Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Preparing for the Worst With Zoom, Dual Monitors, Microphones, and More

In the last couple of weeks I've received a bunch of emails and Tweets from people who are panicking about going back to school and having to simultaneously teach students in their classrooms while also live-streaming and or recording their lessons for students who are staying home. I think it is completely unrealistic to expect teachers to be able do this. It's hard enough to keep a group of kids engaged in a physical classroom. It's even harder to keep a group kids engaged in an online classroom (especially if those kids don't want to be there). All that said, there's a good chance that I might end up having to do that this fall (my school has not made any official decisions). Here's what I'm doing to prepare for that potential situation. Hopefully, this helps some of you too.

Until Google actually rolls-out all of the new Google Meet features they teased in June, I'm anticipating starting the year using Zoom for virtual classes. In the set-up for my Zoom meetings I'll enable the option to mute all participants on entry, use meeting passwords, and enable the waiting room option. My district doesn't want us recording live meetings. If your school district allows it, I'd do it.

Dual Monitors/ Dual Computers
I'm fortunate to have access to high quality laptops and desktops in my classroom. My plan is to use one for monitoring the live broadcast and one for instruction. An alternative is to use two monitors connected to one computer. If you're a Windows user, follow these directions for setting up a dual monitor display. If you're a Mac user, follow these directions for setting up a dual monitor display. Hopefully, your school is willing to at least invest in a second monitor for you. One that's adequate for the purpose can be had for under $75.

For many years I've used Blue Snowball microphones when recording videos and hosting webinars. But being tethered to my computer won't work when I need to be able to move around my classroom and broadcast my audio for those participating remotely to hear. So I've invested in a wireless microphone and receiver set-up that I can plug into my laptop. I just tested it this morning and it worked for recording while up to about 50 feet away from my computer. That should be adequate for my classroom. I am a little worried about potential for interference if a bunch of teachers are using the same set-up in their classrooms. But my bigger worry is forgetting to mute the microphone when I don't need to broadcast (those of you who are my age or older may be haunted by this infamous Leslie Nielsen scene).

Bottom Line
As the new school year get closer I'm more nervous about the first day of school than I was on my first day of teaching nearly two decades ago (gosh, where did the time go?). I hope that we call can adjust to our new normal as seamlessly as possible.