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For many teachers, virtual teaching is a four-letter word. The idea of having to use technology to teach can fill some with dread. Some teachers have even quit or retired, so they do not have to deal with technology's ever-changing world.  It seems that virtual teaching might not go away for a long time in our current predicament, if ever. Many websites, programs, apps, and more have been shoved into teachers' laps. Almost all of it is brand new. Now many are confused and nervous to deal with what has been put in front of them. New technology can seem scary, but it does not have to be. Here are some suggestions to help you deal with the overwhelming online world.

Press all of the buttons. Go through all of the menu options.  I know that many people who fear technology fear that they will break the program. You can't really mess up something like this permanently. If something does go wrong, they can just reset it to the beginning. That is why I suggest that you go through all of the options when you first get the new program. You will get to know how everything works. Then you will be more confident because you know all of your options. In fact, try to break it. This will help get the jitters about a new program away, and you will get to experience all the features. Hopefully, it will become less scary, and you can dive into actually using its features.

Take notes. You think you will remember, but you won't.  There is so much information shoved at you when you get a new piece of technology. It is like trying to drink from a firehose. Sure, you might get some of the information, but you are going to miss a lot. There have been times that I left a meeting very confident on how to use something. But then, as I tried to get started, I realized just how much I had missed. A cheat sheet to get to your most frequently needed areas will help you in the long run.

Utilize help when possible. Look for help online. It may seem silly to use scary technology to help you with different technology, but it really will be helpful. Many teachers like to post help and tricks online for others to use. There might be videos on Youtube or other social media for you to utilize. Usually, there are instruction manuals posted online as well. If that does not work, ask your coworkers for help. Even though they might be unsure as well, two brains working on a problem will be better than one.

If possible, make a student account. If not, ask the students to show you what they see on their end every once and a while. It is helpful to see what the students will see when using apps or websites. Sadly, most programs and websites look vastly different from teacher to student accounts. Seeing the other perspective will help you understand just what you need to create or do for you and the students to have a positive experience. You will also be able to communicate with the students to find things when they are getting frustrated. Remember, they are learning a whole new piece of technology too. If you have a student account, it can be used as a guinea pig when trying new things. This can help you work out any defects before you release something to the children.

Take it slow. Do not expect to have perfect lessons after a day of training. It is going to take time to utilize the technology. Instead, start small and do not have high expectations for when you first start out. Every step is a small victory when it comes to technology. Each time you work on something, try to make it a little bigger or one step better. You will be cruising in no time.  Plus, your students will need time to learn how to operate the program. Introducing the program in small digestible chunks will help the students understand and not get frustrated as well.

Problems are to be expected. Students understand that there will be hiccups along the way. You are teaching during a pandemic, so most people are very forgiving during this time. However, when problems arise, it is essential to stay calm. Relax. Children have a way of feeding off your energy. If you are stressed or confused, they may respond with stress and confusion. Be honest with your students that it is new and challenging for you, but you are trying your best. This could be an example for them to keep trying when something is difficult for them.  With this idea, it is essential to stay positive. Look on the bright side when possible. With most technology, you can recycle the things you are creating or doing year after year. You really only have to struggle to make it once.  Sure, the first year might be challenging, but it might save you time in the long run.

Lastly, always have a backup plan. Even though you might be super knowledgeable about technology, things can happen. The program may go down, or something else may occur that is totally out of your control. It should preferably be something simple that be recycled from day to day as long as you do not use it. It could even be a simple game for the students to play to give you some time to fix the problem. Although technology is incredible, it is not infallible. It is best to be prepared, just in case.

Dismally, this might become the new normal in teaching. Technology is not going away, but it does not have to be scary. With virtual instruction, learning how to operate these new bits of technology is essential.  Take some of the tips from above and some time to work with it. With some persistence, you will be a technology whiz before you know it. Good luck! 

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