I was in the middle of a presentation for over 40 teachers on how to create project- based experiences online. We were using Microsoft Teams’ group video call; a tool I I have used for more than a dozen presentations. And just as I have done countless times in the past, I went to share my screen to guide teachers through each point.

Except nothing came up.

Just a black screen with my oblivious voice echoing in the background. But I didn’t know it.

I went on sharing slides, talking through each point as if I had all 40 participants captivated. Meanwhile, each one of them shared in the ‘chat’ box that while they could hear my voice, nothing was appearing on their screen.

But here was an even bigger problem: my chat window was nowhere to be found.

Sound familiar? What would you do? 

Three minutes later I felt a light touch on my shoulder. My wonderful tech support and co-host Sze graciously informed me of the problem. With quick thinking and a calm voice, she offered me her computer, provided accompanying headphones, and told me that I could present there while she troubleshooted the problem.

I apologised to the participants and carried on with the presentation. We barely lost a beat.


How many of you have faced a similar problem?

If it wasn’t the ‘share screen feature,’ I’m sure you have been accidentally muted, shared the wrong desktop, struggled to get students’ camera on, or failed trying to multi-task. Let’s face it; online teaching isn’t easy. And when you try to do everything yourself, it’s damn near impossible. As the teacher/ facilitator, your #1 priority should be in effectively delivering content, not worrying about tech problems. Here are 5 reasons why you NEED a student- tech team to keep you from going crazy.

  1. Managing Chats: Do you use the chat function during your online lessons? While the chat window can be incredibly useful, it can also be incredibly distracting. Why not put a student in charge? The student can help respond to technical problems like faulty microphones, blank video screens, relevant student questions, or any other technical issues that may arise.
  2. Facilitating Breakout Rooms: Do you use breakout rooms? The Zoom breakout rooms are a wonderful feature for fostering more participation and small group work, but can be a headache if not managed effectively. Put students you trust in charge of each breakout room to facilitate discussions and gather input from each group to share in the larger meeting.
  3. Starting Conversations: Have you ever posed a question during an online meeting that went over a minute without being answered? We’ve all been there. Appoint some of your more extroverted students to be the conversation starters. This will break the ice with other students. Better yet, give students time to think and respond in the ‘chat window,’ and call on them individually.
  4. Admitting and monitoring participants: Let’s face it, with our students spread across cities, or in some cases, the world, it’s hard to get them to show up on time to meetings. Rather than worrying about admitting them and controlling permissions yourself, assign a student as a ‘co-host’ and let them manage attendees. They can even ‘privately’ message classmates to foster greater input during main discussions.
  5. Managing the ‘Back Channel’: Whether we like it or not, our students probably have a chat group just for them. In addition to sharing the latest gossip, this chat group is probably where they ask questions about homework, get clarification on assignments, and work in groups on projects. Rather than pretend it doesn’t exist, choose a student leader to be your ‘backchannel buddy.’ This student can relay questions that arise in the chat back to you.

Have other strategies that have worked for you? I would love to hear them!

E-mail me at kylewagner@transformschool.com and I will be sure to add them to the list.

To your continual success with remote learning!

Your PBL Coach,