Scoil Mhuire Clarinbridge enables Remote Learning with DTEN and Zoom

Scoil Mhuire Clarinbridge were winners of the DTEN D7 Board for the “Most Innovative Use of Zoom “ Competition.

By Catriona Tierney

Teachers Susan Rushe, Ellen Walsh, & Caroline Burke from Scoil Mhuire Clarinbridge

When you see the passion and creativity used by the staff and pupils at Scoil Mhuire in Clarinbridge for their recent Zoom competition entry it’s not hard to see why they were crowned winners of our ‘Most Innovative Use of Zoom’ competition held by us here at IMS in 2020. The prize up for grabs was an incredible 55′ DTEN D7 all-in-one Zoom Room solution sponsored by DTEN.

The competition showcased the many benefits of virtual classrooms to pupils, that might never have been possible before and the endless opportunities for the future. The teachers who took part said that they felt that Zoom has helped bring out the best in teaching and changed the experience for the better with Zoom proving an essential tool not just during lockdown but also a helping hand in so many aspects going forward.

The winning entry was produced by Scoil Mhuire Clarinbridge teachers Susan Rushe, Ellen Walsh and Caroline Burke with the support of the school principal Sean Hogan and they were delighted to win a major national award for their efforts.

What becomes clear from watching their entry is the passion and creativity in their Zoom classes and how even the competition itself event helped to motivate everyone taking part to come up with even more creative ideas for their entries.

According to Scoil Mhuire Clarinbridge while they featured everything from Science experiments to Yoga classes, Online Quizzes, and even celebrity guests in their entry, one of the most memorable activities from their entry was the Virtual Grandparents Day.

Students’ grandparents joined them in an online Zoom class and shared poems, songs, memories, and posters for each other and it was a very moving experience for all who took part. Some grandparents hadn’t seen their grandchildren in some time so getting to experience what the children were doing in school proved a brilliant experience with the pupils proudly showing their grandparents what they had created for them.

The teachers were also very moved by the experience and agreed that one of the positives that have come from the virtual classroom experience is the ability to enter their student’s homes and get to know them and their home lives and families better.

We caught up with Scoil Mhuire Clarinbridge teacher Susan Rushe recently to find out how she and her fellow teachers Ellen Walsh and Caroline Burke have been getting on since their win.

IMS: So what were the team at Clarinbridge Scoil Mhuire’s favourite parts of preparing for the “Most Innovative Use of Zoom “ competition?

Susan: We really enjoyed preparing for the competition. It was a great opportunity to work together and share ideas during ‘Distant Learning’. It was a whole school community effort- teachers, children, parents and grandparents were involved!

We had very moving and heart-warming experiences thanks to Zoom and our Virtual Grandparents Day was truly special. We met grandparents from near and far, with our eldest participant being 90 years of age.

Teachers in our school downloaded the Zoom app to their phones and iPads and brought the children on trips to the seashore, the farm and on minibeast hunts. We really embraced Zoom on the go! We organised numerous well-being activities on Zoom, from meditation to yoga and even Qigong classes for the children and staff. We also held a special ceremony for our 2nd classes on what would have been their Communion Day and we also held a ‘Virtual 6th Class Graduation’.

IMS: What were the children’s favourite things to do on Zoom?

Susan: During ‘Distant Learning’, we feel that the children’s favourite aspect of Zoom was seeing their friends! It was so lovely to see their faces ‘light up’ when they were able to see their teachers and their peers. The children really enjoyed the ‘Virtual Dance Classes’ and we also had great fun during our ‘Zoom Art Classes’.

IMS: What part of using Zoom will you and the other teachers at Scoil Mhuire continue to use in the future even when you are in a traditional classroom setting?

Susan: We realised that the possibilities to use Zoom in the classroom are endless. This year, we have used our new DTEN screen to meet scientists, politicians and artists. We have also used our new screen to celebrate religious occasions with our local priest Fr.Barry. The children have been able to feel part of the whole school community through school assemblies on Zoom.

IMS: Finally then how has your school benefitted from your competition prize the DTEN D7?

Susan: 6th class took part in a TULCA education programme, they completed a six-week poetry and art project with two artists. The DTEN board provided the children with an opportunity to interact with the artists and engaged in a range of poetry, writing, and creative art lessons. 5th and 6th class have also used the DTEN board to take part in a virtual ‘Ask me Anything’ event. The children were given a unique opportunity to ask MEP Maria Walsh questions about the European Parliament. 4th class students used the DTEN board to take part in the ‘Cell Explorers Programme’ during Science Week. The children spoke to two scientists and extracted DNA from a banana while following the instructions from the scientists on the DTEN board.

