Mindfulness Musing

Oscillations Through Dumpster Fire(s)

os·cil·la·tion

noun
1. movement back and forth at a regular speed.
2. regular variation in magnitude or position around a central point

It’s been awhile since I have taken the time to write a musing strictly for the sake of musing, not just to post and share content that I have created in the wake of this COVID-19 dumpster fire.

Many artists and writers acknowledge that night time is usually the place where they are the most creative (and free to write without distraction). Plus there’s some neuroscience to back that assertion. As some who is always thinking when left to my own devices, insomnia is also a part of default setting to say the least.

Anxiety is also a constant companion of mine – though surprisingly, as time has passed, very rarely do I see it as a burden or my metaphorical “cross to bear”. Whether by circumstance, support and love of those around me, or perhaps my innately human nature to adapt and evolve, my ability to see and envision thousands of ways through the various scenarios and options has served me well professionally and personally more often than not.

Yes, there are times when the noise of that does overwhelm. One of my favorite musical theatre songs comes to mind in those moments – Quiet from Matilda.

Have you ever wondered, well I have –

About how when I say, say red, for example.

There’s no way of knowing if red / Means the same thing in your head / As red means in my head.

When someone says red!

These answers come into my mind unbidden / These stories delivered to me fully written!

– Quiet, Matilda the Musical

When I first heard it, as the kids say, I felt incredibly “seen” by Tim Minchin’s lyrics and musical setting.

With all of this COVID global chaos, the constant lack of control over the educational system as it tries to improve over time (not to mention the fact that we’re building this “ship” as we’re sailing, and it’s QUESTIONABLE), many leading experts in the field of music education (singing specifically) basically shouting “WE’RE SCREWED!” in a webinar that was supposed to have the answers, and of course the fact that I miss my students who I’ve only really interacted with through a screen (and some still haven’t even shown up…) for the last 3 months…

Yeah. It’s a dumpster fire. A glorious, burning, raging, roaring, dumpster fire. (The fact that one of my administrators have adopted my dumpster fire analogy brings me great joy.)

And yet, beyond the minor inconvenience of less consistent sleep patterns, I’m strangely okay.

It’s been a bit weird to watch the mounting panic in the music ed community the longer we endure – the anxieties of many (and in some case the majority, at least from what I see in our forums) are bursting forth like a group of middle schoolers rushing to lunchtime. In this sea of grief and honestly, fear, I keep pausing and waiting for my own to follow.

If everyone is anxious and various degrees of freaked out, shouldn’t I be too?

What am I missing?

Perhaps it comes a lifetime of just being hyper aware of everything and anything. I have found myself existential tangenting with others (therapist included) about the fact that those who are always a little on edge and chronically pondering are making our way through this season surprisingly okay despite the rest of the world being a mess with the whole gambit of mental health concerns.

Social emotional learning is a huge soapbox of mine. I think teaching kids to regulate, identify, name, and understand their emotions is fundamental to their present and futures. I always say that I am teaching them to not just be good musicians – I am also teaching them to be decent human beings. I practice what I preach – every day is a new opportunity to be a less of a hot mess.

Tonight (or this morning, technically) I have found myself looking to name what is grounding me through this storm, in hopes that it helps someone else, and as a reminder for myself in the future.

Side note – if you’re someone who blogs or journals, I strongly recommend going back and taking some time to read what you write over time. Life (or your subconscious perhaps), has a way of looking for the reminders to calm and recenter yourself when you need it most. Or if you have a bad breakup or ghosted, you can always metaphorically (or literally) light those musings on fire. Just make sure there isn’t a burn ban…

I’ve been trying my best to practice some of the DBT strategies and philosophies since the school year started. Part of my beginning of the year goal was to be a more grounded and present teacher and human. I suspect this will become a lifelong goal, because practice makes permanent.

One of the core DBT distress tolerance strategies is the idea of “riding the waves”, or that emotions flow and ebb over time. Instead of avoiding perceived “negative” emotions, you sit with them. You simply observe and acknowledge, instead of our instinctual desire to escape, or try and alleviate the discomfort. No one really likes to emotionally suffer – and we all have our own coping mechanisms when it happens.

Because it happens. It happens to everyone. Some more than most. The other piece to this strategy and philosophy is that all things in life exist in equal and opposite forces – and more importantly instead of viewing them as positive or negative, they simply just exist.

I personally am a fan of the idea of oscillations (hence the title of this musing) when I think about this practice given I live my life in a medium that is just a series of oscillations when you break it down. Music is but a series of oscillations – life is but a series of oscillations. Music and emotions are so ingrained in each other that it feels natural and innate to make the comparison.

Even with this pandemic dumpster fire threatening to burn the whole block down, I find myself incredibly grounded in knowing that right now is but another oscillation over time. (That’s not to say I haven’t had my share of angry rants and meltdowns, because once again – just another oscillation.)

It is not permanent. Yes, it freaking sucks. But it will oscillate back.

And even though it feels insurmountable right now (and boy, does it involve giving up a huge amount of control, which also freaking sucks), we do have some ability to impact and accelerate the oscillation in the other direction.

We can discuss.

We can plan.

We can create.

We can learn.

We can always adapt if we’re willing to do so.

And we might as well thrive while we’re at it.

Grad School Reflections

Interview Best Practices

(This entry is part of my required blog reflections for my graduate school coursework. You can find similar musings/existential marination in posts tagged “Grad School Reflections“.)

