windows through Control Panel. To do this, open Control Panel in icon view and click the icon for Speech Recognition. At the Speech Recognition screen, click the link to Start Speech Recognition.

Choose the type of microphone you’re using, and then dictate the displayed words to teach Windows your voice. After you’re finished, the Speech Recognition bar pops up at the top of the screen. You can immediately begin dictating text.

Open a document, email or other file in which you want to dictate. Click the microphone icon on the Speech Recognition bar to start listening mode. Dictate your text. You can dictate punctuation, symbols, and other parts of speech as well as specific actions such as ‘new line’ and ‘new paragraph’. To find out what you can say, right-click the Speech Recognition bar and select Open Speech Reference Card. When you’re finished, click the microphone icon again to turn off listening mode.


If Windows is having trouble understanding your words, right-click the Speech Recognition bar, move to Configuration, and select Improve Voice Recognition. Windows takes you through a lengthy series of screens where you dictate certain sentences to help it better pick up your speech.

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Whilst the desktop is a convenient place to store files and program shortcuts, it can get messy very quickly.

Here’s how to tidy up your desktop so you can quickly find everything you’re looking for.

Please remember to take into consideration data back-ups when you’re deciding where to store files. Whilst storing documents on your desktop might make them easy to find, always check that files stored on your desktop are covered by your regular back-up process.

Hide all your desktop icons
If you don’t use your desktop much but programs keep dropping shortcuts on it, a rapid solution is to hide everything to get a perfectly clean desktop.

To toggle desktop icons on and off, right-click on your desktop and select View>Show Desktop Icons and your desktop will appear empty.

To see your desktop icons again, click the Show Desktop Icons option again. Or you can open a Windows Explorer window and click the ‘Desktop’ folder to view the contents of your desktop in a standard file browser window.

That’s the draconian option, of course, but if you like storing files and program shortcuts on your desktop, you won’t want to hide them all.

Quickly sort your desktop icons

For a quick re-organisation, you can right-click your desktop and select an option in the ‘Sort By’ menu. For example, select ‘Name’ to sort them alphabetically or ‘Date Modified’ to sort them chronologically which makes it easier to find what you’re looking for if your desktop is very busy.

You can also use the options under the ‘View’ menu to choose the size of your desktop icons and decide whether they’re aligned to a grid. If you uncheck ‘Auto Arrange Icons’, you can drag and drop icons anywhere you want. If this option is enabled, icons will always be grouped.

Organise your files and shortcuts into folders

Consider using folders to keep your desktop organised. To create a folder, right-click the desktop, select New > Folder, and give the folder a name. Drag and drop items from your desktop into the folder. You can double-click a folder on your desktop to open it, so it takes a few more clicks to open your files—but they’re still easy to find.

For example, you could have separate folders for your photos and documents, or keep files related to a single project in their own folder. And yes, you can drag and drop program shortcuts into folders too.

If you’d like to clean up your desktop quickly, you can select everything on your desktop and then drag and drop them into a folder. You can then move items back onto your desktop as you need them.

Use the desktop as a temporary working area

The desktop works well as a workspace, giving you a convenient place to store files on which you’re currently working. For example, you might store spreadsheets you’re working on, documents you’ve scanned, photos you’ve just taken or things you’ve just downloaded on your desktop.

To keep the desktop useful for this task and prevent it from getting too cluttered, try only storing files on your desktop for as long as you need them. When you’re finished with a project, move the associated files to another folder like your main Documents or Pictures folder.

In other words, treat the desktop like you would treat a physical desktop or counter – place things on it while you’re using them and clear them away afterwards.

The caveat, of course, in relation to the above is that, on your work PC, files should not be kept on the desktop, as this places them on the local machine which is not automatically backed up. You should keep all your folders, documents, pictures, etc. on the server, since this is backed up (provided your company has a robust backup solution in place) and can be recovered in the event of a mishap.

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The pandemic isn’t stopping First Class Technologies help its customers get ready for when the world returns to normal.

In what should usually have been half term, we’ve been busy working at a Cannock high school, getting things ready for when the students can safely return.

First Class Technologies received a call from the headteacher last week, asking for advice about upgrading the school’s current systems.

The team was able to quickly survey the situation, recommend the most suitable solution, confirm investment costs and book the job in.

This project involved expanding the school’s structured cable plant, to make sure every classroom had enough Wi-Fi coverage to enable pupils to use electronic devices throughout the whole school.

Whilst on-site, our IT engineers also replaced 32 old access points with 90 new, state-of-the-art Ubiquiti UniFi Wireless Access Points. The new UniFi Nano HD technology APs utilise 802.11ac Wave 2 MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output) technology to communicate with numerous clients at the same time.

The improvements made will help increase multi-user throughput to ensure the whole system operates more efficiently, giving an improved experience for teachers and pupils.

Now is an ideal time for educational establishments and businesses to upgrade and add new technology, whilst premises aren’t fully occupied.

If your school, campus or business needs to refresh its wireless solutions, or upgrade any existing technology, First Class Technologies would love to help.

