Discoveries and Lifehacks: Hardware and Software for Teaching via Zoom
Hardware: Wave 3 Mic
You can have a videoconference without video, but not without audio. Audio is a critical component in all any zoom, WebEx, or Google Meet conference. It is tiring to be on a call all day, but in my opinion, the main contributor to Zoom fatigue is audio fatigue.
Since starting the fall semester, I have been trying various ways to improve my audio quality (you can read about and hear the multiple microphones I have tried in this medium article. I finally settled on the Wave 3 mic from the gaming accessory company Elgato. This is one of the best mics you can get for the price, and it connects directly via USB.
For more on why audio is problematic and developments on the horizon, check out Why Do We Suffer From Zoom Fatigue? It’s All About The Sound.
Hardware: Stream Deck (also from Elgato)
You can do a lot to make your presentations on zoom or other videoconferencing platforms better and provide a variety of views, etc. Both OBS and Wirecast offer ways to mix multiple cameras and images and customize your presentation.
Still, if you don’t have a production assistant to make the transitions while you concentrate on the material at hand, it can be nerve-racking and makes for poor presentations. I initially thought about building a keyboard for automating these transitions, but a student suggested another gaming product: the Elago StreamDeck. This device works great and can control many programs, including zoom. If you are willing to get a little in the weeds, you should be able to control any program (especially if you use Automator on the mac).
This short video shows how I used StreamDeck to change my views during a zoom call.
If you are on a mac and want to have better presentations, mix video sources with your slides, etc., then you should check out mmhmm. mmhmm is a relatively straight forward program that lets you do all these things and more. I tried this software out as a beta tester, but I didn’t adopt it since I was already invested in another solution.
The learning curve for mmhmm is much less than OBS or Wirecast, so if you are on a Mac, I recommend you check it out first. It is a subscription-based product (there is a free version), but students and educators get a one-year mmhmm Premium subscription free of charge to students and educators in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. Email firstname.lastname@example.org from your school email address, and they will verify your credentials and get back to you promptly. For more, check out this recent review from the Verge.
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