I find it highly amusing that I am being asked to reflect on interview “dos and don’ts” in one of my last EVER assignments for my LTEC work at UNT. I have had a few interesting interview experiences to say the least (more on that in a minute), and have been waiting all term since I looked at this assignment to share some quality comedic gold. So without further ado, the “list”:

Best Practices

  • One of the most hardcore phrases ingrained into my mind from my undergrad was – “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”
    • If you want to advance or move up in your profession, there is something to be said about first appearances. Looking tidy and organized is a life skill.
    • Think about your audience – what type of job setting are you interviewing for? Do you match that in how you are presenting yourself?
    • That being said, now is not a good time to break in the new shoes/heels, especially if they are not something you normally wear. (I say that having endured the mistake of wearing the wrong shoes to a job interview that involved a tour all around campus. Ouch.)
    • It is also probably better to not experiment with that new hot pink lipstick you impulse bought at Sephora. More conservative is never a bad thing for this.
  • Take some time to actually research the organization that you are interviewing for. Be able to connect your strengths to things that are aligned with their mission and philosophy – it will make you look fancy and prepared, without being canned and rehearsed.
  • Be authentic – embrace who you are, and represent yourself in a way that is authentic to your voice, skills, and passions. It is so important for your own sanity to find a place that matches you if at all possible – it’s better for that to be figured out in the interview process versus being hired and ending up completely miserable.
  • Plan more than enough time to get there – it’s way better to sit in the parking lot for 15 minutes to get in the right mindset versus be showing up right as your time starts. As we say in the performance world, “Being early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.”
  • Be familiar with the materials you submitted with the application – panels get strangely interested with the most random details. You never know when they are going to ask you about being a part of Mu Phi Epsilon and serving as Historian (Mu Phi Epsilon is an honors music fraternity, in case you are wondering!)

What Not to Do

  • Now is not a good time to go on a rant about why your current employer is awful and that you are trying to escape them if they ask why you are considering leaving. Keep it chill, keep it professional.
  • Lie about your accomplishments or lack of accomplishments – be transparent with gaps in education and/or work by providing enough information by not a life soliloquy of how the world has made your life awful.
  • Don’t forget to breathe. I always say, “Breathing is key to success.” Your body will respond accordingly which will make exponentially impact your already present nervousness. It is okay to ask for a question to be repeated, or ask for clarification.
  • Don’t assume you sucked and let it effect your body language or mood BEFORE you’ve even finished the interview. If you need to have a good cry afterwards, wait until you leave the parking lot.

And no matter what you plan for – real life will always happen!

Two favorite real life stories that actually happened to me when I was interviewing for jobs upon completing student teaching, while I was subbing for a local district and two private schools.

You never know what random thing the interview person will decide to ask you about in your interview. Take it as it comes.

I was in the process of interviewing over the phone for a middle school orchestra job in Texas (back when my game plan was something along the lines of running away to Texas to eat nothing but Chicken Express, Whatburger, and Tex Mex for the rest of my life) when he asked me about the ONLY class I ever chose to withdraw and retake in my entire collegiate career, which was Ear Training III.

It totally caught me off guard, because I had never had someone examine my transcript that extensively. I chose to be really honest – I felt that I needed more time to really cement the material (which is fundamental to what I do), and wanted to retake it to get a chance to improve more before continuing on. I would have passed with a C, but I have no regrets in doing it the way I did because I knew it made me a stronger musician in the long run versus just being content with the pass.

Even though I didn’t get the job, he did make a point to email me to tell me that it was refreshing to hear someone own what could be viewed as a weakness and talk about why I chose to tackle it in the way that I did.

Worst case scenario, you get so nervous that you puke. Puke happens. It’s all in the recovery and how you bounce back.

This is total truth – I literally puked during my interview for my first and only teaching position after college. And not only did I still get the job, puking was actually what got me the job in the end.

I have a nervous stomach – in nature, we talk about fight or flight. Roughly 13% of God’s creatures respond by throwing up when faced with a high stress situation. Guess who’s part of the 13%? Yup, that’s right – welcome to my life.

I was halfway through this interview, and had been fighting that awful nervous stomach feeling the whole time. I must have looked not-so good, because the associate administrator asked me if I was okay.

Me: “I think I’m okay. I just feel a little nauseated.”

Admin: -moves recycling bin next to me- “You know, if you wanted to excuse yourself for a minute, we would totally understand.”

Me: “Yes, I think I will excuse myself for a moment if that’s okay.”

Admin: “Go for it, no worries!”

I leave. I go into the staff restroom. Puke. Come back.

Me: “Sorry about that, could you please repeat the question?”

Interview continues as if I had not just left, puked, and come back.

Upon getting the phone call to ask me to return for the secondary part which involves a conversation with the Superintendent and signing a letter of intent, I later learned that puking is what got me the job.

That job had burned through 4 first year teachers in three years (none of which are currently teaching as far as I can tell from internet sleuthing). I would be the 5th to attempt the job, and the only one to stay for more than a year. (Cheers to 7 more weeks of year 5 – who would have thought I would survive a Coronapocalypse too!)

My principal later told me that he wasn’t sure I could handle middle school life until I came back from literally puking my guts out and rolled with the punch, and came back calm and collected and ready for more.

Puke happens! Proof that you still can get the job even when the worst possible thing actually happens – it’s all in the recovery.

Grad School Reflections

Tweeting & “Gram”-ing: Online Professional Presences

(This entry is part of my required blog reflections for my graduate school coursework. You can find similar musings/existential marination in posts tagged “Grad School Reflections“.)

I have been so reluctant to make a Twitter account since I noticed that it was one of the “suggested” activities for my last grad school class in the last week. This isn’t so much because I hate Twitter, more that I had the unfortunate experience about 6 years ago where my original Twitter account (that I had from my high school life, but never used) was hacked by a female escort when I was in Vegas on vacation. Needless to say, I woke up to an inbox full of notifications and discovered that my profile was randomly following and apparently DMing 1,000+ accounts of random men all over the world, with my profile picture being changed out by said hacker in a suggestive pose.

The importance of security and changing your password, friends! I immediately deleted it because I was a bit traumatized by the whole thing, and have stuck to Facebook, LinkenIn, Instagram, and Snapchat, since then.

I know it was time to try again, not just because it was “suggested”, but also because there is a huge crowd of educational technology professionals out there sharing information, ideas, and having conversations on Twitter that I was missing out on.

Twitter is really the best place for short scrolling content, linking and sharing interesting things from like-minded individuals. As someone that actively blogs and relies on Facebook and word of mouth to get engagement with my content, I could see how Twitter could easily become another way to share what I create with others. It is easy to connect and @ someone “important” to ask a question or pick their brain on something.