The quality of the video on the DTEN board, along with the fantastic microphones have enabled the classes to meet and interact with people ‘virtually’. The third classes made their First Holy Communion this September. Due to Covid 19, this class was unable to make their communion in May 2020. We wanted to make their ceremony and preparation for the Sacrament special for them. Fr. Barry, our parish priest, had Zoom calls using the DTEN with both classes to help them prepare for this special event in their lives. It was wonderful that he could visit, albeit virtually, with the children. We were able to wheel the DTEN into each classroom. The DTEN enabled all the pupils to be seen by Father Barry and they could be seated with appropriate social distancing between each pupil!  The fact that the DTEN board is on wheels has allowed a variety of classrooms to use Zoom.

The DTEN board is breaking the barriers allowing us to provide the pupils with opportunities to meet more people than we ever thought possible.

Due to Covid 19, one of our classes has moved to the school hall and are using the DTEN as their board. The whiteboard is very clear and can be seen easily by all pupils. We had some technical difficulties with it but we called IMS and they  promptly dealt with it. Using it as a whiteboard the teacher has connected their laptop directly to the DTEN using a HDMI cable which enables seamless streaming. The speakers work well in a classroom but in an area as large as the school hall additional speakers are needed. It is so versatile on wheels that if there is a shine on the board or one of the pupils cannot see the board, you simply move it.

This year, all our school assemblies have been held through Zoom. We are the lucky class that has the DTEN for these assemblies. It really helps the children to stay focused and engaged. Anytime we have used the DTEN with Zoom, the children really feel that the person is in the room. It is a wonderful resource to have most especially in these strange and unprecedented times.

IMS: We would like to thank Scoil Mhuire Clarinbridge teachers Susan Rushe, Ellen Walsh and Caroline Burke for taking time out of their busy schedules to let us know how they’ve been getting on since their big win. As you can see Zoom and the DTEN has opened up many fantastic opportunities within a school setting and can be used in so many different ways.

Breakout Rooms 101

By Catriona Tierney

An IMS guide to one of Zoom’s Top Features

As many teachers know already, there are so many great aspects to Zoom that make using it for the virtual classroom so much easier. From Waiting Rooms to Passcode Protection and Screen Sharing options to Meeting locks there are an array of brilliant features that Zoom has created and another one of these is the very popular Breakout Rooms.

Small group learning is a crucial part of education and whilst many may think that in a virtual classroom the teacher has to do all the talking, thanks to Breakout Rooms, students can engage and collaborate with each other in smaller groups just as they would in a traditional setting.

Just like with any new concept, there are some fantastic tips and tricks to be learnt when it comes to using this popular feature of Zoom that we at IMS would like to show you below.

Breaking down Breakout Rooms….

First, let’s begin with what are Breakout Rooms? Put simply, Breakout Rooms are a feature that allows you to split your Zoom meeting or class up into 50 separate sessions.

The meeting host or in the case of a virtual classroom a teacher can then choose to separate their students into these Breakout Rooms either automatically or manually, or they can allow them to select and enter breakout sessions as and when they want.

In a traditional classroom setting breaking into smaller groups is a great way to create more focused discussions and with Zoom Breakout rooms that same environment is possible in a virtual setting too!

For those taking part in a Breakout Room, it’s good to know that they have similar capabilities as they have in a regular Zoom meeting. These include Screen Sharing, In Meeting Chat and asking the host for help.

Because of it’s popularity, Zoom are also constantly adding new functionality to Breakout Rooms so they can offer the best experience for users including Self Select Breakout Rooms where students can choose which Breakout Room they want to join and then move freely between rooms without needing the teachers help. 

That’s just one great function Zoom have introduced, let’s take a look at some more in detail….

From the Top…

For you beginners let’s look at how you can enable a Breakout Room. Simply log on to zoom, sign in and then go to your Account Settings. Under In Meeting (Advanced), you can enable the Breakout Room feature. Once enabled, you can create breakouts during your virtual classroom by clicking on the “Breakout Rooms” icon in the lower right-hand side of your toolbar. If you cannot access the option to enable Breakout Rooms, contact your system admin and ask them to enable it.


All good things come to those who wait…

Just like with any of the other great Zoom features knowledge is the key to success here and learning about Breakout Rooms will take a little time. However once you and your students master Breakout Rooms they will help create a fantastic atmosphere in your virtual classrooms where you and your students can enjoy the great sense of school community and student communication that is so important when it comes to learning.

So as well as learning the basics yourself, you will also need to give your students the tools they will need to interact with Breakout Rooms, after all this is a learning experience for both the teacher and the students.

