Building an IT system completely on campus is a challenge, and it is another challenging process to create one that is completely external. However, trying to come up with solutions for when some children are off campus and others are on, is a daunting challenge. When we went into the summer, we knew that some of our children would not return to school no matter what was going on in the world, so we wanted to be ready.
About creating the grade: Every Saturday, Bradley Chambers publishes a new article about Apple in education. He has managed Apple devices in an educational environment since 2009. Through his experience in distributing and managing 100s Macs and 100s iPads, Bradley will highlight ways Apple̵
We knew we would use Zoom for communication technology the way we had used it before, and we were pretty happy. Zoom has had a wild 2020, but it is the most available software for video conferencing on the market. Our teachers already knew how to use them, and our students already had it installed on their devices at home. Students receive an email each morning with meeting links for the scheduled classes. It takes some work at the end of the teacher to set up these meetings, but it has worked well for the most part.
We then created the Google Classroom to make it easier to assign work and handle the submission of work. We use FACTS SIS, and they have a built-in synchronization for Google Classroom that allows us to link student accounts in Google Classroom back to their profile in FACTS. With this integration, the grades from Google Classroom are synchronized back to FACTS SIS.
Our next decision was how we could improve the camera and sound quality in the classroom. I’m certainly not an audiovisual expert of any imagination, but I know enough to know that the built-in camera on the MacBook Air 2020 should not give students an excellent experience. Why Apple still includes such a low-quality camera in brand new laptops, I never know, but I hope it changes with the transition to Apple Silicon. We decided to invest in Meeting Owl Cameras. Every teacher who has virtual students has one in the classroom connected to the Mac. The camera is also connected directly to Wi-Fi to download new software upgrades and is controlled from an iOS device. The camera shows a 360-degree view, has an HD camera and eight microphones that will pick up from 12 meters away. We used them during our school meetings, and we had some teachers who followed from home, and they even joked that they could hear conversations they had not normally heard from other tables.
Setting up the cameras is pretty straight forward. Once connected to Wi-Fi, connect to your computer via USB. In zoom, Meeting Owl becomes your camera, speakers and microphone. We quickly got into trouble where it would not connect to the Mac. It was not just one of them, but everyone by them. After researching the problem online, I found that Meeting Owl does not work well with most USB C adapters. The owl comes with a Micro USB to USB A cable, and we used an adapter to connect them to our Macs. Meeting Owl works best when using an Apple adapter or a direct cable. I chose the direct cables because it would be an adapter less to have to follow for the teachers. Since we replaced the cables, it has been flawless.
End of hybrid learning solutions
By combining Zoom, Google Classroom and Meeting Owl Camera, we have built a robust solution that is easy to implement, easy to use for both students and teachers, and easy to maintain for the IT department. The critical thing to remember is to build solutions that require as few things as possible to simplify the training. There are many additional services and solutions you can add, but my advice is to keep it that simple.
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