Using ZOOM and other online meeting tools in an educational setting
At North Star, teachers are using a variety of technology tools to reach students while we are unable to meet together within the walls of the school building. Being able to see and interact with one another in a virtual setting helps us present content to students and answer questions in real time.
In the elementary, many teachers have opted to use Zoom, an online video conferencing tool. Zoom has attracted a great deal of attention due to a few high-profile meetings which have been disrupted by unwanted participants who behaved poorly, sharing inappropriate content and derogatory language in the meeting. At North Star, we have taken the following precautions to prevent this from occurring in our virtual classes:
- Teachers have been instructed to use the “lobby” feature
This puts incoming participants into a waiting area until they are admitted to the meeting by the host. In this way, our teachers are able to admit only recognized accounts to the class.
- Teachers are asked to implement a meeting password, and to share the password securely via email or on a private class page. This prevents unwanted participants from copy/pasting a join code from an public website. The meeting details are provided only to invited students/parents.
- Meeting defaults are set to turn participant video off.
By turning off participant video, student are better able to focus on the teacher and instruction. Unwanted distractions are minimized and student privacy is protected.
- Meeting defaults are set to automatically record the meeting
Recording the meeting allows students not online for live instruction to view the class at a later time. It also preserves a record of the meeting to allow for review and feedback, when necessary.
- Meeting defaults do not allow participants to join before the host
This ensures that the teacher is online and ready to begin the meeting and that students are not interacting in the video meeting with a teacher online.
At the junior/senior high level, most teachers are using Microsoft Teams, which by default restricts meetings to those explicitly invited to the class and requires participants login with their .k12 email address. Teachers also have the ability to mute or remove participants and to record the class.
There is no reason for students to use Zoom, Teams or any of the other virtual meeting tools outside of scheduled class meetings that are led by their teacher. The school is not able to supervise students’ use of devices outside the building, so it is important that parents provide supervision when students are online. If there are concerns about inappropriate use of technology, please be proactive and ensure the devices are put away when not needed for school work. Most home routers can be programmed to limit online access to certain times. A low tech solution for managing online access is to simply unplug the router and remove the power cord when the internet is not needed.
Virtual meetings can enhance teaching and learning during this unprecedented time, but we all need to work together to make sure that we keep the safety of our students and staff in mind at all times. We appreciate your partnership and feedback as we continue to learn what works best for remote learning at North Star.