Start out with short Breakout Rooms, that way students will be more focused on the task at hand with a clear guideline of what is expected of them. 5 minutes is plenty of time for students to discuss the topic at hand before reporting back to talk about their ideas and questions.

Don’t forget to remind your students to unmute when they are using Breakout Rooms so they can interact with each other and take part in the smaller group discussions. Make sure to remind them to turn on their cameras too as this makes for a more positive and engaging experience for the group.

Tell your students to introduce themselves and remind them to sign off at the end too. Another good idea is to give your students a prompt with a sentence starters which will help give them a clear indication of what you want from them and will also help get the ball rolling in the small group setting.
A shared slide or template they can fill out together can also be good inspiration for students to get the creative juices flowing as can assigning different roles within a group setting so that everyone has a place and a job to do within the group.

Another nice idea is to ask for feedback from students who can acknowledge other students in the group that they learned something from or were particularly helpful or knowledgable with the particular task assigned.

Ask not what your group can do for you….

As a teacher you can pre-assign Breakout Rooms when scheduling a meeting or class.  This option is great for hosts who already know how they want to group their participants.
To schedule it ensure that the “Allow host to assign participants to Breakout Rooms when scheduling” option is enabled. Then go to Meeting Options and enable the “Breakout Rooms pre-assign” option. You can then select “Create Rooms” to set up rooms and assign those taking part in the class manually using their email address or “Import from CSV,” which provides you with a CSV template to which you can add your Breakout Rooms and participants.
If you want to title each Breakout Room just click on the Breakout Room of your choice and then click the pencil icon, which will then allow you to rename the room, for example ‘History Study group 1’ etc.

Once you’ve created your Breakout Rooms and assigned those taking part just click Save before continuing to schedule your meeting. 

Creating Breakout Rooms within a meeting: To do this go to the meeting toolbar, here you can click on the Breakout Rooms icon and access the following options to manage Breakout Rooms.

Automatic vs. manual room creation: Automatic room creation will create your Breakout Rooms automatically, putting those taking part into rooms randomly or placing them into their pre-assigned rooms. The Manual room option allows you to create each room and assign participants to each room individually. To move a student, simply select their name and assign them to a different room. 

Delete room: Use this option to delete the Breakout Room you have selected, but just remember this won’t remove the participants in that room from the class completely. 

Keeping your options open…..

In the Breakout Room panel there is an Options menu with lots of handy features to help you create the ideal Breakout Room experience. These options include:

Move all participants to Breakout Rooms: this option automatically moves all those taking part in the class to a Breakout Room.
Open All Rooms option: This lets you create Breakout Rooms on the go.
Set a timer: This is a very handy option that lets you put your Breakout Rooms on a timer that will force everyone to return to the main session when the timer expires. This option is particularly good for group activities or brainstorming sessions.
Countdown after closing Breakout Rooms:
This option gives the students in Breakout Rooms a visible countdown to when they will return to the main session, giving them the time they need to finish their discussion. 
Allow participants to return to the main session at any time:
This option gives students the ability to return to the main session without any time limits.

Bossing your Breakout Rooms…

Once all your students are in their Breakout Rooms, these features can help you manage the speed and rhythm of the sessions:

Self-select a Breakout Room: This new feature means a teacher can create Breakout Rooms and, within their class, give students the ability to self-select which room they would like to join without needing intervention from the host.

Co-hosting a Breakout Room: 
Another new feature is the co-hosting privileges in Zoom, where co-hosts also have the ability to assign, start, and end Breakout Rooms, as well as the ability to move between Breakout Rooms and broadcast messages to all members of a Breakout Room.

Visiting rooms:
As a host or a co-host, you can jump between different Breakout Rooms. 

Broadcasting a message:
This feature allows you to send a message to every Breakout Room. This is particularly useful if you want to give your students a warning that they need to wrap up their discussions.

Closing all rooms:
When you want to finish your breakout sessions, you can click “Close Rooms,” which will give students a warning notification that they need to rejoin the main class.

Sending students back to breakouts:
Once you close a breakout session, you can always decide to break your students into groups again. This is really useful for longer classes because you can split your students up as many times as you want.

Responding to help requests: 
Students taking part in a Breakout Room can ask for help by clicking the “Ask for Help” icon to request that the teacher join a breakout room for assistance. The teacher will then get a notification and can jump into that particular session. However don’t forget if you’re recording your class to your cloud, it will only record the main classroom, even if the teacher is in another Breakout room.  If the local recording is being used, it will record the room the participant who is recording is in. Multiple participants can record locally.

