Class is in session for thousands of students and many will be learning remotely using tools such as Google Classroom and Google Meet. Since the onset of the pandemic that sent so many of us into our homes, Google Meet, Zoom and other video conferencing platforms have experienced explosive growth and as a result, have been inclined to beef up features in a response to the growing growing trend of remote work and learning. While Zoom has become the platform for millions of users, Google too has risen to the challenge with new features and wider availability of video conferencing platform that was once exclusive to GSuite accounts.
Google Meet makes perfect sense for the countless institutions that already use Google Classroom and manage accounts and devices with GSuite’s Admin Console. However, despite the recent upgrades and improvements to Google Meet, there are a few attributes that are still lacking from Google’s robust video chat. In late June, Google announced that GSuite Education accounts would eventually add the ability for participants to use the “raise” hand” feature which allows teachers to maintain order in the virtual classroom. This feature is set to come along with other updates such as virtual whiteboards for collaboration and attendance tracking but they aren’t slated to arrive until October. So, what do you do in the mean time?
If you have a friendly IT admin who’s willing to help you out, there are some third-party tools to help you get the most out of you Google Meet virtual classroom. We’ve talked about some of these in the past but when the pandemic started, few of us expected that it would have the long-term effects that would potentially extend into 2021. So, we’re going to highlight three Chrome extensions that can help you manage your Google Meet video chats and hopefully, get the most out of your virtual school day.
I can tell you from my daughter’s first day of online learning, teachers do not have it easy when it comes to managing a virtual room full of second graders. When you’re in-person, it’s much easier to directly address an individual student and handle feedback, in general. When you have 30+ students in a Google Meet chat, getting everyone to mute their mics and interact via chat or simply wave at the camera to get the teacher’s attention is a massive undertaking. It creates a bit of a chaotic environment and that takes away from the entire learning experience.
While you’re waiting for Google to add the hand-raise feature to Meet, you can ask your IT admin to add this “handy” extension to your approved list and even push it to school-owned devices and accounts. Nod-Reactions for Google Meet gives every user the ability to grab the teacher’s attention with a silent raise of a digital hand. In addition to keeping order with hand raises, Nod offers a handful of emoji responses that are perfect for students to let their teacher know that they are on pace with the current lesson. Visual feedback is very important when you’re meeting online and Nod offers a simple and free way to do just that with minimal disruption to the learning environment. If you are using Google Meet without a GSuite account, you can use Nod right now. If you’re interested in getting for your classroom, contact your IT department and ask them to help you get it set up for you and your students. Find it in the Chrome Web Store below.
Google Meet Attendance
Another feature that Google has promised is on the way for Meet is the ability for teachers to take attendance digitally right in the video chat. This will be a powerful tool when it finally arrives as it will save teachers hours upon hours of precious time throughout the school year. Thankfully, teachers are resourceful and many of them take it upon themselves to find solutions instead of waiting on someone else to do it. I found a couple of extensions that take on the task of attendance rosters in Google Meet but one, in particular, stood out because it’s simple, does exactly what you want it to and gets out of the way when you’re not using it.
Google Meet Attendance was created by a Math and Computer teacher out of Ontario. Mr. Caughey developed the Chrome extension for the very same reason many of you landed on this article. Attendance. However, his free extension does even more that just punch the attendance roster. Teachers can create and save multiple class lists and when students join Meet, their attendance is registered. Not only that, the extension will tell you how long each student was in the meeting and their is support for eight languages with more on the way. The reports are saved in a neat, HTML form for teachers to use as needed. The developer does emphasize that the extension collects NO data so it’s safe for your students to use and you can find that policy and more on the Git page here. You can download the Google Meet Attendance extension from the Web Store at the link below but don’t forget to get with you IT admin to get it enabled.
I don’t know about you, but this fine gentleman up in Canada deserves some major accolades. Not only has he been preparing for a school year of remote learning and working, he has taken the time and energy to invest in his fellow educators. Not only that, he’s doing it absolutely free and is very active on Facebook ready to take input, feedback and suggestions to improve an already amazing Chrome Extension and classroom tool. If you grab this extension and find it handy or maybe you just want to support someone who invests in the future our children, you can donate to this teacher/developer. You can find the link on the Extension’s Facebook page and on the Chrome Web Store in the description.
Google Meet Push To Talk
Tired of yelling at your students and trying to get them to mute their mics? Make them work to chat with this handy little extension that adds a “CB radio” aspect to your video meetings. Google Meet Push to Talk does exactly what the name clearly states. With this extension installed, you have everyone in your meeting mute their mics by default. Then, if you want to speak, you just have to press the space bar. Just like two way radios when we were kids. This won’t take the place of hand raising or reactions but it’s a great way to keep the chatter at a minimum and eliminate everyone talking at once.
Update: I received an email from the CIO of a large school district who pointed out some very useful information about extensions of this nature. While they are very helpful tools, these extensions are not published or supported by Google. These are third-party tools and many of them are developed by teachers wanting to fill a gap in technology. Updates to Google Meet can often times break extensions like these when updates are pushed that cause conflicts that the developers can not foresee. If you are using these extensions and Meet is having issues, you will want to disable the third-party extensions before taking further troubleshooting steps.