https://pixabay.com/illustrations/video-conference-online-meeting-5587603/

This week, Matt and I met up online, using the Zoom conferencing tool. Although Zoom is technically a web based conferencing tool, and not a personal video conferencing tool, we decided to use it as we thought it was more applicable to the education system. This tool was completely new to me this year but was a tool that I used on a daily basis for several months during the pandemic. Now however, my district has provided everyone with access to Microsoft Teams and this is the preferred method for any synchronous meetings. I still use Zoom for personal use as it is currently free, easy to use, and can allow for larger groups of friends or family to meet up online.

Matt and I conversed about the different platforms that are available for educators to use, and as his district uses Google classroom, we were able to compare and contrast the functionality of Zoom, Google Meets and Microsoft Teams Meetings. We found that Zoom seemed to have the most advanced features and had the best picture quality. However, we both had experience with students that were not in our classes, joining into a Zoom meeting. This made us question the security of the platform as anyone with a link can enter the meeting. As both of our districts have provided the students with an email address and easy access to either Google Meets or Microsoft Teams, we think they can be used as very valuable tools for facilitating communication and collaboration between students as well as with our colleagues. Students and teachers can access course or school information, chat features, as well as video conferencing all in one central location. Limitations to these conferencing tools are that they have required an investment of money from the districts, they may be difficult to use at first for students or teachers that are not comfortable with new technology and although there was a lot of training initially for these platforms, now there is limited opportunities for guidance (Candarli & Yuksil, 2011). Furthermore, Matt and I both found that the students and many teachers have reached what we call “Zoom burnout” and that overuse of these platforms can become detrimental. In our end of year surveys, many of our students also stated that they would rather have face to face classes and their perception of Zoom, or other video conferencing tools, was that it was a barrier to their interaction with their teacher (Doggert, 2008). Most of them stated that video conferencing was not their preferred method of learning. Obviously this has implications for the future use of these tools at the high school level especially. We discussed how they can be used to enhance the learning and are excellent for teaching students through distance learning, but should not be used to replace in class learning if at all possible.

One of the strengths of these web-conferencing tools, is that they can fill the gaps in teaching services, increase training productivity and enable meetings that would not be possible (Doggert, 2008). Since the sudden push in using these tools, I have greatly increased my attendance at professional development opportunities after school as I can attend them from my classroom and can multi task if there are other things I need to do after school.

References

Candarli, D., & Yuksil, H. (2011). Students perceptions of video-conferencing in the classrooms in higher education. Procedia – Social and Behavioural Sciences, 47. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.06.663

Doggett, A. M. (2008). The videoconferencing classroom: What do students think? Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 44 (4), 29-41. https://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JITE/v44n4/pdf/doggett.pdf