The future looks bright…
Finally it’s worth noting that Zoom also just added the ability to join Breakout Rooms from Zoom Rooms Appliances. While Zoom Rooms cannot initiate Breakout Room sessions, they can be added as Breakout Rooms participants when a host starts a breakout session. Zoom Rooms participants can join and leave the session and see who else is in their breakout.
This is especially helpful for teachers using Zoom Rooms-enabled classrooms and want to use the Breakout Rooms feature for group activities. Zoom also plan to support Breakout Rooms on Zoom Rooms for Windows, Mac, and Zoom Rooms for Touch later this year.

For more information on Breakout Rooms or any other features click here.

IMS helping to create the most effective Hybrid Learning setting

By Catriona Tierney

Hybrid learning and teaching are here to stay in one form or another with a combination of in-person and virtual teaching now being adopted by many as the best way forward in education.

According to a recent study, 9 in 10 teachers are open to hybrid learning with the right tools and resources in place and over 70% of parents also support the idea.

This year the use of technology in classrooms went from being an aspirational idea for the future to an essential service during the pandemic.

Throughout the lockdowns in Ireland, IMS has been helping to connect teachers, students, and parents, as they navigated a new way of learning. Now going forward IMS is here to help with a more blended way of learning, keeping teachers up to date with all the latest technologies and in turn keeping students engaged and parents well informed. This combination of high-quality teaching and up-to-date practical technology will help hybrid teaching and combination learning going forward.

IMS is also a Zoom partner for Ireland providing Zoom to Irish organisations for several years now. Using this unique partnership and their range of hardware solutions designed to work with Zoom, IMS was able to help teachers create a virtual classroom environment that was interesting, safe, and entertaining, and now they are continuing to provide plenty of inspiration and innovation with lots of exciting ways to integrate the virtual classroom into the traditional one.

Adjusting to the new hybrid norm

During the pandemic, many people asked of the education sector, when will we return to normal? The truth is a more hybrid approach will undoubtedly become the new norm going forward with a mix of traditional and virtual learning here to stay. The good news is that the resolve that teachers and families showed during the Covid crisis illustrates how well they can adapt from face-to-face learning to online at home. This means they can now use the skills they learned already to transition to a mix of virtual and traditional classroom education. This will allow for more flexibility within teaching practices and also more stability should any future disruptions to education arise.

For example, while students were able to return to school after the last lockdown, due to government restrictions they were still unable to go on school tours. However, thanks to Zoom they were still able to visit museums and cultural venues not only here in Ireland but across the world with an exclusive tour for students right on their laptops.

In fact, many schools are now also utilising the hybrid approach to invite special guests who are experts in their field to speak to students remotely with sporting icons, musicians, doctors and nature experts, etc all taking part. Using interactive features like the webinar Q&A function students were able to ask questions of their heroes and with breakout rooms, they could chat with other students about the experience and report back on their findings.

Pupils and teachers at Scoil Mhuire in Clarinbridge who won our ‘Most Innovative Use of Zoom’ competition this year were able to experience the benefits of this first hand as they won a 55’ DTEN D7 all-in-one Zoom room solution sponsored by DTEN. The school used their prize to host a ‘Virtual Grandparent’s Day’, organise online mediation and yoga classes, host virtual graduations and communion celebrations and field trips to the seaside and farmyards. The school also used their new DTEN screen to chat with special guests including scientists, politicians, and artists showing how endless the possibilities are when it comes to online learning with Zoom.

Using Zoom Rooms and a Zoom approved hardware appliance like a DTEN D7 screen (IMS is a DTEN partner for Ireland) also means that classrooms are also now able to connect with other classrooms both here in Ireland and around the world which is particularly informative for students learning new languages.

Staying connected

Zoom is also a great way to keep connecting for vulnerable students or teachers who can’t attend school, for distance learning in the event of another school closure or for school assemblies. Busy working parents also welcomed the virtual parent/teacher meetings during the pandemic with many hoping this can continue into the future. The same could be said for staff meetings, board of management meetings and parent council meetings with less time travelling to and from the school and shorter more time effective virtual meetings welcomed.

Another great virtual idea particularly for 5th and 6th year students is to speak with professionals from different fields online with a view to getting more information about a possible career path. Experts from the world of science, beauty, construction or media etc could engage online with students and talk to them about different career options and give them some great lots of insight into their respective fields.

Blended learning is also great for preparing students for a more digital future with increased competency in technology. This will help prepare students for college or later in life in their career which could feature a lot more online work and require more advanced computer skills.

For more information on hybrid learning and to speak to one of our team about technical expertise and support you can contact IMS.