There is distinct advantage over using Twitter versus sending an email; since Twitter is a social media platform, many people have enabled alerts on their own devices, and have no problems responding quickly, especially with the 150 character or less constraints of posting.

When picking a social media platform to create a professional persona on, I think the biggest things I take into consideration are: who is my audience, and what is my purpose?

There is a lot of information out there as to what age groups and demographics use different kinds of social media; Twitter and LinkedIn naturally lend themselves quite well for professional networking because of how they have set up the user experience, versus Facebook and Snapchat are typically reserved for more conversational and casual engagement. (Minus those in the influencer realm…that’s a whole other blog.)

For my “find a professional social media site other than Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter” quest, I chose to jump into creating a teacher persona on Instagram for several reasons:

  • With the COVID craziness, I wanted to find a way to communicate and connect with kids in the normal day-to-day banter that happens in my classroom.
  • Instagram is the number 1 social media platform used by those in the 13-18 age demographic, which is the majority of the kids I teach.
  • I like the use of images to capture and tell a story, or to provide a tiny look into my daily life. Sometimes the image is stronger than the text itself.
  • The downside of most LMS structures is it does not allow for as organic and authentic engagement that you get in social media (for better or worse).
  • My district has clear guidelines to social media use with students – as long as the account is created with your district email and used as a professional, you are good to go. And use common sense – and yes, you do have to monitor this just as you would monitor your classroom environments.
  • The only other “popular” option is TikTok. And even I have standards.

I am currently on week three of using Instagram to engage with my students and my colleagues. It was a risk to try it, because we have all seen online forums devolve real fast. I have been fortunate that my students understand my expectations and know that I do not mess around when it comes to poor life choices online.

Many have expressed that they love seeing my posts, even if it is as silly as me sharing more pictures of my avocado toast for breakfast for the third day in a row. I also can use it to share the messages I think are most important to hear right now – like using it to continue my #MorningMinfulness reminders that are part of our normal routines when we are together. This is just another opportunity for us to stay connected and continue to be present and support each other.

Instructional Materials

Virtual Ensemble Creative Process – “Curiosity Killed the Cat”

I begin by saying I am by no means advocating that everyone needs to make a virtual ensemble. When I first saw these virtual ensemble videos popping up, I cringed because I knew that this would become the “hot button topic” for music educators through this crisis. Turns out, I was not wrong. My immediate gut reaction was that I have so many philosophical issues with virtual ensembles because it is not a true substitution for live performance. Not to mention the equity issues abounding the creation process (students without instruments at home or cannot practice/play because of family working remotely, accessible technology, wifi, and so on). I also HATE that it might become the metaphorical way we can “justify” performance based mediums in this time in which so many programs are in jeopardy with the COVID-19 crisis changing the way we live and learn.

But our choice is to evolve or repeat, and I was curious.

My initial criteria for this process when looking at how I would approach this:

  1. What technology resources do I already use that can be used to complete a virtual ensemble project?
  2. What resources do my students have access to or that I can create for them to find success in their attempt to create something that can be included?
  3. Can I do this without spending any money? (Because I 100% believe in open source software, and people who are not taking advantage of the impending pandemic apocalypse.)

The Applications/Software I Used

ALL of these are currently free to use at least until the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

  • FlipGrid [FREE TO USE] – Trust me when I say this was a game changer when it comes to students submitting content. Students literally go to the link, can see all of the instructions and links to the PDF score files, and record within it. It’s beautiful, and worth using to easily compile recording files from students.
  • SoundTrap [FREE TO USE UNTIL JUNE 2020] – Everyone seemed to be raving about this on the internet, so I figured I would give it a try. It did not disappoint – especially when I found out I can upload the files FlipGrid created for each submission and it AUTOMATICALLY imports the audio. Huzzah.
  • Audacity [Open Source Software] – I’ve spent a lot of time in Audacity this past year for my grad school work. I have found that 99% of the things I want to do as far as editing and splicing goes can be done here, and that I can Google what I need to know and be able to figure it out.
  • WeVideo [FREE TO USE UNTIL JUNE 30TH, 2020] – my district already had given WeVideo licenses to our Instructional Tech Cadre. I wasn’t sure if it allowed for multiple videos to be spliced and layered in together, BUT IT DOES! 😀 That being said, I’m not sure the max cap of video tracks that can be added. Definitely something that I’m sure I’ll discover at some point and I’ll update once I know a definitive answer.

The Process: Step by Step, With Stunning Visuals

Pre-Planning & Material Creation Process

I started by taking on a project that I knew would be less of a mess than attempting a 3-5 minute song to start. This will be a new experience for most of your kids – it is important to not throw something super hard and long at them, as tempting as it might be.

I selected the Enumclaw HS Alma Mater. 60 seconds of music, tops. I got my hands on the 4-part choral octavo, and shoved it into MuseScore (also open source software that’s a great free version of Finale/Sibelius). I exported those files into PDF form to generate the individual parts for Violin I, Violin II, Viola, Cello, Bass, and Piano.

Here’s an example of what the music looked like at this point:

violinIexample

Notice once that this is super super basic stuff. My high school students and advanced middle schoolers can easily read this. I kept it simple and easily sight readable for them to practice and prep independent of me. The point is to create a starting point for us to work from so they can try the process without the stress. (Since many of my students hate filming/recording themselves in the first place, especially alone.)

From there I recorded audio of myself counting off and playing the first violin part as reference audio. I used the built in Voice Recorder that comes pre-installed in Windows 10. You could also use Voice Memos if you are a iPhone user, or record in Audacity. The thought process on counting off and providing a click track/reference recording is that it makes editing and splicing everything together that much easier in the long run for you. (Work smarter, not harder. Audio/video editing is an already time intensive process, and we need all the help we can get.)

This is what that track sounds like.

