Tag Archives: zoom

Parent-Teacher Conferences Online – The Results!

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how we were handling parent-teacher conferences this year using Zoom. Well, we have done it and . . . it went very well. Here is the overview. The teachers were going to start a meeting and would manage parents entering and exiting the meeting through the “Waiting Room” feature. This feature doesn’t automatically accept participants into a meeting. Instead it keeps them in a waiting room and the teacher can then admit who they need to admit.

We also used a scheduling program to allow parents to book their conferences ahead of time. The conferences ran for a day and a half and individual meetings were 10 – 20 minutes (depending on the grade level).

Preparation for the conferences

We did a lot of preparations before hand. Here is what we did before hand:

  • Collect all Personal Meeting Links
  • Meet with all teachers to…
    • Make sure Zoom is updated
    • Make sure that teachers know how to start their meetings
    • Make sure know teachers know manage participants in the Waiting Room
  • Communicate with parents…
    • Send out the link of meetings for all teachers
    • Send out expectations to parents (have Zoomed installed, test it out, be early to your meeting)
  • Send communications to teachers and parents at least three times a week before the conferences

I think the prep was very helpful. We were able to track the teacher preparations to make sure we met with every teacher and make sure that they knew what they had to do during the meetings.

We also hammered home that if there are serious technical issues then reschedule. Don’t sit there and trying to troubleshoot the problem putting them behind schedule. Since it is Zoom it can be done anytime.

Monitoring the meetings

Since it is all remote and the conferences are pretty short, our tech staff was simply monitoring to make sure there are no wide spread issues. Lucky for us, Zoom provides a bunch of information.

As you can see from the image, we can see who is in the meeting, when they entered, what device they are using and what equipment (even external microphones and cameras).

We can also switch over to the audio and visual data to see how much (if any) data packets were loss during the meeting.

Issues

Overall the conferences went quite well, but there were some issues that we encountered.

The first was an audio issue. We had two teachers whose audio was not working with Zoom. Their microphones were working, their speakers were working but they could not hear anything. In fact, Zoom wanted to restart the driver and it prompted these teachers for administrator credentials. Once they were put in, the problem resolved itself.

Document cameras was another issue. We had a few teachers who wanted to use their document cameras to show student work. The problem was that teachers wanted the parents to see their face while the document camera was being used. This feature is currently not supported in Zoom (or at least I don’t know about it).

So what teachers were going to do was to use the document camera software which will allow the use of the document camera and the built in webcam and then share their screen. It’s not ideal but it works. I am not sure how many teachers actually went this route or just used their document camera or just abandoned the idea altogether.

Then there were the expected issues which were network connectivity and user error. Luckily for us, network connectivity issues were few and far between and when they happened it looked like parents just jumped right back into their scheduled meeting.

As far as user error, I know of a single parent who was struggling through a few conferences. For some reason this parent had issues with sound and connecting to at least one meeting. Other than that I have not heard of too many incidents.

Data

I decided to put out two surveys to collect data. One survey designed for the parents and one for the teachers. Here is a link to a copy of those surveys so you can see the questions yourself. I tried to keep the questions short and to the point.

Depending on the results (listed below) it could shape how we approach conferences for the future. Maybe people loved Zoom or maybe they hated it, either way we thought it was important to capture what our community thought about the process.

Teacher Data

Overall the teachers really liked it using Zoom. There weren’t too many negative comments. Here are some highlights:

  • Some teachers got to see both parents (usually they only see one)
  • It easier to stay start and finish meetings, so it was easier to stick to their schedule
  • Meetings started and finished on time
  • It went better than expected
  • You do lose the personal touch of meeting in person
  • It was nice doing conferences from home

I really anticipated the results of the teacher survey to be more mixed. I wasn’t sure if technical difficulties were going to be an issue, but that didn’t seem to be the case at all. 90-95% of our teachers said that the audio and video was good. As it turns out, the teachers (overall) were really impressed with the format.

