CONTINUITY OF TEACHING & LEARNING
WHAT IS ZOOM AND WHY ZOOM
Zoom, like Facetime, Skype, WebEx, Messenger, and other web conferencing platforms offers a way to have a virtual “face-to-face” conversation/collaboration with another person (or persons) using a computer, smartphone, or other video-enabled devices from anywhere in the world. Chances are everyone has experienced a video-call at some point with family, friends are other colleagues. Zoom is currently the web conferencing platform “Du Jour” and is a tool many in YCOE already have experience with. Zoom distinguishes itself by offering anyone the ability to instantly create a ‘freemium’ account giving them the ability to HOST a web meeting for up to 40 minutes (anyone can join a Zoom meeting even if they don’t have an account). A paid subscription removes the time limit and offers additional advanced features. YCOE currently has premium licenses for ten central departmental functions and has created basic <ycoe.org> Zoom accounts for all other employees. This means that every YCOE employe can now log in to Zoom using a web browser on any device at https://zoom.us/signin using their agency provided email address (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org) and “HOST” their very own web conference anytime, anywhere (even from a mobile phone) that other people such as students, parents, and other colleagues can join.
YCOE ‘basic’ accounts normally have a 40 minute meeting limit (if more than three participants), but in light of the Covid-19 situation Zoom Inc. has removed the time restriction for non-profit educational agencies who register to have the limitation waived (YCOE is registered for that waiver).
Even though anyone can create a free Zoom account with a personal email address, YCOE employees will need to use their <ycoe.org> email address when hosting or joining web meetings with students, parents or other colleagues as part of their agency related work.
ONLINE VIDEO CALL versus ONLINE TEACHING & LEARNING
An important, and key benefit, of a “video-call” versus a voice-only call, is that it helps participants experience a greater sense of presence and connectedness with other attendees in the video-call and gives users a better opportunity to pick up on non-verbal cues and body language signals that play an essential role in people’s daily interaction with others. As we begin learning how to leverage this tool to best support our families during the current pandemic and to continue delivering our instructional program to students, we will quickly discover the limitations, and opportunities, of web conferencing platforms like Zoom for teaching in ‘conventional’ ways while discovering and ideally sharing with one-another new ways of delivering instruction online, remotely using innumerous open educational resources (freely available) and new ways of delivering, scaffolding, personalizing, and assessing student achievement. We fully recognize this is new territory for many, if not most educators, and that this will be a work in progress and collective journey developing new skills and ways of thinking about instructional delivery.
Core Features of the Zoom Basic Account Include:
Web Meetings: One-to-one or one-to-many bi-directional video-calls (hosts and users both have the ability to be seen and heard by everyone else in the web meeting)
Up to 100 participants may join in the basic version
Webinar: A unidirectional meeting where only the host presents to a large group of users (up to 10,000, but not available with basic accounts)
Document/Media Sharing: The ability to stream-share (allow attendees to view) files, application screens, web pages, videos and other multimedia content, in real-time so that everyone sees the same content and live interaction with the content at the same time. Zoom allows attendees to also share screens and other content from their computer or mobile device, but it is highly recommended this setting be disabled.
Whiteboarding: A function in the program for sharing a virtual “whiteboard” where all attendees can draw, write, or add media to a “blank page” that all others are viewing and, with granted access, can add content to (difficult to use with a mouse and high potential for misuse by certain student groups).
Chat Feature: A feature available during a Zoom meeting that allows everyone (with permission) to type in questions, comments, or other thoughts in Chat Box. This chat feature also includes the ability to allow attendees to attach files to their chats (this can be restricted and is not recommended in order to limit misuse and the uploading of inappropriate or harmful content).
The following is a tiered outline of basic ways Zoom can be used to maintain a “personal connection and presence” with students and families during the current shelter-in-place mandate and be used as a complementary tool for other specific, online educational resources and applications designed for educators to create online, remote, self-paced and synchronous, “high-yield” instructional programs.
Level One: Weekly or daily video-call with students and/or parents to touch base, answer questions or provide support on assigned work activities.
Level Two: Deliver presentation style instruction by sharing documents such as a PowerPoint that is shared and visible to all Zoom Room Attendees on their devices but controlled by the teacher so that students can both see the shared document along with the face of the teacher and other students online in the hosted session.
Level Three: Share a document or “whiteboard space” that students can use to concurrently collaborate and work on to practice or demonstrate learning (note: this is currently a very a limited experience through the Zoom platform)
Level Four: Video conferencing while also using other online tools to share, collaborate, assess learning, and facilitate opportunities for students to apply and demonstrate learning and competencies through the creation of relevant, integrated, interactive, multimedia rich content.
EQUIPMENT AND NETWORK RECOMMENDATIONS
Before launching your first hosted video-conference, there are a few things you need to consider, to have in place, and test prior to inviting others to join your meeting:
TEST YOUR COMPUTER, PHONE OR TABLET: You will need access to a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or mobile device with a built in camera or attached webcam and capable of running the Zoom application.
NETWORK CONNECTION: A fast network connection and either a fast wireless router or direct connection to your network by an ethernet cable will yield the highest quality, and most reliable experience for you and your attendees. If your home network or wireless router is slow, consider using your cell phone to host your meetings if you have good cell service at your location.
QUIET SPACE AND HEADPHONES: You should conduct your online sessions in a relatively quiet space where you won’t be disturbed during the meeting or have background noises (pets, kids, other household members) interfere with your broadcast and attendees’ ability to hear and focus on you and the information you are presenting. Headphones with a built in microphone will always give you and your attendees the best audio experience (if you have children who play online games, they will likely have great headphone gear that could be used). Even mobile phone earbuds will provide a better experience than just talking into the built-in mic of a computer or phone.
DOCUMENT SHARING: If you will be sharing any documents or multimedia content with your attendees, have all of those files, documents, web pages, and/or videos already open on your computer or mobile device before starting the meeting (they can be minimized or hidden in the background, but they need to be open before they can be shared).