I used that audio track to create a conducting video for them to follow if they prefer the added visual of me conducting along with the audio. Even if they can easily record using just the audio, I know some of them do actually watch my hands, so I wanted to give them that option too.

I stuck all of the files into a Google Drive folder and changed the sharing settings so anyone with the link can view.

Creating the Landing Space for Students

I decided to use FlipGrid as my landing space/upload platform because:
1) It’s free.
2) It’s easy for people to upload videos.
3) It’s super easy to record and upload through, whether you’re using a Chromebook (the 1:1 device my district deploys) or a mobile device.

If you’re new to FlipGrid – here’s an article to get you started.

Here’s a screenshot of what I wrote/linked to in the “Topic” I created:

flipgridexample

I linked to the Google Drive folder that houses all of the PDFs of each part. I also made a point to directly link to the click track and make it very clear that they were to play along with it when they make their recording. I also included my email in case they struggled to upload the video to FlipGrid for whatever reason.

Some settings that I configured within the topic when I created it:

recordingtime

I changed the recording time to be only 2 minutes, as that more than enables them to record the 1 minute excerpt while also accounting for them clicking all the buttons to play along with the track. Anything more than an extra minute or so to the total performance time tends to create lengthy videos that you have to cut down, so I find to give them a little wiggle room but not so much that they could give me a novel before actually playing.

videomoderation

I chose to put Video Moderation on as a setting because I reached out to orchestra alumni to submit recordings through social media, which involved sharing the link publicly on social media. It felt like a bad idea to allow anyone to post without moderation first – that being said, you can default select for only logins with the end of your domain (for me it would be any email with @enumclaw.wednet.edu) to your topic.

Just a safety consideration, depending on your audience.

Click the rocket ship to get the Share url and post it in whatever way you are communicating with students (Google Classroom, Canvas, etc.)

Compiling the Audio Tracks

As you start to receive videos, I recommend starting the compiling process as it is the most time consuming part of the process.

Step 1: Download the videos from FlipGrid. Go into your topic, click the Actions drop down and click Download Videos. You will get a message from FlipGrid that the files are being generated and will be emailed shortly to you. Once you get the email, open the zip file and save them somewhere on your computer. (I recommend either your HDD drive if you’re fancy and running a SSD & HHD setup, or an external hard drive for these purposes. Videos take a lot of space, even with the compression that FlipGrid automatically applies in the upload/download process.)

downloadflipgridvideos

Step 2: If you have not already made an account in SoundTrap, now is a good time to do so.

Create a new project in SoundTrap. Click “Add a New Track” on the left hand side.

addanewtrack

Click “Import a New File”

ImportFile

Select the audio files you wish to import. (Pro-tip, hold CTRL and Click to select multiple files at a time to upload.) The beauty of SoundTrap is that the files FlipGrid generates do not require any format conversion to be imported. Huzzah.

Your selected uploads will now appear on the left hand side.

NewFile

Now, the goal is to align and sync all of the audio together across each track. Naturally, there will be some difference in when each recording will start, but IN THEORY, if they played along with the click track, the majority of the audio will be easy to align once you sync the start of each clip.

I recommend muting all of the tracks except for whatever you are going to choose to select as your “guide” audio. In this case, I picked Reagan’s audio because she was playing Violin I which had the most rhythmically moving line in the score.

The purple moving arrow at the top indicates where you are in the track. If you click play (or press space) it will move as the audio goes. What I usually do is identify a small chunk right before the playing starts and stop the bar there.

bartrack

Use the keyboard command [CTRL] + E to split the track like so:

splitbar
I let the audio move a little beyond where I made the split so that you could see what it looks like. In actuality, the track will split where ever you stop the line.

Then I just select the chunk I want to get rid of and use Backspace to delete it:

deletesound

And finally, I can click and drag the track to align with the rest of the tracks:

finalclickdrag

To check my work, I simply un-mute the rest of the tracks I have already edited and listen to see if they align. Repeat the steps above until you’ve synced all of the audio.

Once you have finished adding all of the audio, click File > Export > Export project to mp3 file. Now you have a synced audio track to add to video!

Helpful Hints & Additional Features

Learning to read and identify sound waves is a very useful skill to have when playing with audio. It accelerates the editing process immensely to be able to look at a track and know approximately where the audio starts is so much easier than listening over and over again trying to figure out the best way to cut and sync things.

Also worth noting that I left a slight buffer of time to allow for me to improve the process of syncing the audio to the video later in the editing process. I also made note of approximately how much I had to cut off at the start of each video during the audio only process for reference when I go to edit the video clips later in the process.


All of this assumes that your students have sent you high quality audio with instruments that are perfectly in tune with each other. We know this is not the reality.

I personally want as close to real sound as possible, while also making it mostly pleasant to listen to. I philosophically do not believe in auto-tuning, but the reality is that most of our students are recording on devices that are subpar for the level audio input that we would hope for.

SoundTrap does have a built-in “autotune” feature. If you right click a track, you can click “Auto Tune”. I chose to run each track through the autotune feature, on the lightest “All Notes (Chromatic)” setting. The difference between that and the original audio is that it helped adjust the +-1-5 cents of intonation discrepancies I had between each recording. I plan on adding some tuning instructions into the next round I attempt (Live and learn)  – it would be amazing to get make one of these eventually without any intonation/pitch adjustments on my end.

autotune

I also had the unfortunate experience of having one student submit a recording that had one blip of the audio cutting out entirely. My OCD struggled with how to fix this in SoundTrap – I figured I could clone the section and insert it since the same rhythm/note was played right before to cut out the blip. I eventually gave up and exported the track as a .WAV file, fixed it in Audacity, and the stuck the fixed version into SoundTrap.

Compiling the Videos

Now that you have your finalized synced audio file (Yay! You did it!), now you can start combining the videos into one simultaneous video. If you haven’t applied and activated your free account yet, please do so – it does take a bit of time for them to process and send you the activation information.

Step 1: Create new > Video

wevideocreate

Step 2: Import the videos so you can insert them into your project.