Hmmm.

The final question was whether they would want to hold conferences in person only, through Zoom only or a combination of both. Here are the the results.

Parent Data

This really surprised me. I was really anticipating a really mixed bag. We are not a large school but that does not mean that our parents opinions are all homogeneous. We have some parents who are IT professionals and others who have difficulties with basic computer skills.

But, again, I was taken a back. They (overall) really liked the format as well. Here is a quick selection of comments:

  • Zoom kept things timely
  • In person meetings can run late
  • Transition between one meeting and another was tight
  • As a working parent – this was great
  • The ability to attend conferences without having to take time off work was great
  • Worked well but would prefer in person meetings
  • It went smoothly
  • It was nice that both of us could attend
  • It removes the barrier of childcare

I picked these comments because I thought they made a good point or I saw the comments multiple times.

They also reported good audio/visual quality from Zoom, and of course I asked the big money question about future conferences and here is what how our parents responded.

So as you can see there is a demand to maintain this format.

I guess the question going forward is what will the combination of in person and Zoom looks like?

 

Episode 183 – Damn Fine Cans

Tony and Patrick are back! It has been long overdue too. It’s a longer than normal episode but there is a lot to talk about! As always, subscribe to us on Apple Music or your favorite podcasting app.

1) Back at school in a COVID world
a) Tony’s motto: “You have to think of every student as a virtual student that occasionally comes to school and if you do that your planning will fit every scenario.”
b) GoGuardian: https://www.goguardian.com
c) Cisco Umbrella: https://security.umbrella.com

2) Why your online streaming is bad and mine is good
a) iPad solution
b) Euro Mic Stand with Klip
c) Disable iPad audio
d) DJ Podiums
e) iPad is a “person” in the meeting

3) Virtual Parent Conferences
a) Zoom
Waiting rooms
b) Prep with teachers and parents
c) Google Meet deadline – Sept
ember 20, 2020

4) Streaming in the Classroom – Final verdict!
a) Windows schools – Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter
b) Mac schools – Apple TV
c) BYOD schools – BenQ Instashow/Barco WePresent

You can download the episode HERE!

Zoom vs Google Meet: Zoom wins

I applaud Google and Microsoft for their efforts for beefing up Google Meet and Microsoft Teams respectively, but honestly speaking, if you are looking for a video conferencing application for your school or district, then Zoom is still your best option.

Google has added some nice features to Google Meet. They even have their own official blog page from Google: https://www.blog.google/products/meet/

But Google is not terribly interested in servicing schools here. They are going for the broader picture which is the everyday Gmail user to get people on their platform. Let’s take a look at the features for the free version now:

  • Blurring the background
  • Showing more participants at a time
  • Unlimited length of meetings
  • Integrated with Gmail and Google Calendar
  • Screen sharing
  • Chat window
  • Record meetings
  • Live Closed Captions generated in real time (surprisingly good)
  • Can allow people to call into a meeting
  • The ability to mute/unmute participants

I am sure there are more feature that I am forgetting but what I want to emphasis is that this is a lot of features and it’s free! However, when you are teaching virtually it is a different scenario than a casual call with a friend or family member. The teacher and students have an objective to reach and have a path to get there. Teachers need to better control the meeting. Here is what Google Meet cannot do:

  • Keep students muted
  • Restrict who can use the chat
  • Allow for nonverbal communication (thumbs up, down, raised hand, etc.)
  • Remove students from a class and not allow them to return
    • Technically you can do this in Google Meet, but you must give it a nickname
    • They also must be a member of your G-Suite organization
  • Turn off video and microphone of participants
  • End the meeting for all

Now Google does have plans to beef up Google Meet by adding many of these features. You can read all about them here: https://www.blog.google/outreach-initiatives/education/new-meet-features-for-edu/

The catch is you need to be a G Suite Education Enterprise school. This is not a free upgrade either. They have an introductory rate of $2/user/month. User is anyone who has a Gmail account.

