The Digital Educator

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Pre-brief

Maximum effectiveness as an educator requires a familiarity and comfort with the educational modality being used. With that in mind, we were all recently introduced to a novel concept generally known as “trying to figure out how to teach via Zoom.”

As someone who has been fortunate (fortunate?) to experience many instances of “Zoom Didactics,” I can confirm that this is something being done with varying levels of success. It seems that at this point we do not have established best practices for virtual learning. In this first post of “The Virtual Educator” series, we will discuss some basic concepts toward mastery of Zoom.

The Chat Bar

The virtual format allows its users an increased opportunity for distraction and disengagement. Learners may be reluctant to unmute themselves in order to participate and may not want their image displayed. The chat bar function is your best opportunity to have active participation.

I have heard feedback that some speakers find conversation in the chat bar to be distracting or fear that it is taking away from their presentation. I disagree with this in that an active chat bar confirms your learners are present and activated. Keep in mind that your learners are very adept and comfortable with text-based chat, with text messaging and group chat apps as routine methods of communication. 

  • When used properly, the chat bar has the ability to heighten a presentation. This requires that the presenter is engaged with it as well. One option is to have someone else in the room assigned as the moderator, who can keep up with the chat and direct conversation. An even better option is to practice and become comfortable enough with the chat bar function that you can keep up with it during your presentation, to answer questions and participate in the conversation in real time. The next section will discuss a key change that can help make this easier.

The PowerPoint Window

If you are giving a virtual presentation using PowerPoint, your process is probably to share your screen and then make your slideshow full screen. This inhibits the ability to perform any other function on your computer other than your slideshow. Here is a quick and easy hack for that:

  • Go to Slide Show
  • Click Set Up Slide Show
  • Select Browsed by an individual (window)

Now when you start your slideshow it will only take up the space of the window that you have open, allowing you to more easily switch between windows and use other functions simultaneously, such as the chat bar. When you share your screen, you can share only this window and it will look like a full screen presentation to everyone else in the room.


An underutilized Zoom feature is the annotate bar. This gives you the option to draw, add shapes and text, erase, and format in real-time when screen sharing. 

This function allows you to add to your slides in real-time. For example, you could create a slide with a question on it and ask your learners to answer, either verbally or through the chat bar. Using the text annotation, you can free type the answers given to create a slide in a dynamic fashion.

There is also an option when selecting Share Screen to select a whiteboard, which gives a blank background on which to use the annotate functions for “whiteboard teaching.”


The circumstances that have forced education into the virtual space certainly provides a new set of challenges. But it also provides an opportunity to add to your teaching skill set. Your learners will notice that you have taken the time to learn and practice teaching in this novel way. Showing off your Zoom skills will make your audience more appreciative and your presentation more effective.

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