Creating Your First Virtual Lessons? Start Here

Special / March 28, 2020

 – Dan Jones –

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  – Benjamin Franklin

The coronavirus pandemic has caused schools and districts to close everywhere. Globally, teachers are moving their classrooms to an online platform, teaching virtually, and trying to figure out how to manage everything they would typically do within their traditional classroom. If today you were told that you would need to teach remotely tomorrow, would you be prepared to do so?  

Moving from a traditional setting to a virtual environment can be a scary and overwhelming switch for you and your students, but it doesn’t have to be. There are some simple ways to make a smooth transition and with a rather small learning curve. Creating your first virtual lesson will start you on a journey that holds the potential to revise your entire approach to engaging your students, and it is as simple as three clicks of your computer mouse. 

3 Simple tools

Screen capturing is a relatively simple approach to providing your students with the direct instruction you would have provided in your classroom. Think through the materials you use for your lessons. Do you typically use a whiteboard to write on? Do you instruct using a slide presentation? Do you guide students through handouts or practice worksheets? All of these direct instructional methods can easily be delivered to students via screen capture software. It is crucial, if you are not the most tech-savvy person, to not become anxious by the words “screen capture software.” You can do everything that you’re used to doing, and with a few extra simple steps, capture it all as a video. Each of the tools below are simple, user-friendly methods of connecting with your students when they cannot be in your presence. Let’s explore some options as you prepare for a rapid transition to online learning. 

Chrome users: Screencastify

Screencastify allows you to record whatever is on your computer screen as a video while simultaneously recording your audio narration. You can create a recording of the entire computer screen or just the tab you are using. It allows you to develop narrations with your computer’s built-in microphone, and you can use your computer’s built-in webcam to capture video of you talking to your students about whatever is on the screen. The webcam is an important feature, especially when teaching remotely. You even have the option to use your computer’s webcam only. When deciding whether or not to use the webcam, it can be easy to shy away from putting yourself in the video. The truth is that research definitely shows that your students prefer to see you delivering the lesson. Including yourself in the video will bring a sense of peace and normalcy to an abnormal situation. Your students connect with you and are used to seeing you every day. Your virtual presence brings comfort and your students enjoy connecting with you more than just your voice. This all sounds simple enough, but is it really? YES! Once you go to the Screencastify website(www.screencastify.com), you can click on the install button to add the software on your computer, or you can access it in the Google Web Store by clicking here. Once installed in your Google Chrome browser, it will show up as a small icon up at the top of your screen near the web address bar.

When you click on the icon, you will see a very simple set of options to determine if you want to record your browser tab, desktop (all of your tabs), or use just your webcam. Did I mention that all of your recordings are instantly added to your Google Drive? It is one of the things that makes Screencastify such a user-friendly program. Screencastify is certified COPPA, FERPA, and SOPIPA compliant. If you feel that this is an ideal fit for you and your transition to online learning, you can get more in-depth training in how to use the software by clicking on the link to go to their free professional learning courses (https://www.screencastify.com/courses). They offer multiple courses and each one takes less than one hour to complete. 

PC/ Mac/ Chrome users/ and iPhone:

Loom is very similar to Screencastify, and it is just as easy to use. Loom can also be set up as a Google extension (click here to find it in the Google Web Store) so that it appears at the top of your Chrome browser by the web address bar. When you click on the Loom icon, you will see three basic options: record your screen plus your webcam, your screen only, or webcam only. This software uses your built-in microphone and built-in webcam to record the video and audio. Though Loom is similar to Screencastify, there are some BIG differences that may help make your decision regarding which software to use. Loom is available for download on a PC and Mac. And if you are an iOS user, Loom is available as an App from the App Store. So if you would like to use your iPhone or iPad to do your recordings, Loom is a great option. Check out this video to learn more about how to use Loom. You can also go to their website to access their program as well (www.loom.com).

PC/ Mac/ Chrome users/ Android/ iPhone

Screencast-O-Matic is another great option for screen capture. This software can be installed as an extension for Google Chrome (click here to find it in the Google Web Store) or it can be accessed as an App in the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store. There is also a deluxe version that can be downloaded onto any standard computer through the Screencast-O-Matic website, below. Screencast-O-Matic offers the same basic options for screen capture: screen, webcam, or both. If you go with the deluxe version, you are able to sync your videos from your phone to your desktop. Screencast-O-Matic has a steeper learning curve, but it has a lot of great editing options for more experienced screen capture users. You can check out this video to learn more about Screencast-O-Matic or you can go to their website to learn more (https://screencast-o-matic.com/home).

However you decide to record your lessons, one thing is certain…you can do this! The simplicity of the programs that have been described here makes it so that your students will feel greater continuity while learning new content. The consistency that this setup provides allows you to continue to provide amazing lessons to your students without being in the same room as your students. Remember to embrace this new challenge with a growth mindset and a willingness to continue to support your students’ learning no matter where that occurs. 






Dan Jones
Dan Jones
Dan Jones is a middle school social studies teacher at the Richland School of Academic Arts. He earned a BS in Middle Grades Education from Ashland University and a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from American College of Education. Dan is the author of Flipped 3.0 Project Based Learning: An Insanely Simple Guide. He is a founding member of the FLGI International Faculty and has earned numerous FLGI certifications including the certification Flipped Learning 3.0 Master Class Facilitator Certification Level - I.




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