I know that you get a lot more features than just an improved Google Meet with the Enterprise edition, but holy smokes that gets expensive real quick.

Let’s say you have a school with 500 users (450 students and 50 faculty). That means you’ll be paying over $10,000 the first year alone! Then when it goes up to $4/user the cost doubles to over $20,000. Yeah, that’s a lot of money.

Now let’s talk about Zoom and what you get with the K-12 account:

  • Keep students muted
  • Restrict who can use the chat
  • Allow for nonverbal communication (thumbs up, down, raised hand, etc.)
  • Remove students from a class and not allow them to return
  • Turn off video and microphone of participants
  • End the meeting for all
  • Breakout rooms to further differentiate the meeting

Zoom on the other hand only charges you for “Licensed” accounts. These are the accounts with all those fun features that Zoom offers and it costs about $90 per user. That means we are only paying for those 50 faculty accounts (for our 500 student/staff example) so that costs $4500 per year. Yep – a whole cheaper.

Microsoft Teams

Now you might be an Office 365 school. On one of the paid plans (let’s go with the A3 plan). This means you are already paying for Office and a number of other apps. Switching to Zoom is a harder sell in that case, but I would still argue for it.

I would argue that Zoom is a better tool for teachers to better control the video conferencing environment. Now Teams is getting some serious updates coming soon, but still this is a product that was designed for business and adults. It was designed to create a space with focused project based conversations and an emphasis in sharing resources in a contained and searchable environment.

I’ve played around with it and I think it does this well, much like Slack. As a video conferencing application though, I think it falls short.

I’m going to wrap this up. Basically I feel that Google and Micrsoft are trying to transfer a square peg into an octagonal peg so it will better fit in a round hole. Zoom isn’t perfect but when you consider the options that are out there for schools, I think Zoom’s solution is a better fit than any competitor I have seen so far.

Episode 181 – Zoom

Tony and Patrick are back talking about distance learning, recommendations about video conferencing (including Zoom) and a lot more. Please subscribe to our podcast from Apple our searching for us on your favorite podcasting app.

  1. Happy Easter/Spring Break
  2. Zoom
    1. Zoombombing
    2. Zoom and privacy
    3. Zoom alternative
      1. Microsoft Teams
      2. Google Meet
      3. Skype
    4. Recommendations
      1. Zoom Basic (non-compliance) vs. Zoom K-12 (FERPA, COPPA, HIPPA compliant)
  3. Cybersecurity Part 5 – Where Did Your Resources
    1. https://itbabble.com/2020/04/12/cybersecurity-part-5-where-did-you-put-your-resources/
  4. Graduation 2020?
    1. July in person graduation
    2. What does a virtual graduation look like?
      1. Not popular
      2. Not a good product
      3. Think about music, time, speeches

Download this episode HERE

Episode 180 – Empty shelves empty seats

Tony and Patrick are talking the school closures and what schools are doing, video conferences, and so much more. As always be sure to subscribe our podcast on Apple Music or your favorite podcasting app.

  1. No school!
  2. Distance Learning Plan
    1. So much to talk about here
    2. Be asynchronous 
      1. Front load the content
      2. Elementary and Early Childhood – Choice boards
    3. How is Microsoft Teams?
    4. What do we think doesn’t work?
    5. Attendance?
  3. Great resource from Mark Stone and Elvin Aliyev in Azerbaijan 
    1. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-mRNFvwZ17xLmWRTkCoO7lPQakAW6SzBy7tZEm1cgdQ/edit
    2. Distance Learning Resource
  4. Video Conference Options
    1. Zoom
    2. Teams
    3. Google Hangouts Meet

Download it HERE

 

Podcast crash course

I’ve written quite a few times about podcasts and how I like them. My opinion has not changed, I still think podcasts are an incredibly flexible tool for students to plan, produce and publish projects that demonstrate their knowledge. This post is going to be a crash course, why and how to do a podcast. By the way, we here at IT Babble have a podcast of our own that you should check out on iTunes.

