Teacher Shares How an Old-School CD Can Smooth Tech Troubles for Distance Learning

Struggling with the logistics of virtual learning? Check the junk drawer for some CDs because this teacher's hack just might help.

hand holding a CD
Photo: DAJ/Getty Images

If you're a parent who has been thrust into the disorienting world of virtual learning, chances are you're struggling with multiple aspects of the process. As if the strange social dynamics that come with at-home schooling weren't troublesome enough, we also have technological challenges to contend with—because how exactly do you replicate the experience of in-person learning with devices? And how do you do it without shelling out tons of money on fancy new equipment for your in-home classroom?

The truth is, you can't quite make remote learning feel like in-person schooling. But you can implement tips, tricks, and hacks to make the experience feel more seamless and fulfilling. And that's why we love this incredibly easy and affordable hack from a teacher, which is going viral right now.

All you need in order to recreate this hack at home are a few decidedly old-fashioned, affordable items: A CD (talk about a blast from the past!), a pencil (haven't used one of those in a while!), some tape, and a quarter. Nothing fancy here, but these household items are used in conjunction with your trusty laptop computer.

Carmen Castrejon CD Hack on Laptop
Courtesy of Carmen Castrejon
Carmen Castrejon CD Hack Back View of Laptop
Courtesy of Carmen Castrejon

You'll need to attach the pencil to the back of your computer's screen first. Then, you top that pencil off with a CD, which then gets anchored down with the quarter. Easy, right? This contraption allows teachers to share images of their worksheets with students by allowing the CD to broadcast its reflection onto the screen of the computer. You can simply place a notebook so it's reflected on the CD's surface to make it visible to students via video call.

Students can likely use this hack as well if they're looking to show their teachers the work they're doing on a sheet of paper. We imagine this would be especially helpful for math teachers and students, since students can easily share the process it took for them to reach their answer—which, as we all know, is just as important as the answer itself sometimes.

"Just wanted to share with you. It may help some teachers who don't have a document camera. This is my little creation, hope it helps someone," the teacher, whose name is Cameron Castrejon, writes in a Facebook post. "This works on zoom. Instead of the kids looking at you when you place the CD on a pencil it reflects what's on your keyboard, anything on your keyboard can be seen. When you want them to look at you again pick up the cd. May also help students show their work to a teacher while on camera."

Here's what we love about this: While it may not be the fanciest hack ever, and it certainly isn't the pinnacle of innovation, it provides a sense of simplicity in an incredibly complicated time. And while you could likely find a way to use a screen-sharing program or the like to do a similar thing, there's something comforting and reassuring about putting pencil to paper—and a hack like this allows us to make that sort of activity work in a virtual learning setting.

There's really no way to make COVID-related remote learning feel natural or easy or right for anyone involved—but we hope hacks like this one make it as smooth a process as possible for our kids, our teachers, and, well, ourselves.

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