Lockdown Learning: Teaching Small Groups or Whole Class via Google Meet

Today as I headed out on my weekly Wednesday run, I was reflecting on the first day of Term Two, which we had to teach remotely from home.

Largely, it was me sitting on the laptop answering questions like “What do we do now?” and “I’ve finished it!” and “I’m stuck”. that students messaged in. After that, it was checking to see that my scheduled activities were sent out correctly and checking to see who had commented on it (and what they had commented).

And that’s the point. I felt like I was just handing out activities, and watching the kids do them from afar.

It wasn’t exactly “teaching”.

Sure, I’d put out a welcome video, a video of me doing a mini reading strategy (of which was quite good because unlike in class, there wasn’t any calling out or interruptions!), and the like… but it wasn’t interacting or connecting with my students.

So as I was thinking about how I could do it, I suddenly realised what I’d come across during a Board Meeting last week.

Google Meeting “Present” Mode

In Google Meet (which has been turned on for all educators during the lockdown), you can set up a video conference for anyone with the link. It only works really in Google Chrome. This sets up a multiscreen layout of everyone’s webcam as we’ve become accustomed to seeing in the likes of Zoom etc.

However, Google Meet also has a Presenter Mode. This allows for someone to present to the others what is on their screen.
For instance,  I could have open a document, or even Microsoft Whiteboard or an online version such as Miro, or even Microsoft OneNote. As you present your screen, you don’t have to worry about the camera side of things, as your camera is replaced by a live feed of your screen. However, your microphone will still work, allowing you to explain things that are happening on your screen.

In this way, you could show students a document, or if you have a touchscreen (or are particularly dexterous with your trackpad) draw and write just like you would on a whiteboard or modelling book. I currently have both an iPad Pro with Apple Pencil and Microsoft Surface Pro with Apple Pen that both work well for this purpose.

This saves you wrangling your camera around to try and focus on a piece of paper and work out how to position yourself so your hand doesn’t get in the way.

Here’s how you do it.

Set Up a Google Meet

Head to meet.google.com and click on the “Join or start a meeting” button. Follow the steps through. It’s pretty straight forward.

Meeting Created

Google will go through and check your microphone and camera is working. If it’s your first time, you’ll have to click on “Allow” to let the browser use your microphone and camera. Click on “Join now”.

Get the Link

Once you join the meeting, this window will give you the joining info to invite others. Click on “Copy joining info” and post it on your Google Classroom, Seesaw, or whatever platform you’re using to reach your class.

This will then allow your students to join your “Meeting” lesson.

Up and Running

Once you’re up and running, checked that everyone is joined and connected and you’ve introduced the lesson, you will need to click on “Present now” to switch to showing your screen. It might be a good idea to mute student’s until you’re ready to answer questions. This prevents them from “calling out”!

Then click on either “A window” if you’re using Whiteboard or OneNote or some application to write in, or sometime’s its easier just to click on “Your entire screen”.

Share your Screen

Click on the application you want to screen. This image isn’t a great example of it, as I only have one application open. But maybe I have another tab in Chrome Browser that I want to show the students.

Click on “Share” which will show up blue once you click on the application you want to share.

This will then replace your “camera” with a video feed of your screen. Students can see your cursor and your screen. Don’t worry about looking down the camera though, because they can’t see you. However, you can still talk to them about what you’re doing on the screen, and thus, teach a lesson just as you would on a whiteboard, or in a modelling book – just with less calling out due to the muted microphones and less eye contact due to the turned off camera!

Taking it Further

Obviously if you have a touchscreen device with a stylus, this becomes even more powerful as you can write down what you’re teaching, or showing, or modelling for the students. You can then un-mute students for a question time, just as you might in a small group. Answer them as you like while still modelling on the screen. Once you’ve covered all that, you can come out of Presenter mode and return to your standard Google Meeting and close out the lesson.

Disclaimer

Please note: Other software might also have presenter mode and so the same can be achieved using that. I can only talk from my experience. I am not being paid to represent Google products!

Secondly and most importantly, I did not write this to set any expectations on teachers during this incredibly trying, unknown, and stressful time. I do not share this to overwhelm teachers who feel like this is what everyone should be doing, or that they’re inferior if you don’t do this. Please do not feel that way. There are no judgements here.
Quite simply, the reason I decided to write this was not to show off, or set a standard for which everyone must strive for, but as a solution to a problem I was having as a teacher in not being able to teach the students in my class. I was looking for ways where I can teach new concepts, or be informative for students, rather than just pushing activities at them, and this came to me as a viable option. That is all. I’d like to assume that there are other teachers out there who reflected on their day and were having the same concern about this issue. Hopefully this might solve that problem for you.

I hope that you are able to take from this idea what you need and can apply it in a way that works for you. Try it yourself on two different devices. Set one device up as a “student” joining your “teacher” device if you need. See how it works. Get familiar with it and that will give you enough confidence to take it and run with it.

Enjoy. And stay safe.