Why


Pheww – why not?! OK, OK I can see you don’t have time for that. Podcasts are great for students of all ages. It can be as simple a an third grader talking about a country they have researched or as advanced as senior talking about the real reasons that World War II started and debating those theories. Students get to talk (not write, not posterize, not PowerPoint) about a subject they know about. It is fluid and a discussion. When you get a group project it can often be done by one or two people and the others are along for the ride. On a podcast, there is no place to hide. Now that can seem intimidating for some and that is certainly a valid point, so having an alternative in the wings would be a good choice. Also, if a member of a team is just being a pain, maybe that special student so go it on their own as well.

Concerns


The biggest concerns for teacher not doing podcasts (or not doing them well) is the technology side of things. I get you, sometimes it is hard to know where to start. I’ll talk about that a little later in the post. Another concern is that teachers get too focused on the technical (not the technology) side of things. They get more focused with jingles, time length and transition sounds. Don’t worry about that. If you have an eager and technologically gifted kid, you can have him make a jingle for everyone or you can simply have no jingle or transition sounds at all. It’ll be fine as long as the students focus on the topics at hand. This goes for you IT teachers out there. Don’t focus on the technical side. Forget that! Focus on the content. If you focus on other areas, the podcast will suck. It will sound boring, the students will know it sounds boring and no one will care.

Another big concern is where and how to publish them. To make it short you can use Soundcloud (while it is still around) or my go to Podomatic. You get 500mb free of storage (that equates to about 15, 30 minute podcasts) and it helps you with getting the podcast on the iTunes directory, thus making it pretty universal and accessible from just about anywhere. If you don’t like either of those try archive.org. Completely free, will let you store as much as you want but no RSS feed (I could be wrong about that). Either way, one of those three free solutions will probably be enough for you and your students.

Technology – You have space and some money


If you have nothing else and no budget, then have one or squeeze three kids around a laptop and have them record using its internal microphone. It will sound bad but it is doable. I wouldn’t do more than three, four means the laptop probably needs to be pushed back a little and even inches can severely diminish the quality of the recording.

If you have the room and the means set up a podcasting studio with an inexpensive mixing board. You don’t need a huge one, just one that can support up to 6 channels will probably be enough. You can often find those under $100 USD. Now You need microphones and microphone stands (desktop stands). Since you’re not recording a full orchestra, jazz ensemble or auditions for The Voice, you can get away with some pretty inexpensive microphones. I picked up a 3 pack of Behringer Ultravoice XM1800S for $50. At the time of this writing it is down to $40 (IT Babble receives no money from Amazon or any other advertiser). Now pick up some mic cables (whatever will plug into your mixing board).

Desktop microphone stands are pretty inexpensive as well. You can find a pretty high quality stand for $15. I would check Amazon.com and BH Photo (if you’re in the states. I do not know if they ship internationally). Don’t worry if you don’t know what you’re doing with the mixing board. You will figure it out. Just know those things are hard to break so fiddle away and try new things. You’ll pretty quickly realize how to increase the volume for a track.

Now have the whole thing plug into a computer. If it is an Apple, you’ve got GarageBand preinstalled which will work for capturing the recording. Just plug the mixing board into the computer, fire them both up and you’re ready to start recording.

If you have a Windows machine (or don’t like GarageBand) then try Audacity. It is open source, free, pretty refined and for basic recordings it should serve you well.

Technology – No extra space and some money


This is probably most teachers I can think of. They will probably be recording in their room or a study room (if your school has those) and so your recording rig must be light weight, portable and probably the cheaper the better. If you have money then go with a Zoom Handy recorder You don’t need a computer, they have a built in mic but some cheap mics and mic stands would be the way to go. Yes, this is a little pricey but these devices are built very well, will last a long time and just don’t fail. That is what we record with on the IT Babble podcast and in more than two years has never failed me once.

