Teaching with Koala guide
Koala is a relatively new platform aimed specifically at online teaching and developed with diverse learners in mind. It uniquely provides a video-game-style virtual classroom environment with flexible whiteboards, a built-in browser and interactive elements. In terms of using Abridge Academy’s resources, we’ve found Koala to be the best platform to enable students to directly interact with the slides, without the clunkiness of Zoom or ClassIn’s remote control features.
- Fun video-game-style environment is highly engaging for younger students
- Built-in browser enables students to easily click, drag-and-drop and directly interact with the Abridge Academy slides
- Option to also upload files such as worksheets or open extension activities in additional tabs within the browser feature
- Use the “free roam” mode for fun games, brain breaks and more engaging interactive activities
- Set up games or extension activities on the extra whiteboards
- Create customised classroom layouts for different students or topics, or purchase pre-made classroom layouts from the Koala Marketplace
- Students do not need to download the software, they can also join classes within their web browser
- Totally free, including for small group classes of unlimited duration
- Only available on computers and Chromebooks, not iPads or mobile devices
- No advance scheduling of classes or waiting room feature – anyone who knows your Koala Classroom address can join at any time
This guide will answer some common questions for teachers using Koala and share helpful tips specific for using the Abridge Academy resources on Zoom. We would also highly recommend checking out the Koala how to video guides and their incredible YouTube channel for more guidance on using Koala’s features.
Browser feature and interaction
To load the Abridge Academy resources in Koala, you need to use their built-in web browser. Simply open up our resources page, log in and load the slides for your lesson.
You can also use the browser function to view other websites (e.g. for additional English learning games or videos) or to load files from your computer (e.g. a worksheet).
You can easily open additional tabs in the browser with other websites (e.g. with fun English learning games) or uploaded materials (e.g. a worksheet). Simply click on the tabs anytime to switch between them.
We initially encountered this issue too – it seems to be due to the browser and website not properly communicating the correct screen size. Simply flick between a few slides until they are centralised on the screen, then use Koala’s zoom in button.
Koala offers two viewing options – free roam and focus mode. To stop your student wandering off, make sure you open focus mode (click on the browser and then select “focus view” in the top menu).
Interaction: Annotation tools
Koala has a range of useful annotation tools which you and your students can use to annotate on the screen (or anywhere else in the virtual classroom environment).
- Drawing with the pen tool
- Adding text boxes with the sticky note tool
- Adding images from the clipart library or your computer
Another great feature is the ability to move students’ videos onto the screen – perfect for dialogues!
Students, particularly younger students, sometimes get a little over-excited when they discover the annotation tools!
You can disable or re-enable annotation within the student management tools – click on the button in the top right corner.
To resize anything in Koala, simply click on it and then use the +/- buttons in the right hand popup menu.
Interaction: mouse control
To allow students to interact directly with the slides, simply click on the “mouse control” option at the top of the screen then select your student’s name.
Your student will then be able to click, drag-and-drop and play the games within our lesson slides. You can leave this on throughout the class, you do not need to keep switching it on and off for you to also interact.
Other useful features
Adding images and audio
To add images, click the image tool in the bottom left corner. You can then select from their clipart library or upload your own images.
You can easily move and resize images by clicking on them and using the right side toolbar which appears when an object is selected. You can also add short audio recordings to the image here too.
Fun games in Koala
Koala’s virtual classroom environment creates lots of potential for games and learning activities! Koala’s YouTube channel is packed full of ideas.
One of my favourites is find-and-seek tasks – hide lots of cliparts/ images around the room for the student to find those which start with a specific sound, rhyme with a word, live in the ocean, etc. You can also set up tic-tac-toe games, sorting activities and writing tasks on the extra whiteboards.
An awesome feature of Koala is for you to create multiple classroom designs (called “workspaces”) – e.g. customised for each student or topic. Additionally, they have different themes e.g. the farmyard theme (default), space theme and seasonal/ festive themes.
You can easily toggle between your workspaces and themes by going to the bottom right menu and selecting “workspaces” or “theme”. You can also purchase pre-made classroom designs in the Koala Marketplace – including those specifically designed for topics such as phonics teaching.
Student management tools
Occasionally we have students who get a bit too excited scribbling on things! The student management tools (top right button) allow you to activate or deactivate features such as drawing, creating sticky notes, adding images or moving around.
You can do this on a per-student basis or for all students in the classroom.