Virtual Teaching 101: There’s an Extension for That


School has been back in session for two months now and my school is 100% virtual. Things are just a little bit crazy at the moment. You may wonder “didn’t you learn how to teach virtually last spring?” Well, no. Last spring, everyone was caught off guard and just did the best we could. The elementary school I worked in sent home packets and checked in via phone call/video call, or text. This year, everyone is determined to do better, and while delivery high-quality education in a virtual setting is very possible, it takes time to figure everything out.

As an Instructional Coach, a significant part of my job in these first weeks of school is supporting teachers with adjusting to virtual teaching, which means finding ways to make it easier for teachers to teach effectively and for students to access content and upload assignments. Yes, they have Masters degrees in Instructional Technology, but we don’t have time for that. Instead, I’m going through a crash course via YouTube and the main takeaway I’ve learned is–there are extensions for just about everything! What are extensions?  Extensions are like apps for your web browser, google slides, google meet, etc., that improve functionality and can enhance programs by making them more user-friendly or interactive.

For example:

  1. Google Meet doesn’t allow break out rooms. There’s an extension for that! It’s called Breakout Rooms
  2. Google Slides can be boring. How can I make them more interactive? There’s an extension for that! Several actually, including PearDeck and Slido.
  3. How can my students interact with a pdf? There’s an extension for that! It’s called Kami.
  4. How can I help my students understand how to upload their work to Google Classroom or Seesaw? There’s an extension for that! It’s called Screencastify.

As wonderful as extensions are, they can’t solve every problem. For example:

—My students are in day care during the day, how can I work with them if they can’t log in at day care?   No app for that.

—How can I get my 6 year old students to log in at a certain time of day if their parents aren’t home? No app for that.

—How can I reliably assess my young students in a virtual setting–no app for that.

These are just a few of the many obstacles we’re trying to overcome. It is frustrating at times, however, when we look back on this crazy time in our lives, we’ll be able to say we got through it and learned a lot along the way. To be clear, none of us are questioning the decision to have virtual school instead of in-person; we know it’s the right decision right now.  Although we spend some time venting, we make sure to spend a lot of time praising ourselves for the strides we’re making and also some time to laugh a little at our failed attempts as we navigate this new teaching world and try to stay positive. Much of what we’re learning will be useful when we are finally able to meet our students face-to-face again. Here’s to hoping that time comes sooner rather than later!

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