Zoom Tips for Teachers, Musicians, and Music Teachers
September 15, 2020
Zoom tips for teachers can make everyone’s life easier. How the heck can you coordinate groups of people -- especially whole classes -- over the Internet? How can you get bands to play in time online? How can you assemble live shows?
It’s not just an uphill struggle; it’s Herculean. But there are things we can do to help ourselves, and we intend to outline those without any BS because nobody’s got extra time lying around.
This list is intended for novice and experienced Zoomers alike. There should be something for everyone.
Zoom Tips for Teachers etc.: Hardware
Zoom tips for teachers have to start at the hardware. That’s the stuff you need to buy so Zoom works well (because lawd knows admin isn’t shelling out for anything decent).
Zoom recommends several hardware picks which make no sense, like $600 document cameras, mediocre $200 headset mics, and of course the webcam itself: the Logi C930e.
The C930e is the one thing we’d also recommend, except that they’re sold out everywhere and currently being scalped for a hundred bucks more than they should cost. Lucky you, though, we have several good picks at normal prices here.
See below for more specific hardware tips to start (and the rest of our Zoom tips for teachers, ofc).
Headphones and Mic
If you decide you want headphones and a mic, you can do way better than Zoom's recommendation for like 70 ducats cheaper. You don’t even need to, though, because a good cam should have a fine mic on it. All our picks do.
*Music teachers will want headphones, though -- here's our dedicated post for those.
Do not use a Chromebook if you can help it. You’ll find Zoom functions not working right while others are missing altogether. Polling, whiteboard, annotation, and remote control are unavailable. Oh, and they cost about the same as a regular laptop, so ... yeah. You can read more about the differences here.
If you really must use a Chromebook, Zoom offers this help.
Everyone will want to use either Chrome or Firefox browser, though, the recommended browsers for the application.
One last thing: your connection.
You may be one of the millions of people still getting Internet through your cable company. If you’re in a metropolitan area, you probably have access to fiber-optic service. If so, call the company and ask what it would cost to switch. In many cases it’s actually cheaper than cable Internet, and it’s going to be a better data connection 100% of the time.
* This is doubly crucial on Zoom for music teachers because half a second of lag is death in music. See below for more on this specific to music teachers.
That covers the hardware part. Moving right along…
Zoom Tips for Teachers: Dual Screens or Two Computers
Our Zoom tips for teachers also include this hardware doozy: use two computers. Whether it’s a desktop and a laptop, two lappies, or just a laptop and a tablet, you’ll want two screens. Once you have two screens, you can do all the things you’d like to do without leaving your Zoom meeting or covering it up. Zoom says:
Why resort to a measly 21-inch monitor when you can pump video on two screens? It’s twice the HD on one platform. Zoom can show a presenter on one screen and the presentation on the other. This elegant feature lets you explore more possibilities. For example, presenters may use one camera pointed at them and a document camera simultaneously running to present information. On the presenter’s end, he/she will have to run two computers, since only one video source may be selected at a time due to hardware interface limitations on computer operating systems.
You can read more about how to do so at the Zoom blog.
You can also read up on a wider variety of setups in Maciej Workiewicz's excellent post on going online as a teacher here.
Zoom Tips for Teachers: Pear Deck
Zoom tips for teachers often include combining utilities. One strong candidate is a program called Pear Deck. Using Pear Deck, you can check for understanding on the fly. Students can input answers from homework or answer questions based on it. Then (and students love this) you can select ‘Show Response’ and students can see how many of them answered each answer. It's also excellent for use with Google Slides.
There are endless other possibilities, too. As one educator puts it:
I find it beneficial to host regular Zoom sessions that the whole class joins with students problem-solving and responding through Pear Deck. I can see them working in real time through Pear Deck’s Teacher Dashboard. I can even share anonymous student work using Zoom’s screen share functionality, so that we can discuss and analyze what the class is saying, instead of keeping the focus on just my solutions as the teacher.
For a whole presentation from a teacher on how to use Pear Deck with Zoom, you can watch Ms. Roshan’s excellent video.
