ATLANTA — What was a complaint for many, is now relied on more than ever. All that time spent with our heads down, focused on our phone is taking on a new direction during the coronavirus crisis. Our shared digital world has been turned upside down.

With the high demand for connection amid social distancing, what are the best apps for checking in and chatting with family and friends? Tech expert Anna Ruth Williams of ARPR breaks down a few suggestions. 

"FaceTime is great, and if grandma has an iPhone ... you can teach her how to use the FaceTime button just as easy as the call button," Williams said, adding that the extra time at home could be an opportunity for some teaching time. 

The Apple platform is user-friendly across generations, but that's not the only app getting widespread attention.

"Zoom is now the number one app in the Google Play store," Williams said of the video tool.

But for those who are ready to test emerging platforms, here are a few to try. 

"One is called Houseparty," Williams said. "It's an app that allows for group video chat, and another is called Marco Polo, which brands itself as a video walkie-talkie. Use the time to be a digital explorer!"

Digital exploration is not just for families, because schools are also getting creative with connecting in a new normal. Virtual teaching has become a necessity. 

"Edmodo, Zearn, Canvas, Splash Math, as well as Youtube [are all tools that can be used] to hold virtual classes," Williams said. 

The virtual world of education even turning into a learning opportunity for parents, according to Williams. 

"The parents are actually getting to see and learn about new cloud-based tools in a way they don't in their normal, corporate life, day-to-day," she said.  

The demand for connectivity, however, can present challenges for those who have limited or no WiFi connection at home. However, Williams said there are workarounds for students. 

"Some kids don't have a computer in the home, but they can use a gaming console like an Xbox to connect to Google Classroom," she said. 

With the demand for connection at a high, Williams recommends practicing extra patience as companies adjust to a spike in usage. 

"[All] these vendors are learning to improve their products because they are getting a mass of users all at once," she said, "And that's great in terms of technology development, but be patient because I have heard of a lot of tools having bandwidth issues."

At the end of the day, Williams said social distancing may bring a full-circle moment for technology as apps return to their core purpose.

"They're enabling deep human connection and authentic connectivity and really meaningful dialogue," she said.   

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