My Media > Import > Browse to Select > (Select the videos you want to include) > Open

They then will show up under your “My Media” tab for you to be able to drag and drop them into your project.

wevideofiles

Step 3: Add the videos to your project so that you can manipulate their size, location, and ensure that they are synced to the audio.

Click the + sign in the left hand corner:+arrow

A selection box that says “Add a Track” will appear – click Video > (Name it if you like) > Add Track

Click and drag the one of the videos into that track – now you’ll be able to manipulate and edit the video to be the right size with other tracks. You can repeat Step 3 for each of the videos you have at this point, or you can move onto step 4 to edit it first before adding additional tracks. Do what’s best for your brain.

Step 4: Double click one of the videos in one of the tracks. This menu should pop up:

editvideo

Now from here there are few things you will probably want to do before we start syncing and trimming each of the individual videos –

  • You can drag and resize the video clip in the preview menu on the right hand side. The nice thing about adding all the videos at once is that I am able to see how they layer with each other in the frame. For my sanity, I am keeping the kids sort of in sections like I would in a normal class.
  • Clicking the volume tab – you will want to make sure the audio is muted, as you will be adding the synced audio track in later.
  • Whatever adjustments you do, make sure you click “Save Changes” when you are done so that it is saved.

Step 5: Add the synced audio file to the project. By default, WeVideo includes an audio track that you cannot delete. This is where you’ll insert your audio file.

You want to be sure to import the mp3 file in the same way that you uploaded the videos during Step 2. Once you have the mp3 in your “My Media” section, you can click and drag it into the Audio 1 track section.

Step 6: Now the we want to make it look semi-pretty and together. As an orchestra director, nothing pleases my heart more than when bows in each section are synced. Hopefully you made note of which students had a slightly delayed entrance in their recording. The nice thing about WeVideo is that you can edit and clip videos similar to how you can edit and clip audio in SoundTrap.

Click one of videos you have inserted into the track. You’ll get the green tracking line similar to the purple line you get in SoundTrap. Once you find where you want to split the clip, you can just hit S on your keyboard and it will automatically split the clip. Then you can select the chunk you want to delete and get rid of it. I used this to get rid of the awkward space while they are getting set up and ending their recording.

I recommend leaving a slight buffer of time in the video before the audio begins. You will notice in my final product that there is a slight amount of time before the bow movement begins. It makes it feel a little more organic once the audio actually begins. If you actually look at my “final” edit, the audio track starts slightly behind the video – this was an aesthetic choice to account the brief space of time before they begin to play.

finalsetup

Pro-Tipwhile you are editing the videos to sync the audio with the video, it is worth un-muting each video to check it against the audio file to ensure it is lining up with the synced audio track. Since you ripped the audio directly from the original videos, it’s relatively easy to tell when the video is synced up with the final audio as you edit.

Repeat for each of the video clips until you have a nice little ensemble going on.

Step 7: When you are done and ready to export, click Finish.

Be sure to export with the following settings for the best results:

  • Video with Audio
  • HD (1280×720)
  • If you mark it “Public” it provides a series of social media sharing options.
  • By default it will select WeVideo Download for location, but you can also have it upload into your Google Drive as well.

Click Export – then WeVideo will send you a link to your final file in your email once it has finished exporting, unless you selected another option. (It automatically creates a GoogleDrive Folder titled WeVideo.)

The Final Product

finalvideoClick the here to view the video

 

Compiling all of this took me about 19 hours, but that also included the learning curve of figuring how to use it. That included about 45 minutes of me fussing with the viola player’s track to get rid of the audio blip because I wanted it to be as close as perfect as possible. It is by no means perfect, but honestly, it’s actually a pretty solid show of it, especially knowing that I did not use ANY software that required me to buy it.

Biggest piece of advice – it does take time to master these skills. It does look like a lot, especially when I realize that the documentation of this whole process is about 3,092 words worth of information. We’re all stressed out, and we’re all scrambling to try and create some sort of tangible product for our kids that just want to create and make art together, and we cannot right now for the safety of the world. You can do this! You are surrounded by others who want to help and support you through this – don’t let fear of failure stop you from trying in the first place.

And yes, I have serious issues with the fact that not every child I teach has the means to record and submit, even with 1:1 technology. It is a HUGE equity issue. But the reality of our current situation is that we must try and teach for as many as we can, and know that it is not your fault, or the child’s fault, if something prevents them from participating. (It is worth noting that recording for this is just one of the menu options for the week in how I’ve structured my instruction moving forward. It will always be a choice, not a requirement.)

Hopefully this was helpful – as always, feel free to reach out if you have questions or get stuck. You can contact me above or at my email: nicole_laborte@enumclaw.wednet.edu.

Grad School Reflections

Facebook & Professional Persona(s)

(This entry is part of my required blog reflections for my graduate school coursework. You can find similar musings/existential marination in posts tagged “Grad School Reflections“.)

What security settings should a Facebook account have to reflect one’s professional persona?

I have two cardinal rules when it comes to privacy settings on any social media platform, but mostly Facebook, since it is the most used social media platform on the web.

  1. Don’t post anything that would be “sketchy” and/or “questionable” through the lens of a parent of a current student, administrator, or a future employer.
  2. If it falls into the category of anything that you don’t want to be “public knowledge”, then don’t post it on the internet, period.

Logic Behind Rule #1: No matter how intensive your privacy settings are on your social media (and trust me, you can get pretty intensive), all it takes is one person who knows someone, who knows another person who you thought was your friend/enough of an acquaintance of yours to warrant an “add” to screenshot something and send it to someone else. The biggest flaw of online interaction/discussion in any forum is that it lacks the human element to provide the context of tone/inflection – your sarcasm makes complete sense to your friends, but may come off as something unprofessional enough to be reprehended over with the wrong audience. We have all been unintentional witnesses to someone unintentionally posting something they didn’t intend, and having it go horribly wrong real fast. And as we all know, just because you delete it, doesn’t mean it’s gone – think of all of those public figures/celebrities who have unfortunate images and seemingly private content out there for anyone to find because they chose to create/share it in the first place.