Zoom Tips for Teachers, Musicians, and Music Teachers: Stop Desktop Notifications, Gallery View, and Screen Sharing
Everyone using Zoom should stop their compy from making pointless noises. In Windows 10, it’s called Focus Assist. go to Settings > System > Focus Assist, and set “When I’m duplicating my display” to ‘On.’ You can do it manually from the so-called Action Center at the bottom-right of the Win10 taskbar.
Mac users need to use a 3rd-party app like Muzzle. That will toggle MacOS’s Do Not Disturb mode when you start screen sharing.
Sometimes you’ll want to see your whole class, not just the person speaking. There’s a tab in the upper right saying “Gallery View.” That will let you look at all the faces in the crowd, band, class, or whomever.
Zoom tips for teachers absolutely need to include screen sharing. Sharing your screen lets you do all sorts of things with your class, band, or colleagues, such as watch a video together, use it like a whiteboard, etc. Just click the Share Screen icon on the toolbar at the bottom of the meeting screen. You can share your whole screen or just one specific window. Click Stop Share at the top to return to the regular meeting. For whiteboard, select it from the Share Screen menu as shown below.
Zoom Tips for Music Teachers, Musicians: Lag and Latency
Zoom tips for music teachers and musicians have one giant keystone, and that’s latency. Latency is speed online. We don’t need to tell you that musicians need to be in time, and if one player is coming through off-time, the act is stopped. So we need to know who’s got a crappy connection.
Studies show that people have a hard time hearing latency below 25 milliseconds. Trained ears will probably feel something a little off as low as 20ms or even a bit lower, but anything in the neighborhood of 20-25 should work just fine. Have each band member use this free site to test their latency. They need to select the closest major city available in the list. Anybody who pops at over 25ms is going to be your problem player. Their Internet connection issues will need to be handled. (Probably with getting a fiber-optic connection).
Zoom Tips for Teachers: Press-to-Talk
Zoom tips for teachers include the SPACE to talk option. Holding spacebar unmutes your mic while you talk just like the button on a walkie-talkie. When your mic isn’t muted, it picks up everything it hears. That means everyone who talks to you through your speakers hears an annoying echo of themselves.
You have to turn this option on in the options. See below image for help finding it. (It’s not hard).
Zoom Tips for Teachers: You Can Change Your Background
Zoom tips for teachers include this neat little trick which students appreciate quite a lot. You can customize the background in which you appear on Zoom. By going to Settings > Virtual Background, and uploading any image you like, you can show up in 17th Century France, a modern biology lab, or really anywhere. You can do it on mobile or desktop, and if you need more help than that, you can go here.
You’ll need a compy setup which meets these reqs, though, as well as a green screen (just a flat green or blue sheet is fine) or a uniform-colored wall behind you.
Zoom Tips for Teachers: Hotkeys!
Naturally anyone who uses any program for considerable time will want to learn the hotkeys. Zoom has plenty of them, and -- this is epic -- it also lets you customize them all. If you find something you use a lot, you can map the hotkey to something easy for you to hit. Also, you can enable the hotkeys to work even when you’ve navigated away from Zoom, which is helpful if you’re looking at other things on your screen but still talking with people on Zoom. Here’s Zoom’s list of default hotkeys.
- F6: Navigate among Zoom popup windows.
