Top 3 Tips and Tricks for Successful Secondary Distance Learning

Guest Blog by Autumn Riley, Assistant Principal Linda Jobe Middle School, former High School English Teacher in Mansfield ISD 

I feel like we are all living our own twenty-twenty version of those old Verizon commercials. You remember the, “Can you hear me now?” ones? That has become the new normal of our lives since COVID-19 has shut down schools across the country. We are routinely asking: 

“Can you see me?”

“Is my mic on?”

“Did the link work?” 

We are asking these questions because our whole world has changed practically overnight. 

There’s a terrible movie that I loved to watch in college called Southland Tales (that I can’t in good conscious recommend to anyone at all, and I can’t believe I am quoting it on the internet). In this movie, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character says: “Scientists are saying the future is going to be far more futuristic than they originally predicted.” 

That’s how I feel. 

“The future is far more futuristic than originally predicted”, and we are living it. 

Currently, teachers and students are wading through uncharted waters trying to figure out how to make this new reality of distance learning work. 

Here are my Top 3 Tips and Tricks for Successful Secondary Distance Learning (at all levels of tech-ability): 


  • Find a friend to be your guinea pig! 


If you don’t already have one, get yourself a buddy stat! Find a person that you can set-up test versions of a classroom or course with and practice all the new things. Tech-savvy people don’t become tech-savvy by watching; they become tech-savvy by doing. Click the buttons. Find a YouTube video for what you are hoping to do. Call or video chat your friend and ask, “what do you see?” You have to have a support system, especially right now.


  • New to Online Classrooms? Have students turn in pictures of hand-written assignments.


Depending on your situation and your student’s level of access they may not be able to use a device with a keyboard or a mouse, so as you are designing lessons consider having students complete tasks by hand. Then, they simply submit a picture of completed work to you. This can be a low stakes way to get students used to turning in assignments online to platforms like Canvas. 


  • Make videos of yourself giving directions. 


Technology can be intimidating for some students (and parents). Take the time to make a quick video of yourself giving the directions for the assignment. This is the perfect time to anticipate any common misconceptions about the learning students will be doing. You can use the chrome add-on Screencastify to record your screen as you go. This tool allows you to save video directly to a Google Drive or to upload for easy link sharing. (Video files are BIG, so be sure to share a link instead of a file.) 

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