Logic Behind Rule #2: Going back to rule #1 – if you don’t feel comfortable with it being out on the internet, then don’t put it on there AT ALL. In this digital age, it is basic practice to keep your digital footprint/persona as clean as you personally feel you need to. It is so easy to Google search your first and last name, and have every account tied to your email, number, and personal info show up. As a middle school teacher, I can personally attest that they love Googling you – I had a student comment on my senior voice recital (from 5 years ago) on my private YouTube channel after just minutes after they were encouraged to Google all their teachers as part of a history lesson.

Those rules being said, it is really comes down to your own level of comfort with what you choose to share to the world. I personally prefer a bit of separation between my work and personal life when it comes to my social media, so I have pretty stringent privacy settings and add guidelines on my social media accounts.

The short list of my own privacy settings/preferences (specifically to Facebook):

  • The only thing that people who have not added me can see when looking at my profile are my profile picture, cover photo, and my about section.
  • My posts, shared settings, and comments can only be viewed/tracked by those who have friend requested me.
  • Any tags (photos or posts) must be approved before they show on my timeline.
  • Any “school/work” related content that I manage (like our Music Department Facebook pages), are attached to my work email, not my personal email.
  • I do not add any parents of current students, only once they have at least one student that I have personally taught that has also graduated HS.
  • Students must graduate before I will accept their friend/follow request(s).
  • The only work related/professional people I will accept/add on Facebook are people that I would feel comfortable having an adult beverage with. (A life rule instilled in me by a wise professor from my undergrad.)
Grad School Reflections

LinkedIn – Social Networking

(This entry is part of my required blog reflections for my graduate school coursework. You can find similar musings/existential marination in posts tagged “Grad School Reflections“.)

How do you see LinkedIn being useful in a job search?

LinkedIn has become the primary means for human resources and other recruiters to look for potential new hires. It has become a hub for companies to post jobs, and allows for those looking for employment to easily search within the network and apply within the system itself, using the information that you have already built into your profile. (This feature actually reminds me of Applitrack, which is an application system used quite frequently in K-12 education. It makes life so much simpler when inputting the same information over and over for different districts when enduring the job hunt process.)

LinkedIn also allows the user to input skills, experience, and share content that they have created in a professional setting, and allow their connections to provide testimony to support these claims. It is similar to being peer-reviewed, or receive a rating (like on Yelp) – the user’s profile can be built to reflect their professional connections and expertise for anyone looking for more information about them.

On the user side, it is useful to be able to look and see what companies and organizations have looked at your profile each week. It is fascinating to see what other groups have searched and viewed your profile, depending on whether or not you have been actively searching for a new job, or posting content and creative materials for the masses that have become popular within your field. Also, it is very easy to update an online resume in comparison to hard copy format, as LinkedIn has done a very good job of asking questions to generate the information most hiring agencies would look for in the initial applicant screening process.

How does a LinkedIn profile differ from a Facebook profile?

The biggest difference I see between LinkedIn versus Facebook is the audience for which you are sharing information with. LinkedIn is designed for professional networking purposes, so all of the content within the standard profile layout is related to your career and experience. It is curated specifically to include the information that would be relevant for a future employer; it is a space to showcase your professional strengths and connect with those who exist in similar professional circles or could further your professional career. In contrast, Facebook is designed for a much more casual audience; Facebook is for friends, family, and more of a “stream of conscious” public narrative by comparison. While Facebook does include similar content as LinkedIn (particularly their educational experience profile section), Facebook personal profiles tend to have less formal content within them.

Instructional Materials

“The Power of Choice” – Music Menu Curriculum

If this is your first time stumbling upon my blog – welcome! Feel free to look through my previous postings if you’d like. If you’re here looking for remote learning/online instructional content, it will be tagged with “Instructional Materials“. There are also additional things related to online learning and my grad school work in the “Grad School Reflections” tag – if you’re new to digital instructional design there are definitely some good information and resource articles referenced in those posts. Please consider following my blog for more content – I suspect I will be posting much more frequently in the future as more and more of us move to being in an online distance format for the foreseeable future. 

In lieu of being a jerk and monetizing: Instead of charging for access to the materials I have already created, implemented, and revised I instead would ask you to consider donating a couple bucks to the GoFundMe page setup and managed by the Enumclaw HS Band & Orchestra Boosters for our instrument repair fund if you choose to utilize some or all of the content I have created.

While we are very generously supported by our district, we all know the costs and challenges of maintaining instrument inventories over time. Often we all are forced into fixing what we need to put into the hands of kids ASAP to function. Both the band director and myself walked into an inventory dumpster fire when we started here a few years ago, with over 50% of our existing inventory in desperate need of repair estimated at well over $10,000 between the both of us. Needless to say, every bit helps, and I assure you that this fund will greatly help our current and future kiddos out.


Now for the stuff you actually came here for!

This curriculum was designed for use within Google Classroom and the G Suite (Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, etc.). My district is 1:1 Chromebook for those in the secondary levels (6th-12th grade). Google Classroom is our primary LMS (Learning Management System). We are currently in week 4 of “online learning roll out” – our first two weeks were simply providing enrichment opportunities for our students. For the last two weeks, we have transitioned into a “A-F graded model” where we are required to also track the attendance of all of our students. When you have 139 students across two buildings and 7 grade levels, it incited several headaches to try and figure out a streamlined system and process to manage it all.

This design framework is based off of constructivist learning theory (which is fancy buzzword worth noting in instructional technology land) which essentially recognizes the unique viewpoint of every learner in the room and allows them the opportunity to engage with content in a way that creates meaning and impact for them as individuals. The teacher serves as the facilitator, scaffolding the materials in a way that makes things more manageable for the student to explore and providing a variety of ways for students to demonstrate knowledge and understanding that has been gained.

