When using Zoom (or other telechats like Skype, Teams, etc.), you can make your meetings more interactive and dynamic by mixing in other tools to engage your participants. If you’re an educator, this can help with learning and retention. If you’re gathering socially, they’re great for team building, connections, and fun.
All of these ideas require your participants to either 1) use their primary Zoom device (their computer, tablet or smartphone) to go from Zoom to a site on the internet or an app and then know how to get back to Zoom, or 2) use a second device to access an app while they’re still in the Zoom call on the primary device.
This requires some tech savvy. So, if you’re working with elders or with young children who might have tech challenges, I’d stick to activities that all happen inside the Zoom meeting. The first thing we need to talk about is how people move in and out of Zoom.
Navigate in and out of Zoom
If you’re tech savvy, this section will seem super obvious to you, but I’ve seen lots of users struggle with it.
If you tell them to go to a website, and they can’t figure out how to, it’s likely that they’re viewing Zoom full screen and can’t see their task bar or start menu. Tell them to press escape or double-click on their screen or go to the view menu in the top right corner of Zoom to leave full screen and the task bar will re-appear, and they can click on their browser icon to open the browser. They could also just use the windows key on their keyboard (or control key on a Mac) to access the start menu.
If they go to an external website by that method, or by clicking on a link to an external site, then they often have trouble getting back to Zoom. You may need to tell them how to get back to seeing the Zoom meeting by clicking on the blue video camera Zoom icon on their task bar. (If they can’t see the task bar, use Windows key, or Mac control key).
If they’ve accidentally or intentionally minimized the Zoom window, they’ll tell you that it’s a little tiny window with just the speaker showing. Tell them to mouse over that window and click on the green arrow to exit minimized window.
Learning / Meeting Tools
In Zoom, you can increase interaction by using chat, polls, and the whiteboard. But adding in other apps and tools broadens the possibilities.
It’s easy to work collaboratively on any project by using Google Docs or Sheets and working together on it while you talk on Zoom.
You can also use Jamboard, another Google tool. You can create a board full of images that they have to sort in order. Or they can add images to a board, or add post-it note comments, and so on. You set up what you want, share the link, and everyone can work together on editing it.
I use the post-it notes option on Jamboard a lot. For example, I ask people to go to Jamboard and add a post-it note listing a favorite movie. Or, I ask them to write something that blocks them from accomplishing what they want. Or write down a current challenge. You could obviously just have them type any of those things in chat. But I like using Jamboard if I want to create a visual image we can refer back to later.
Mentimeter (Word Clouds)
I really like word clouds for connecting a community (for example, we used it on the first night of a camp to ask: what will you miss most about in-person camp and what are you most looking forward to about online camp.) You can also use it for agenda setting at a meeting or class where you ask people to share the three topics they most want to discuss.
In real time, people enter their answers to a question, and they are collated into a word cloud, which makes the most common responses large fonts, and less common responses are still there but smaller.
Go to mentimeter.com. Create a free account. Then click on “your presentations.” Create a new presentation. Choose word cloud type. Type in your question. You can prepare these in advance if you want. When you’re ready to use it, go to your account, open presentation, choose “share” in the top right – it will give you a code and a link.
You could then ask people to either: 1) use a separate device to go to menti.com and enter the 6 digit code, OR 2) copy the link for voting and paste it in the chat box so people can click on it and enter the words in their browser. 3) create a QR code in mentimeter, then add that to a presentation you’re screen sharing and they can scan it with their phone.
After you’ve had them start voting, click on “present” in the top right. Share your screen of that presentation, and participants will see the words appear as they type them in.
Note: there are lots of other things you can do with mentimeter like multiple choice questions (but I just use polls in Zoom for that) or make slides (I use PowerPoint) and open ended questions (I use chat). The rankings could be helpful in decision making. An educator I know uses a true/false quiz where she shares true facts AND common myths and asks whether they are true or false. It displays a pie chart of their responses – this is good for testing what misconceptions students might have.
PollEverywhere.com has many of the same tools as Mentimeter. You set up a poll, activate it, then share your screen so they can see the results as they come in. They CAN go to a website to enter responses. Or they can use their phones to text a response. The mechanism is confusing – but if you give REALLY clear directions it could be OK. The screen you share says something like “text janelle303 to 22333.” But when you text you need to first type in the number you’re texting to (22333) and then your message (janelle303). Then you get a text back saying “you’ve joined Janelle’s session. When you’re done, reply leave.” Then you’re supposed to intuit that now is the time to type in the answer to whatever question was asked.
