Google has been rolling out some exciting new features in Meet to increase usability for virtual classrooms. Many of these new features are even helpful to increase active learning in a socially distanced classroom, and they are certainly valuable in a hybrid setting too.
Jamboard was added as a feature in September 2020, and this is a gamechanger. In addition to acting as the usual presenter whiteboard, it has great functionality to facilitate collaboration in a hybrid classroom. If you have a lesson planned, you can prepare your digital whiteboard in advance, with multiple boards and then have the class work in groups to manipulate each of the boards in real time. Since the teacher has control over who can access the board, you can toggle on and off student access as they need it throughout the lesson. If you’re using a second device like an iPad alongside your laptop, it’s worth installing the Jamboard app if you plan on doing the drawings, of course this works particularly well if you have a stylus with the iPad.
Take a look at this video to learn more about the features and implementation of Jamboards – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ikEojc9_wI&feature=emb_title
Host Control Settings
Host controls make it easy for teachers to restrict who can share or chat. These are the functions that control access to the Jamboard, as well. Controls on who can join a meeting and when make the environment safer from unwelcome entry.
Host controls can be accessed through clicking the blue padlock icon found on the bottom left of the screen.
Raise your hand
Located conveniently at the bottom of the screen, the ‘raise hand’ icon makes it easy for students to raise their hands to request a turn to speak, answer a question or ask for help. When a student raises their hand there will be a sound notification (like when a message in the chat is received) and you will be able to see who’s hand is raised when viewing the ‘people’ in the Meet. Teachers have the ability to lower students’ hands or they can do this for themselves by clicking the ‘raise hand’ icon for a second time.
When we first started using Meet last spring, you could only see a few people at a time on screen or it would simply spotlight an individual. Now, you can tile up to 49 participants at one time. To manage the view, simply click on the ‘change layout’ option and manipulate the settings to make the view fit for purpose.
Changing your background
If there comes a time when there is a need to deliver a virtual curriculum from home like last spring, there is now a feature where you can blur your background or choose from a selection of images to present as your background. These settings can be found within the ‘change background’ option.
Playing videos with audio to students
If you’ve tried to play videos in the normal way through Google Meet you will probably have found that it’s not ideal for playing audio or video, luckily Google have thought of this and have created a way for you to stream audio and video to students – to do this you must chose the option to ‘present a tab’ in the presentation options, this option will only appear if you are using the Chrome browser (recommended anyway for Google Meets), and you will of course have to have your video in the browser tab, so streaming from YouTube / Google Drive or a website is recommended here.
Joining on a second device
Joining on a second device can be very helpful, for example you can be looking at the chat window and tiles on your laptop whilst you draw on your iPad or present from your laptop whilst monitoring the chat and students from your iPad. One thing you may have noticed when doing this though is the potential for audio feedback. Fortunately there is a straightforward way to avoid this, when you join the meet with your device that you want to present from (drawing or presentation) – choose the ‘Present’ button instead of ‘join now’ – this device will not share audio or video but simply give you the option to share your screen.
There is the options for students to turn on captions automatically. Students need to turn this on themselves and they can then see what the teachers are saying transcribed into text.