- Ctrl+Alt+Shift: Move focus to Zoom's meeting controls
- PageUp: View previous 25 video stream in gallery view
- PageDown: View next 25 video stream in gallery view
- Alt: Turn on/off the option Always show meeting controls in General settings
- Alt+F1: Switch to active speaker view in video meeting
- Alt+F2: Switch to gallery video view in video meeting
- Alt+F4: Close the current window
- Alt+V: Start/stop video
- Alt+A: Mute/unmute audio
- Alt+M: Mute/unmute audio for everyone except host
Note: For the meeting host only
- Alt+S: Launch share screen window and stop screen share
Note: Will only work when meeting control toolbar has focus
- Alt+Shift+S: Start/stop new screen share
Note: Will only work when meeting control toolbar has focus
- Alt+T: Pause or resume screen share
Note: Will only work when meeting control toolbar has focus
- Alt+R: Start/stop local recording
- Alt+C: Start/stop cloud recording
- Alt+P: Pause or resume recording
- Alt+N: Switch camera
- Alt+F: Enter or exit full screen
- Alt+H: Display/hide in-meeting chat panel
- Alt+U:Display/hide participants panel
- Alt+I: Open invite window
- Alt+Y: Raise/lower hand
- Alt+Shift+R: Gain remote control
- Alt+Shift+G: Stop remote control
- Ctrl+2: Read active speaker name
- Ctrl+Alt+Shift+H: Show/hide floating meeting controls
- Alt+Shift+T: Screenshot
- Switch to Portrait/Landscape View: Alt+L
- Ctrl+W: Close current chat session
- Ctrl+Up: Go to previous chat
- Ctrl+Down: Go to next chat
- Ctrl+T: Jump to chat with someone
- Ctrl+F: Search
- Ctrl+Tab: Move to the next tab (right)
- Ctrl+Shift+Tab: Move to the previous tab (left)
Every teacher should go through this list just to see an overview of what’s possible. Alt+M, for instance, is super useful. Gain/Stop Remote Control can be really useful, too, because you can actually control a student’s or colleague’s computer with it. Excellent for helping them work out a little bug on their computer.
Various Zoom Tips for Teachers
React While Muted with Emojis
While you’re muted, you can still send reactions to students or colleagues via emoji reactions. This is especially useful while students give presentations or during faculty meetings. Just click the reactions tab at the bottom of the meeting screen where the mute audio and video buttons are and choose the one you want. The emoji stays visible for five seconds.
Teachers can also allow nonverbal feedback in their meeting settings. This lets students and colleagues display a raised hand, say yes or no, or suggest moving quicker or more slowly. Everyone present will see this feedback.
There’s a “Beauty Filter” :)
Just like the various beauty modes on phone selfie cams, Zoom has a beauty filter to smooth little blemishes, wrinkles and such both on your face and clothing. Check out the up arrow beside “Start Video,” click Video Settings, and under My Video you can check the box beside Touch Up My Appearance.
Record the Meeting
Zoom tips for music teachers and musicians especially must include recording your meeting to a file on your hard drive, or uploading it to a cloud service or YouTube. Just go to Settings > Recording, and set it to ‘On.’ Then, when you’re ready to make a record of it, click the red recording button at the bottom in the toolbar.
Your students should mute themselves so it’s not cacophony in your class. Still, someone may forget and leave the room, or get confused, or decide to disrupt your session on purpose. You can easily mute these students by default upon entry (Account Settings > Schedule Meeting > Mute Participants Upon Entry) or in specific afterward (Manage Participants, mic icon beside student).
Music teachers can use this ability to mute performers just like channels on a soundboard.
Zoom Tips for Teachers: Stop Zoombombing
Zoom bombing is the same as photobombing, but over Zoom. It can range from kinda-amusing to a very serious issue, so it needs to be handled by the educator. Zoom has a whole Twitter thread dedicated to it, but the most important notes are:
- Don’t put your meeting ID anywhere public
- Use the waiting room feature
- Limit meetings to those who are logged in to Zoom, and/or limit the meeting to people with email addresses from your school’s domain (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Prevent attendees from screen sharing without your consent
- Lock meetings that have already started to prevent new people from joining
And of course, you can kick any attendee at any time with ‘Participants’ in the navigation bar. Select the user, and click ‘Remove’ from the action sheet.
Zoom Tips for Teachers, Musicians, and Music Teachers: There’s Always More
That’s all for right now, but we’re going to be updating this list as we learn more about how to do a fine job using Zoom to teach class, hold band practice, and to teach students how to have band practice.
If you still need some help, like we said earlier already, check out this fine blog post by Maciej Workiewicz -- a fine blog altogether, really.
So be sure to stay tuned, watch this space, and otherwise keep this post in mind. Here’s to you stalwart educators out there! Solidarity!