Apps, Extensions, and Websites that Make Distance Teaching Easier

An Ad Blocker of your choosing

I am an avid user of ad blockers and I think anyone who might share their screen should be too. First, it just looks cleaner and is easier to navigate than a page full of ads. When I’m sharing my screen with my students, I want the view to be as minimalist as possible to limit distractions and put the material as the main focus. Second, ads are highly personalized. I don’t necessarily want my students to see the ads for that populate my pages.

The ad blocker in action.

AirServer

When I first switched to teaching online I found myself missing my whiteboard. I found drawing with my mouse so cumbersome and time-consuming that it rendered any “whiteboard” features completely useless. I started a search for a way to take my old iPad and set it up as a digital whiteboard that I could write on by hand. Enter AirServer. AirServer is a screen mirroring app for Mac and PC that allows you to receive AirPlay and Google Cast streams. For my purposes in the classroom, it enables me to stream whatever is on my iPad to my laptop. I can share my iPad screen directly through Zoom to my students so it looks like I’m writing on a whiteboard.

Screencastify

Screencastify is an extension that records your current tab or whole desktop, making it great for creating tutorials and walkthroughs. Technology can be difficult and not all of our students are going to seamlessly adapt. I found myself frustrated by trying to give verbal explanations, typing long guides, or asking my students to share their screen so I could act as de facto tech support. Instead, I’ve started making short videos showing my students how to use the apps and websites we use in class. It saves instructional time and students enjoy the tutorials.

Tab Scissors

I use Google Drive to store and organize nearly all of my teaching materials. In each class-specific folder I have all of my worksheets, presentations, and grade books. When it comes time to add grades or take attendance I find myself constantly dragging my tabs around to split them into separate windows. “Tab Scissors” is an extension that splits your browser into two panels with your last active tab on the right, and the rest to the left. Instead of manually adjusting my tabs, I can have them evenly divided with the click of a button.

This gif was made with Screencastify

Slidesmania

As I’ve mentioned, I use Google tools predominantly when teaching. However, the premade templates provided in Slides are a bit limited, and creating my own was just too time-consuming. I use this website as a source for new or teaching specific templates. You can find templates for lesson plans, choice boards, and games.

Smallpdf

Sometimes you need to split a pdf into pages and sure, you could do that the old fashioned way by saving each page manually to PDF. However, I prefer to just upload the document, click the pictures of the pages I want, and have all of the work done for me. In addition to extracting pages from a document, this website can merge documents, number pages, convert PDFs to Word, Excel, PPT, JPG, and more.

Storyboard That

This is something I use more often when working with kids. Storyboard That, an online storyboard maker, is as simple to use as drag and drop. It is a fun way to have students create comic strips and storyboards online.

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