I am a strong believer in the power of choice, especially in a time where I am trying to engage and reach students in the space where they currently are (because let’s be real – everyone’s life is kind of a hot mess right now). Plus there is more than enough research out there supporting the benefits of choice menus

As of this posting, I have structured this Music Menu Curriculum with 2 main “chunks”:

  • Weekly [Attendance] Music Menu Selection Form
  • Music Menu Option Lists

I currently have two weeks worth of materials/content up in the shared Google Drive Folder – I will be updating and adding additional content as I create and finish one cycle of implementation and revisions. (Next week is Spring Break, but I will update, I promise!)

Main Purpose(s) of Each “Chunk

Weekly Attendance Menu Selection Form

The biggest pitfall of Google Classroom is that it is not the most intuitive process on the student side when it comes to figuring out where work ends up, especially if you are using outside places to submit content for an assignment (like FlipGrid). It is fundamental for your sanity to create a space where students can indicate which of the activities they are selecting for the week so that you know exactly what to look for when you are grading. I have no patience for “I did it but I don’t know where to put it” or “Oh I was confused why do I have a zero”; using this Form allows me to quickly follow up if I see that a student has selected something that requires a reflection form for the assignment, but hasn’t done it yet. As I mentioned earlier, this also makes life 1,000 times easier if you are required to take attendance. Beat into them that this as part of our online learning routine so that you can avoid the angry parent emails in the future – trust me. (It also does not hurt to send an email out informing them of your attendance marking policies attached to this form to be able to say, “I was clear. I can’t tell if you kid has even logged onto my Classroom unless they submit something to show they are breathing.”)

Note – You might notice that one of my options in the menu selection form is “None – I’m not doing it”. This is for my kids that are in fact logging on, but are choosing to not complete the work – this then becomes a great seaway conversation for any parent that becomes annoyed with you once those missing assignments start to accumulate over time.

Additional Note – I am big on social/emotional learning, which is why the last question is geared towards being a mental health/wellness check-in. It is SO IMPORTANT to read these form responses as you get them through the week to be able to touch base with the kids that are really struggling with life right now. In week 1, I was able to recognize and notice 28 of my kids that needed additional support – if you put those questions on there, there is a responsibility to follow up and connect back if they trusted you enough to be open. The beauty of what we do is that we do genuinely care, and kids know it. They need it now more so than ever – even just that one “Saw your Form response – how’s it going?” emails can make a world of difference for that kid. #endsoapboaxrant

Menu Option Lists

I designed these menu options to allow students a wide spectrum of choices that best fit their learning needs for the week. Some activities are more in-depth, some can be done in as little as 5-10 minutes if you simply sit down and focus to do the work. These first two weeks of menus were designed to get me at least to Spring Break and to build routine. I intend to add some more adventurous options down the line in the future to provide some spice and variety, while still offering the options that kids are really enjoying and responding well to – feel free to include what you know what would work for your students, and edit and add as you like.


Here is a brief description of each of the Menu Options, as of 4/17/20:

Performance Prep – The most basic of menu options, for the kid that feels motivated to practice keep practicing their instrument and has the means to do so; involves a quick reflection form at the end of a minimum of 30 minutes of practicing.

Listening Reflection – Allows the learner to share a song with you that has special meaning or that they are listening to this week*

* I actually am creating a master playlist of all the songs students have shared with me and plan on adding a menu option down the line where students can choose listen to one or two songs that others submitted and share their thoughts on it.

Karaoke – Allows the learner to perform and share their performance with others. I’m letting students choose if they want to perform on their primary instrument or if they want to sing or share another instrument that they also know how to play. I’m using FlipGrid for this because it’s super easy to record and upload in, and let’s them see each other’s performance if they want to.

Enneagram/Musical Personality Exploration Project – I find personality tests like Meyers-Briggs and Enneagrams to be completely fascinating! This allows them to take the personality test, read about their personality type, and then build upon it. Sleeping At Last wrote a concept album for each of the personality types, so they get to listen to their type song, reflect, and even listen to the corresponding podcasts where he talks about what composition strategies he employed for each of the songs. It’s pretty cool stuff to read, listen, and nerd out about.

Composition – Allows the learner to play around and compose something to be shared. Flat is really great for this if you’re using Chromebooks or Google – and the instrument midi files are way less annoying to listen to in comparison to other free to use composition software.

Mindfulness Meditation – (I’m not a total hippie, I promise.) I have been doing 5 minute mindfulness meditations since about October of this year, so it felt natural to allow students the option to self-regulate for 30 minutes for their work for me. It goes without saying that music/elective is a sanctuary space for our students, so it makes sense to allow them the time to regulate and breathe with everyone living on edge nowadays.

Acapella App – If you haven’t played with the Acapella app, it essentially allows you to record yourself singing/playing and then layer other videos you make or collaborate with another artist. It does require some payment for some of the more advanced options, but I threw it on here to let them play with it if they wanted to.


Here are some implementation suggestions based on my experience:

  • If you are grading this work, I would suggest these point breakdowns:
    • Attendance/”Participation” Form: 5 points – even if a kid does nothing for the week other than complete the form, then they have participated to some degree.
    • Assignment Submission: 5 points – did they do what they said they were going to do? Yes = full credit, No = 0 (Easy, simple, and makes scoring WAY easier if you have to give a grade)
  • Use the Google Form option that allows you to export into a Google Sheets when you are going through the assignment grading process. That way you can CTL + F the kid’s last name and see what they said they were going to submit. It solves a lot of time when you are trying to figure out where to look for the option they selected. And if they didn’t do the thing, then you know exactly what to comment to direct them to what they should have done to get credit.
  • COME UP WITH A ROUTINE OF DEADLINES AND WHEN YOU POST THINGS!
    • I use the following structure based on my district’s learning cycle:
      • Monday: 8:00am – Post new menu, attendance form, and submission assignment into Google Classroom
      • Friday: 12:00pm Attendance Form due (we are required to put attendance in on Fridays by 1:15pm)
      • Sunday: Submission Assignment due by 11:59pm
      • Monday: Grade and return all completed work from previous week and post private comments for incomplete/missing work or any students that have not checked in or completed the attendance form; post current week’s new materials
      • Wednesday: Put any non-complete grades in grade book as missing and 0 (the 0 is a building policy, not mine)
  • Turn off the “accepting submissions” option for the Attendance Form for what you deem to be a reasonable amount of time – there is nothing more annoying than when a students says they turned a form in but it was marked 14 days after it was originally due. At the very least, it encourages them to email you and make contact for their transgressions.
  • For the assignments that require reflection forms or trackers – you can use the same form over multiple weeks to make your life easier.
  • You will need to link your own created FlipGrids into the menu for your classes if you choose to keep “Listening Reflection” and “Karaoke”. I just created two FlipGrids for those and then broke it down into “Week 1” and “Week 2” within the Grids themselves to allow kids to easily navigate and make sure they put things in the right spot.
  • Learn to love and use the “Schedule Post” option – it is so nice to know that everything my kids need to do the thing will post on Monday at 8am when I am just waking up and still trying to get caffeinated.
  • If you put in the time and effort to teach the routine, they will figure it out. They’re smart and are totally capable – but it helps if you organize things in a way that makes things easy for them to navigate and find. (The power of links and using the “Topics” option in Google Classroom. PLEASE don’t be that human that just posts things in the Stream and expect it to magically work!)