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As we begin to consider how to move forward, returning to the office doesn’t necessarily mean you will be abandoning all of your work-from-home set-ups.

In fact, your workforce will likely consist of remote workers for some time to come. Workstations in the office, however, may have been sitting idle while everyone worked remotely and you will need to give some thought to ensuring your employees have what they need to do their jobs effectively.

Evaluate any new technology deployed during the crisis

The tools your employees used to work remotely may or may not be required when you return to the office. Create a list, including any new devices, and decide if they stay or go. Evaluate how the new tech was implemented, determine what worked and what fell short, and if you still need all of the licences your purchased. Examples include new Office 365 licences, Zoom, new laptops, etc.

Evaluate any service providers you use to run your business

Identify any vendor that was not able to achieve their SLAs and determine the cause. Pay particularly close attention to those critical vendors and how they performed during the crisis.

Does everything still work?

Take the appropriate precautions. Is everything still in good working order? What about computers and networks? Have things been switched off for a long time? Do they need to be restarted by a professional?

Run an audit on any workstations in the office

An audit will help you determine if the workstations are properly patched with the latest Operating System and other critical updates.

Conduct a gap analysis

Document the technology gaps that were exposed during the crisis and create a plan on how to address them.

Catalogue items that were removed from the office

Protect your business and intellectual property by ensuring any devices, technology, files, folders, contracts, customer lists and documents, etc are properly returned to the office. This list may include electronic files left on the employee’s personal workstation or device.

Document a list of those employees who used their personal computers to work from home

Develop an appropriate action plan to ensure the ongoing use of personal computers or devices complies with your company’s security standards. Consider requiring your employees to change the passwords on any personal devices.

For any employee who will continue to work from home, audit the tech they will be using

Determine if the tech is appropriate, secure, and sufficient to enable optimal productivity.

Schedule a review of your Disaster Recovery and/or Business Continuity plan

What can be improved upon? What worked well? Were you able to easily transform from the office to work from home? How was your business impacted during this crisis? Update your Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity plan accordingly?

Schedule regular Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity testing

This should be a routine part of your business but, given this recent crisis, regular Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity testing will be even more crucial moving forward. Don’t be caught unprepared.

Try new ways of operating

If it turns out, for example, most of your people work well from home, perhaps you can restructure your business to lower your overhead costs? Remember, it’s possible we may see a second spike in Covid-19 cases and businesses that have adapted to life under lockdown are more likely to ride out future distancing rules.

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Teams is more than just a video chat offering, it comes with a built-in communications app to facilitate working together with other people on files and documents.

It features VoIP, text and video chat as well as integration with Microsoft Office and SharePoint that anyone can use, although it is beneficial to people already using Office 365.

Teams will eventually become the built-in workplace communications app for Windows and Office, replacing Skype for Business.

If you’re using Teams to keep in touch with colleagues and clients, we thought you’d find this list of hotkeys useful, for when using Teams on Windows desktop.

Messaging
• Go to compose box: C
• Expand compose box: Ctrl+Shift+X
• Send: Ctrl+Enter
• Attach file: Ctrl+O
• Start new line: Shift+Enter
• Reply to thread: R
• Mark as important: Ctrl+Shift+I

Meetings and Calls
• Accept video call: Ctrl+Shift+A
• Accept audio call: Ctrl+Shift+S
• Decline call: Ctrl+Shift+D
• Start audio call: Ctrl+Shift+C
• Start video call: Ctrl+Shift+U
• Toggle mute: Ctrl+Shift+M
• Toggle video: Ctrl+Shift+O
• Toggle fullscreen: Ctrl+Shift+F
• Go to sharing toolbar: Ctrl+Shift+Space

Navigation
• Open Activity: Ctrl+1
• Open Chat: Ctrl+2
• Open Teams: Ctrl+3
• Open Calendar: Ctrl+4
• Open Calls: Ctrl+5
• Open Files: Ctrl+6
• Go to previous list item: Left Alt+Down Arrow key
• Move selected team up: Ctrl+Shift+Up Arrow key
• Move selected team down: Ctrl+Shift+Down Arrow key
• Go to previous section: Ctrl+Shift+F6
• Go to next section: Ctrl+F6

General
• Show keyboard shortcuts: Ctrl+Full Stop (.)
• Go to Search: Ctrl+E
• Show commands: Ctrl+Slash (/)
• Goto: Ctrl+G
• Start a new chat: Ctrl+N
• Open Settings: Ctrl+Comma (,)
• Open Help: F1
• Close: Esc
• Zoom in: Ctrl+Equals (=)
• Zoom out: Ctrl+Minus (-)
• Invoke Cortana: Left+Alt+C

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As video meetings increase in popularity, we’ve put together a brief guide to some of the hotkeys for Zoom on Windows which we hope you’ll find useful.

