Using Abridge Academy resources with Zoom

Screensharing 4/5

Interactivity 3/5

Value for money 5/5

Device compatibility 4/5

Zoom overview

Zoom is one of the most popular online web conferencing tools. They began as a business-focused company, but have also become a popular online teaching tool, both with independent teachers and platforms such as Outschool.

Key advantages:

  • Great selection of screensharing options, including sharing specific application windows, a portion of your screen or input from document cameras.
  • Excellent value for money – the free version is sufficient for most online teachers.
  • Easy to schedule meetings, including recurring meetings, and invite students.
  • Best range of integrations with scheduling apps, payment gateways, etc. 
  • Compatible with most devices, including tablets and mobiles. Students do not even need to download the software or create an account to join meetings. 
  • Great virtual background, video filter and snapchat-style face stickers to ensure you look your best on camera!

Limitations:

  • It can be quite “clunky” to allow students to interact directly with slides using Zoom’s ‘remote control’ tool.
  • The free version restricts group classes to just 40 minutes. 
  • The full range of tools, in particular the ‘remote control’ and full annotation tools, are only available on computers. 

Pro features (not a complete list):

  • Unlimited duration for group classes
  • Record lessons to the cloud (more convenient for sharing with students)
  • Livestream classes to platforms such as YouTube or Facebook (useful for promotional classes)

This guide will answer some common questions for teachers using Zoom and share helpful tips specific for using the Abridge Academy resources on Zoom. We would also recommend completing our free course on teaching on Zoom (including a free, verifiable certificate) as this guides you through more step-by-step, including detailed videos.

Screensharing

When using the Abridge Academy resources, we recommend using the “share portion of screen” option in Zoom. This is found under the “advanced” screensharing tab. Simply draw the green box around the slides. 

While screensharing, you can hover over the top of your screen to reveal the Zoom options bar. Here you can open the students list, chat box, annotation tools, remote control feature, etc. 

Make sure to select “optimise for video clip” and “share computer sound” within the Zoom screensharing options when you start screensharing. If you are already screensharing, you can find these hidden in the “more” dropdown menu.

There are two possible causes:

  1. You/ your students have poor internet. Please move closer to the router, try an ethernet connection or upgrade your internet plan. 
  2. Zoom’s frame rate is too low. Increase the frame rate by selecting “optimise for video clip” in the dropdown menu while screensharing. 

If you wish to jump between tabs, scroll down to share videos, or switch to another document/ worksheet, we recommend temporarily selecting “pause screenshare” to make the process look more smooth to students. 

Interaction: Annotation / Remote control

Basic interaction (easy and available on all devices) uses Zoom’s annotation tools. These allow you and your students to draw, use simple stamps, type text, etc. on the screen. You can easily change the colour, size, etc within the annotation options.

To enable students to interact directly with the slides (including clicking on answers, doing drag-and-drop activities, typing in text boxes, etc) you should use the “remote control” feature. To take back control, simply click anywhere on the screen (then click “stop remote control” to avoid accidental battling with your student over the mouse!). You can also use the keyboard shortcuts:

  • Mac: Ctrl+shift+G
  • PC: Alt+shift+G

Note: this feature is only available if both you and your students are using computers. If you are on a computer but your students are on a tablet/ mobile, they can click and type but not drag-and-drop. 

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 “more” drop-down menu (see screenshot above). 

Unfortunately the ‘remote control’ feature only allows drag-and-drop interaction if your students are also on computers. They can click and write, but not drag-and-drop, on tablets or mobiles. 

This is a limitation of Zoom, unfortunately Abridge Academy cannot control this. Please contact Zoom to encourage them to add support for this feature on other devices. If enough of us request it they might boost it up the priority list! 

Firstly, check that remote control is available on your device. This feature is currently only available if you are using Zoom on your computer. It is not available on tablets or mobiles. 

