This holiday season, let’s be grateful for technology

For most of us, this has been a year of challenges—and a year of finding silver linings, too. One challenge has been learning to communicate through screens instead of in-person. That process was often frustrating for both students and teachers. Zoom, Webex, and Facetime were barely on our radar a year ago. Today, these platforms are standard practice for work and school. As hard as virtual meetings can be, there is a silver lining to learning the technology! Transition students can use these same technologies to make the holidays a little merrier—and that is something to be grateful for.

Central Oregon’s transition students work hard to build their networks of support. A support network might include classmates, teachers, job coaches, employers, mentors, neighbors, sports teammates, church friends, or relatives who live out of town. When social distancing keeps people away from their network, life can start to feel pretty lonely, especially during the holidays. Fortunately, virtual meeting tools can keep that network of relationships strong.

How can we take advantage of the technology we’ve learned for school? Can we tweak it to keep friendships fun and meaningful? We checked with the experts at Oregon Transition Education, for ways to stay connected with the people that we miss in real life. Here are five suggestions to make virtual conversations feel less distant and more fun.


1. Start the conversation

Do you ever feel shy about talking to a screen? Or feel like you can’t think of topics to talk about? One way to make connecting easier is to keep a list of topics and questions on hand that can spark conversations. It helps us find things in common and stories to share. Here’s a list to get you started—just download and print it. Keep it handy when you call or video chat with someone, and be sure to add your own ideas!

Download the list of conversation starters


2. Partner up for fitness

We might not be able to meet in person to stay fit, but we can share goals and accomplishments! Find a workout partner to share the sweat, even if you’re not in the same space. Here is a downloadable list of daily exercises to get started. Choose five activities to do together on a Zoom or Facetime call. Before you disconnect, set a time and goal for your next virtual workout session.

Download the exercise activities chart


3. Organize a virtual game get-together

Remember game nights, when we gathered around the same table for cards or board games? You don’t need expensive equipment to put a new twist on gaming get-togethers. Easy-to-learn virtual board games can be downloaded here, and played online with a friend. Or try more advanced games that can be found free online, like Skribbl, a multi-player drawing game, or any of the card games on


4. Explore museums and destinations:

Most virtual platforms connect friends who can’t be together. Technology can also connect you to distant places, where you explore from the comfort of your own couch. Travel may not be an option this year, but it’s still possible to plan evenings “out” with virtual tours of museums, zoos, and destinations around the world. For example, view beautiful art through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s interactive map,  or tour the wonders of Yellowstone National Park. Best of all, join the Shedd Aquarium penguins as they waddle the exhibits, checking out everything from sharks to jellyfish!


5. Get cooking!

More time at home can mean more time in the kitchen. Choose to make it fun by cooking virtually with an online friend! Use video conferencing to share a favorite holiday recipe, or to practice meal planning. You can even cook together, chopping and mixing to perfection. Who made it best? You might need to bring in some virtual judges to help you decide.

Browse accessible recipes with directions at Accessible Chef