Navigation
• Switch Zoom windows: F6
• Go to meeting controls: Ctrl+Alt+Shift
• Go to previous video stream in Gallery: Page Up
• Go to next video stream in Gallery: Page Down
• Go to Invite menu: Alt+I
• Go to next tab (right): Ctrl+Tab
• Go to previous tab (left): Ctrl+Shift+Tab
• Go to previous chat: Ctrl+Up
• Go to next chat: Ctrl+Down
• Jump to chat: Ctrl+T
• Close current chat: Ctrl+W

Interface
• Toggle full screen On/Off: Alt+F
• Toggle “Always Show Meeting Control Toolbar” On/Off: Alt
• Toggle In-Meeting chat panel: Alt+H
• Toggle Participants panel: Alt+U
• Switch to Active Speaker view: Alt+F1
• Switch to Gallery video view: Alt+F2
• Close front window: Alt+F4

Controls
• Toggle video On/Off: Alt+V
• Toggle audio On/Off: Alt+A
• Toggle audio On/Off for all except host: Alt+M
• Toggle Screen Share On/Off: Alt+Shift+S (only works when the meeting control toolbar is onscreen).
• Stop current Screen Share and launch a new one: Alt+S (only works when the meeting control toolbar is onscreen).
• Pause/Resume Screen Share: Alt+T (only works when the meeting control toolbar is onscreen).
• Switch camera: Alt+N
• Toggle floating meeting controls: Ctrl+Alt+Shift+H
• Raise/Lower hand: Alt+Y
• Start remote control: Alt+Shift+R
• Stop remote control: Alt+Shift+G

Documentation
• Start/Stop local recording: Alt+R
• Start/Stop cloud recording: Alt+C
• Pause/Resume recording: Alt+P
• Take a screenshot: Alt+Shift+T
• Search: Ctrl+F

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Two ways you can help to keep yourself and the company you work for safe from cyber-attacks (on top of having a good antivirus solution), is to have a strong password / passphrase and to make sure you know the scams that are happening or always be wary of emails that you are not expecting.

Arming yourself with the know-how to avoid risky behaviours can make a substantial impact on your employer’s ability to reduce the risk to their business associated with email.

Strong passwords
Having a strong password / passphrase is a great way to keep your personal information private. Here are some quick tips for a strong password:

• Make sure your password is at least 15 characters long.
• Use a unique phrase instead of just one word.
• Use a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and other characters. It only has to make sense to you!
• Always use a different password for each account.
• Don’t choose a password with personal information as this can be easily guessed.
• Change your passwords regularly.

Keep up to date with current scams and ALWAYS be wary of ‘unbelievable’ offers
Always be suspicious of anything out of the ordinary, even if it’s just a stranger or business that has sent you an email with a link. If you are concerned, delete it or call your IT person.

A good rule of thumb is, if an email is real and important and you have deleted it, whoever sent it will be in touch again, so don’t be afraid to delete it if you are worried.

Here are a few extra tips to help protect yourself online:
• Never open attachments or click on links in email messages from unknown senders.
• Change passwords often and use best practices for creating strong passwords.
• Never share passwords with anyone, including co-workers.
• Try to send as little sensitive information as possible via email, and send sensitive information only to recipients who require it.
• Use spam filters and anti-virus software.
• When working remotely or on a personal device, use VPN software to access corporate email.
• Avoid accessing company email from public Wi-Fi connections.

Because technology and social sharing is such a huge part of our daily lives these days, it’s very important to be aware of how vulnerable you may be when surfing the Internet.

By applying some of these tips to your online accounts, you will drastically improve your online safety, but if you have any queries at all about your online safety, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your IT team.

Material provided by our friends at Data Protection Consulting www.dataprotection.me.uk

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Learning Point: Check out the security of your home-working environment.

Many people are now working from home and for some people this is a new experience. Even if you are already used to working from home, you may now have additional people in your household sharing your workspace which can add to the challenges, especially if you have school age children.

It is easy to overlook the boundaries between work and home, when you are working from home. To keep a professional image, we need to work at keeping a virtual distinction as much as possible between the two, and dedicate specific time and space for work in your home environment.

Many companies are understanding of intrusions from family members during this difficult period; however, you should still make sure you know what your employer expects from employees working from home by checking the company Remote Working policy. With common sense from employees and understanding from employers, we will all get through this challenging period.

Here are some tips to bear in mind when home working:

  • Before taking part in a video meeting, prepare ahead, checking out a suitable location in which to place your laptop. Test out the video and microphone settings, to ensure you can be seen and heard if needed, or muted and not seen according to your requirements. Remember to check your background.
  • Consider whether you need to secure any company paperwork containing personal information or confidential company data in a lockable cabinet or drawer. If this is not possible, discuss the situation with your line manager.
  • When making work telephone calls, ensure that other household members are not able to overhear the content of confidential conversations.
  • When using email to send or receive work related content use the company VPN (virtual private network). If your company does not have one, then ensure you password protect documents which contain personal data and double-check the recipients of your emails before you send them.
  • Office wastepaper should not be disposed of in domestic dustbins. Wastepaper should be stored securely until it can be taken to company premises for disposal. Ensure that all confidential wastepaper is shredded.Material provided by our friends at Data Protection Consulting www.dataprotection.me.uk
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