Secondly, check that you have another user in your Zoom meeting. If you are just trying Zoom out by yourself, the button will not be there. You can ask a friend to join or just join yourself on a second device.

Zoom only allows one user to have control of the mouse at any time. To take back control, you just need to click anywhere on the screen with your mouse. However, from the student’s end this then reverts back to the “please click here to start remote control” message, it does not totally revoke their control. You still need to (quickly!) go to the top of the screen and disable remote control. 

Some students struggle to understand that they need to stop trying to control the screen or are not so well behaved! Here are some useful tips:

  • Only turn on the remote control feature for activities which require it. Do not just leave it on in the background throughout the class. 
  • Give students something to do with their hands while you are taking back control – e.g. “ok wave your hands in the air! I want to see both hands!” or “let’s make a cute cat face!” so they are not using the mouse while you quickly take back control of the screen.
  • If they are really struggling, simply follow the suggestions below for using our resources WITHOUT students being able to interact directly with the slides.

Our resources are designed to be flexible in how they are used, including being used on platforms which do not allow student interactivity. You  just need to re-phrase the way you give instructions – for example:

  • Ask students to circle (using the basic annotation tools) rather than click on the correct answer, then you click on their behalf.
  • Ask students to say the full sentence to you, rather than dragging-and-dropping the words into the correct sentence order.
  • Ask students to say the word, circle or say a number (you could number the options on the screen) indicating which items they want you to click on.
  • Ask students to tell you which word goes in the box/ which option to select in a drop-down list, rather than them selecting it themselves.

Look your best: Backgrounds and filters

Rather than having to set up a physical classroom background behind you, Zoom offers the option to use a “virtual background”. 

You can select their pre-made backgrounds or upload your own. Consider making a fun teaching-themed background with your own branding (e.g. teacher name, WeChat QR code, etc – useful in case parents screenshot/ record your class and share with friends!) using websites like Canva. 

Additionally, Zoom offers fun filters. This includes simple “touching up” options (useful if you’re looking a little tired, or your lighting isn’t so good) and snapchat-style filters which add fun moustaches, hats, bunny ears, etc. These are not only fun for younger kids, but can also be useful if teaching relevant vocabulary. 

This usually happens if you have selected the “I have a green screen” option when you do not have a proper green screen or your background is too similar in colour to your skin tone. Try moving to a different location with a more different background (e.g. against a painted wall) or manually selecting your background colour.

Note that older computers may not allow you to use a virtual background without a green screen, due to not having enough processing power to detect and remove more complicated backgrounds. Consider purchasing a newer device or cheap green screen, or try setting up a simple green screen using a coloured sheet or strongly painted wall. 

Make sure you have selected the “mirror my video” option in the background or video options within Zoom’s preferences/ settings. 

Note that this also means you can hold up written text (e.g. on a mini whiteboard or flashcards) and the words will appear correctly for your students.

These are rather well hidden in the Zoom preferences. Unfortunately it is not so easy to quickly switch between them during class. Open up Zoom preferences and click on “studio effects” to view the available filters. 

You can also check out third party apps such as Manycam or Snap Camera.

Security

Zoom has useful features to protect your students and prevent unauthorised individuals from “zoom crashing” your meeting. 

Waiting room/ password
When setting up your meeting (and you can set the defaults in your Zoom preferences), you can choose whether or not to turn on the waiting room and/ or require a password to join. The waiting room is usually the most convenient, as this also means you can control when students join your class (so you can set up everything in advance, then let them in at the official start time).

Lock room
Once your students have entered the meeting, you can use the “lock room” feature to prevent anyone else from joining. 

Enable/ disable various features
Within the Zoom menu (usually hidden in the “more” tab) you can enable or disable certain features, including:
– Students being able to annotate (draw on the screen)
– Students being able to change their name
– Students being able to message in the chat box (you can set to “message host only” to avoid students sending inappropriate messages or personal details to each other)

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