Zoom Podtrak P4 – The king is dead. Long live the king.

We sporadically create podcasts here at IT Babble and for the past six years, the device of choice has been the Zoom H6. A piece of technology that has never failed me (how often can you say that about any tech). I’ve used it as a USB microphone, to record voice overs for tutorial videos and of course for podcasts and as a mic in the field. It has been great and I have a deep appreciation and love for the H6. So why the sudden shift?

Continue reading “Zoom Podtrak P4 – The king is dead. Long live the king.”

Newish Zoom Recorders

Just to be clear. I am not talking about Zoom, the video conference tool. I am talking about Zoom, the audio/visual recording hardware company. For long time readers of IT Babble, you may know that I have a sweet spot for Zoom.

I own a Zoom H6 for about 8 years and absolutely love it. The Zoom has never, never failed me in all that time. The build quality is rock solid. If I happened to drop it I certainly wouldn’t worry too much and it can run on a variety of power sources:

  • AA Batteries
  • USB power bank
  • Computer power
  • A plug in brick adapter with a USB input

There is more, in fact I could easily write a whole post just about my H6 and how it is a great podcasting machine, but folks, I am here to bring news of Zoom’s most recent endeavors and how awesome they are. Continue reading “Newish Zoom Recorders”

Mic Tests!

We have some teachers who need to teach from home even though we are teaching in person. So I worked with them and worked out a solution with the devices we currently have on hand. The teachers will want to Zoom in to do their instruction so the students need to see and hear them and the teacher also needs to see and hear the students. Seeing isn’t too difficult with built in webcams but hearing the students is a different problem, so I tested a few mic options. In this test I test the following mics:

You can check out the results in the video below. I read the same description of a book around the room in a normal speaking voice to make sure the test is pretty fair. You can also check out Tony’s post about his Hi-Flex iPad option.

Continue reading “Mic Tests!”

Zoom issues on a Chromebook

Good day! We, like most of the world, are distance learning. We also use Chromebooks and Zoom. Early on we had reports from our families that they would continually get the wrong Zoom meeting over and over and over again.

After a short and furious investigation we discovered the problem and the fast solution. But first let’s talk about our set up and what had. Our teachers are great and made a schedule for all of their students to follow and embedded the Zoom links in this schedule. Check out the screenshot below to see what I’m talking about.

Pretty great huh? Yep we think so too.

So what if a student accidentally clicks/taps the wrong link. Well a new tab opens that proceeds to open up the Zoom app. Pretty standard actually. Then you see that you’re in the wrong meeting so you try to close the Zoom app by clicking the “X” in the top right hand corner of the window, but that does nothing.

So if you try to click another Zoom link, it will just take you back to that original meeting. So what do you have to do? You need to close the app by moving your mouse down to the shelf and then two fingers tap (or right click if you are using a mouse) and close the app that way.

Once Zoom closes, when you click on the correct Zoom link you will be able to join that meeting!

Covid 19 – Never going back

Covid-19 has changed a lot.

A number of schools have had to think quick, move just as fast and definitely have had to be pretty creative figuring out how to deliver quality education, how to provide support for families and much more.

As we continue to navigate this pandemic people keep longing for the days when we return to normal. I have a sneaky suspicion that when those days do come, normal will not look like a school pre-Covid. Here are some areas that have been changed by Covid and will probably not go back to the way they were.

Continue reading “Covid 19 – Never going back”

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