Zoom Tips and Tricks


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Zoom is a very effective platform that educators can use to turn online learning into virtual classrooms. Zoom offers many built-in tools that can help both educators and students alike participate and engage in lesson content. If you are an educator using Zoom to facilitate online learning, here are some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of the Zoom features–to turn your Zoom meeting room into your personalized classroom.

Default Settings

When beginning to use Zoom for a virtual classroom, it is important to go through all of the default settings and options in order to ensure that your classroom is set up correctly.  Because Zoom is used for many purposes outside of virtual education, there are features that may or may not be effective for your classroom.

For example, do you want participants to be able to private chat with one another?  In a business setting, that could be a useful feature. However, in a middle school English class, it may not be a good idea–especially because there is not an easy way for the meeting host (teacher) to see what is being said in those private messages. In this video, Changing Zoom Settings, I help you navigate to your Zoom settings page to get you started on turning certain features on or off depending on your preferences.


 Tools for Engagement

Having lessons that are both meaningful and engaging is very important in the virtual environment. If I am going to ask students to show up to my live class, I always want to ensure I have planned a lesson that gets them actively participating in the learning process. Data is a key factor in helping me to create lessons that are engaging for all learners, and Zoom has some amazing Tools for Engagement that I use to conduct formative assessments during the virtual class. Here are some practical tools and ideas to help get you started assessing and collecting data to help inform your instruction:


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  • Use the Participant Panel at the bottom of the Zoom screen to ask students to give you a green check or a red x after you have posed a question.

  • Use the Polling feature (for certain Zoom accounts and must be enabled in your settings) to have students do a self-assessment on their understanding of the learning objective upon entering or leaving the Zoom room.

  • Use the Reaction Button (function may or may not be available depending on your device) at the bottom of the Zoom screen to ask students to give you a thumbs up if they understand the directions.

There are many other features Zoom offers to help with engagement. Another one of my favorites is the Zoom Whiteboard feature. I sometimes will launch the whiteboard (through the Screen Share button at the bottom of the Zoom room) and ask students to draw an interpretation of a text that we read. In a recent webinar that I hosted called Zoom: Tips and Tricks, I used the whiteboard feature to ask participants to create a Graffiti Wall to share their biggest takeaways from the session. This is what they created:


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 I have heard from teachers at all grade levels that the Whiteboard feature is an excellent tool to use to engage students in the Zoom virtual classroom.


Screen Sharing & File Sharing

One of the best parts of Zoom’s Screen & File Sharing feature is that it allows me to share my desktop, an application, or a file with participants. For instance, if I just want to share a Youtube video, I can have that YouTube video pulled up on Google Chrome (the application must be opened in order to appear in your Screen Share application) and share just the YouTube video rather than my entire desktop–which may have push notifications appearing such as text and email that I do not want my students to see. If you are sharing a video, remember to check the box, Share computer sound, to ensure students can hear the audio. If you want all of your students to have a copy of the file you are sharing, simply use the File sharing button in the chat window.

Important Note: Zoom is continuously updating this function to make it more secure and more suitable for users. Be sure you keep your Zoom application Updated to use the latest features.


Annotations

Not only can students annotate the Whiteboard in Zoom, but they can also annotate any screen that you are sharing–PowerPoint, Google Slides, PDF, and more. Don’t forget to Save the Screen (top of your screen share page) before moving on to the next slide or page to ensure their work is saved for you to reference, students to use, or re-teaching purposes. In this video, Annotations in Zoom, I show you how to use this tool in a Zoom room.


Breakout Rooms

Breakout rooms have endless potential in the online environment.  I like to use breakout rooms to facilitate tiered instruction that is differentiated for the needs of all my students. It is also a great way to get students to collaborate with one another in a small group setting.  As the host of the Zoom session, you can either manually or automatically create Breakout Rooms, send messages to all rooms, and even move between the different rooms to ensure students are on task or to assist them as they work


Once you get a basic feel for the platform and its potential uses, Zoom can allow for your instruction to feel much like teaching in a physical classroom.  Remember that becoming a master Zoom teacher or student will take patience, effort, trial, and error. Be patient with yourself and your students.


Important Note: Zoom has been very busy responding to the need and requests of users across the world to keep the platform secure and useful for education. They have recently launched a lot of new updates. For the most up to date information, be sure to visit Zoom’s Website.

Additional Reading