Now if you don’t have that type of scratch to throw around, then a laptop and a USB microphone is what I would suggest. You may not be able to get as many people around as possible. USB microphones vary in price. You can find some as cheap as $13 USD and some that are $300 USD or more! The bottom line here and I’ll write in caps and bold is … IT WILL SOUND BETTER THAN YOUR LAPTOP INTERNAL MIC. It is the truth. You are able to get closer to the mic and it will be more directional cutting out more background noise and if it sounds better if will feel more professional – simple as that. If you’re looking for some good options then the Blue line of USB mics are great. You can almost find them cheaper than their website elsewhere so shop around. They are very sturdy sound pretty darn good, you won’t be disappointed. Their most popular mics (by far) is the Yeti and the Snowball.

Recording the podcast

For younger kids a script may be a good place to start. Definitely have them write it for themselves. It won’t sound as interesting to listen to, but it will get them (and you) time to get more comfortable with the equipment.

For older students (5th grade and up) I’d have them write talking points on an index card and make sure there is someone to moderate and keep the podcast on task. The moderator could be you the teacher or someone who is good at knowing when to listen and when to jump in and redirect a conversation. It takes practice.

One thing to have them keep in mind is not to stop if they make a mistake. Big mistakes (like someone farting or cursing) can be edited out after the recording. No stopping! Sometimes those mistakes allow others to point out the mistake and that little moment is someone learning captured right there and that is pretty cool.

Wrapping it up

You’ve got your gear and software now play around with it. Ideally all the kids should have to do is sit down, hit the record button and start talking. Don’t focus on the gear and technology too much with the kids. Let them focus on their content and you’ll often get honest, informative and entertaining podcasts. That is what will make or break the unit of podcasting initiative if you’re starting one in your school.

If you have a student who is really keen to learn the behind the scenes, then that is great! You know have an assistant (as long as you can teach them how to commit). There is a good chance they may be able to teach you a few things about your equipment that you didn’t know.

The last thing to keep in mind is that this is a process. Don’t expect perfection on your first recording. Take it as it is and as you listen to it, try and find ways to improve it. Maybe it needs better topics, maybe it needs one more or one less voice. As for feedback from your listening community and keep at it! This type of commitment sounds easy but it’s not. It is hard. Take it from someone who has fallen down more than once podcasting.

Episode 140 – It’s REAL!

Tony and myself are back! It’s been a while since we published a podcast, but this one is worth it! We talk about the Zoom Q8, Microsoft news, Ransomware and Tony’s rant. Check out the talking points below and find us on iTunes, Podomatic or your favorite podcast app.

  1. Zoom Q8
    https://www.zoom-na.com/products/field-video-recording/video-recording/zoom-q8
  2. Microsoft news
    1. Windows 10S
    2. We think the Edge browser stinks
    3. Surface laptop – http://www.techradar.com/reviews/microsoft-surface-laptop
    4. Surface Pro (5) – https://blogs.windows.com/devices/2017/05/23/meetnewsurface-pro/#tuASGQ8wLX6FXZX8.97
  3. Ransomware – It’s real!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ransomware
  4. Tony’s Rant

You can download the episode HERE!

Embed Plus – A strange but intriguing service

embedpluslogobig-2011-11-17-02-451.jpg

A few weeks ago I wrote a little article about TubeChop and how easy it is to take a YouTube video and edit it to show a specific section. It is a good little service, easy to use, straight forward, and it let’s you link to the newer, shortened video. On that post Tay from Embed Plus stopped by and left a comment encouraging me to take a look at his service embedplus. The site allows you some other services as well as shortening YouTube videos. When I first got to the site I was disappointed. Not going to lie about it. I thought to myself TubeChop is waaaaay better than this thing. A weird thing happened though. As I explored the site, I started to like what they were doing. Intrigued? You should be. Hit on past the break to see why embedplus maybe a tool you should check out.

Oh yeah, leave a comment or Omar will embedplus you! (not sure what that means but it doesn’t sound pleasant :o)

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