Log on. Go to your Drive. I’ll share my screen. Turn on your camera. Chat your answer.

A year ago, this kind of language was foreign to the vast majority of students — if it was familiar, it was probably only in the context of TikTok or Minecraft. But today this terminology is the basis on which we’re asking kids to learn rigorously. For many students, the unfamiliar lingo can serve as a roadblock to showing what they know while signed into a remote lesson.

To relieve the culture shock that accompanies remote learning pods and digital assignments, you can draw associations between the new tech protocols and familiar classroom habits. Doing so will ease online learning and introduce to your students a new tech-savvy language that they’ll use for years to come.

For example, my students start each online lesson by signing onto their Google Classroom Drive. It’s a totally new interface for many, and the page of geometric shapes and labels can be quickly overwhelming (read: can quickly evoke disinterest). So upon signing on, I describe the Drive to them as their “virtual desk;” Just like their personal bureau at school which has a stack of folders differentiated by subject, so too does their Google Drive. At school, we can open a folder to find worksheets separated by unit or date, and we can use the same sort of thinking to find today’s work, too.

I often refer to the Google Calendar too, where students can find their schedule of pod classes to come. Without context, the site is a potentially dizzying array of colors and plans, but with a little suggested association, the Calendar is suddenly no more than an electronic version of their homework or agenda book. Presto, magic. The paperback version, which presents a month at a time and 4 pages of weekly breakdowns, is a display that Google Calendar uses too, if you press the “M” and “W,” respectively.

The opportunities for association are countless. If I’ve pulled up a Zoom whiteboard to have learners show their thinking, their instinct is to find a thrill in drawing bigger and bolder over one another’s work (yes, despite our inspired classroom rules). It’s a perfect opportunity to point out that we wouldn’t take a classmate’s worksheet and scribble on it in the classroom, and we shouldn’t do it online, either. If students see their computer station as a stop-over between frequent snack and bathroom breaks, you can liken it to their desk at school, where generally they sit to focus for relatively long periods of time.

When creating a degree of familiarity between the classroom and new technology, you accomplish a few things at once: 1) you activate the mere-exposure effect, promising more engagement from your learners, 2) you expand their digital literacy while leading your content-rich lessons, and 3) You validate what is for many the very real confusion of trying to adjust to the remote classroom setting (and a little student validation can go a long way).

Remote learning is a culture of its own, so don’t be afraid to treat it that way. As your students make the shift, ease their transition by familiarizing the unknown. You just might find that they walk away with all the content knowledge they need, and some impressive tech lingo to boot.