Kahoot and Quizzes
Kahoot is another similar platform – from the little I’ve seen of it, it’s more polished than PollEverywhere, but I haven’t had a chance to explore it. Again, you design things, share your screen, they use another device to install an app and play along. Can do quiz, true/false, polls, etc.
Other quiz platforms include: Quizziz: https://quizizz.com/; Socrative: https://www.socrative.com; Quizalize: https://www.quizalize.com/; Quizlet: https://quizlet.com/; Gimkit: https://www.gimkit.com/
There’s a game called Photo Roulette described here which pulls random pictures off each player’s device to share and people have to guess whose is whose. (You do have the ability to approve whether or not it’s OK to show the items it can choose from.) I have not tried it.
Playing Online Games
There are lots of online games you can play either with friends, or with random strangers on the internet. MANY of them include a chat feature where you can type messages back and forth to the other players. But it’s more fun to do them in Zoom where you can talk out loud as you play.
For this game, each player joins a zoom call where they can talk. Then they all open a browser too. (You can make the zoom window smaller so it doesn’t take up your whole screen. Or you can use different devices for Zoom and the game.) They play the game together in the browser and talk while they play.
This is a Pictionary style game, where one player is shown a clue – they draw it and others try to guess what they’re drawing. To play, go to https://skribbl.io/. One person chooses “create private room” and then sends that link to everyone in the Zoom chat, and starts the game.
Go to https://digitalpuzzle.ravensburger.us/ Choose a puzzle. Tell your zoom-mates which puzzle you chose – they’ll see it in the list of “active games” and can join you there. In theory, you can lock the puzzle after your friends have joined you, but we’ve occasionally had other people wander in. It’s never been a problem for us to have others play.
Jackbox Games are collections of party games that one person has to purchase. Then they can share their screen so everyone can see the main game. They start a game, then all the participants use their own devices to go to https://jackbox.tv/ and type in a code to join the game. Then they all play a game together. Each player needs their own device for the game, but multiple people can share one device for the Zoom screen. There are lots of fun games. There are two you can write custom questions for – Quiplash 2 and Drawful 2 – which allows you to make up fun games tailored just for one particular audience, or allows you to use them in an academic setting with clues based on a lesson you want to review. (here’s a guide for homeschooling parents).
Note, these games are aimed at a mature audience. You can turn on family friendly settings, which brings them to about middle school appropriate.
Among Us is a “mafia” style game, where one person is the killer (the “imposter”) and others are trying to figure out who that is. If you want to play it on a computer, you have to pay for it, like on Steam. It has a text based chat, but when playing with friends, it’s more fun to talk out loud.
Pokemon, Minecraft, etc.
There are many video games where people can meet up online. For example, private servers on Minecraft, or on Pokemon Go. Many of those have an online chat feature, but it’s also fun to mix them with Zoom. My son and a buddy from church have had lots of times meeting up on Pokemon Shield and Zoom where they can trade Pokemon and talk as they play.
Board Game Arena
The site https://boardgamearena.com has LOTS of online games to choose from. Choose to play “real-time” and choose to “play with friends.” It will ask whether you’re sharing the same screen (i.e. are in a house together sharing a device) or not. Then it will give you a link to send to them. Then you can talk on zoom and choose a game together and play along as you talk.
More Online Games
You can also check out Codenames online. Romper also says “A variety of classic board games can also be played online. Games like Uno can be played via Facebook and websites like Tabletopia have games of virtual chess and checkers kids can play with grandparents.”
Here are more tools I haven’t had a chance to explore yet. https://support.outschool.com/en/articles/2620590-online-tools-for-teaching?fbclid=IwAR0qCh5MN-0UK9g9ciAGKpNQoI-zL0DOmNXOtL3nThm3RGXhLFmFAn-tcsA You’ll see there a reference to Nearpod – here’s a video about how Nearpod works.
More Zoom Tutorials
- Sharing Screens on Zoom (how to share PowerPoint slides, videos, documents, the whiteboard, etc.)
- Games and Interaction on Zoom – all the things you can do while staying ON the Zoom platform
- Young Children and Zoom – tips for teachers and grandparents