Here’s a screenshot of how I organize things for them each week in my Classwork tab just for us visual learners:

classroomtopicssetup


Links to Materials

Music Menu Curriculum Google Drive Files: This links you to a folder that includes all three units that I have completed and revised for your use. These files are view only, so you will have to make copies into your own Google Drive to upload and edit them for your use. The Forms require you to click the link in each of the “download” documents because Forms do not like to play nice when we try to share them. I suggest using one copy of the Activity Forms hyperlinked into each of the menus each week to make life simple, and then make a new attendance form each week since that will result in the most responses naturally over time depending on how many students you have. You’ll want to double check the links that I have included in the menu forms as of now to make sure they work before trying to use them – I think I did it correctly the first time around, but don’t hesitate to reach out if it didn’t work for you. 🙂

GoFundMe Page: Once again, in lieu of monetizing these materials, I would greatly appreciate if you consider donating to the instrumental repair fund being managed by the Enumclaw HS Band & Orchestra Boosters. These menus are my babies, and the result of a lot of time on my end – I am happy to share and be a resource, especially as the world becomes something out of a contagion movie, but I thought it would be worth asking to benefit my program directly, in an area where there is need.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me through email at nicole_laborte@enumclaw.wednet.edu.

Hopefully this was helpful and thanks for your time!

Grad School Reflections

Existential Career Musings

“What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver

This quote has haunted me from the start of my high school life. My undergraduate university, Pacific Lutheran, asked this question of all incoming freshmen for our entrance essay requirement.

Even ten years later, I still question what the heck I am doing with my “one wild and precious life”! Looking back and re-reading my original personal statement for the UNT LTEC masters online program, made me a laugh a little bit with where I am now in comparison to where I was even just two years ago.

At that point in my life, I was in year three of teaching, and ready to take on the whole world, solving all the problems in music education with technology. I was eager, a bit young, and dare I admit it, a little bit narcissistic to think I could “revolutionize” the field of music education with just another piece of paper.

Now, nearly on the other side of things, I see a lot of growth in myself in that “self-actualization” process of trying to figure things out. I entered into this program to give myself a break from always running things through the “performance” lens that music demands – in turn, I have gained new and refined old technology skills to make me much more “useful” than your typical 5th year teacher.

I discovered that I really enjoy the instructional design process, at least on the conceptual design document side of things. I love thinking through the “problem” and creating a framework to solve it. My music theory curriculum is a great example of this – after one cycle of revision, and a pandemic apocalypse, it’s been viewed over 2000 times all over the world, and downloaded almost 1000 times after two weeks! (I definitely would not have been able to do that nearly as successfully two years ago!)

Moving forward, I feel myself rapidly reaching a crossroads where I get to decide what makes the most sense for what I love to do – I still feel equally divided between pursuing a higher level music performance based degree (like a DMA in conducting) or taking a more tech-centered music education pathway. I also am still enamored with how I can incorporate technology into a traditional performance venue to improve the audience and performer experience.

Basically, I’m still just as irritated with that stupid PLU quote then as I am today as I was then. The biggest difference is that when I look at myself now versus when I applied two years ago, I actually feel like I am contributing to improving my field and passions, instead of just being average and doing the same thing as everyone else.

I do like to keep things interesting and will always take the out of the box crazy idea when given the option, that’s for sure!

Grad School Reflections

“Fancy” (Scholarly) Writing vs Daily Prose

As someone who exists in a field that comes with a multitude of clothing options, I find myself always thinking through the lens of what is best practice for whatever the occasion – am I performing? Teaching? Networking? Hanging out? Not leaving the house? And so on.

Personally, I am someone who would happily live my life in a tank top, shorts, and flip flops if that was a socially acceptable life choice in my career and climate. My writing style preference is somewhat like this as well – I find my writing to be most authentic to who I am when I write “personally”, in a stream of conscious (but still organized) fashion, that is relatively informal. My blog thoughts and musings often fall under this category, as they are often the raw, unfiltered, internal dialogue being put forward for anyone to read. When writing in this way, there is little care given to what my audience might think of what is being presented, it is simply a statement and expression of what is going through my lens and worldview point in that moment, with minimal consideration to how it might be perceived.

While liberating, this type of prose is typically reserved for blogs and reflections, and dare I say it, Facebook. Personal writing is used to convey emotions, feelings, opinions and/or thoughts, not necessarily backed up with facts, data, and supporting narratives.

The next step up in formality (or “fancy”) would be what I consider to be my normal work day to day apparel, the business casual of writing, coincidentally, also referred to as “business writing”. Attire-wise it would look something like a dress or top/skirt combo that is of modest length up top and on the bottom. Definitely a closed toed shoe, some tasteful yet not overly flashy jewelry, and neatly groomed hair and makeup.

Business writing is designed for the professional workplace. The narrative voice should be accessible and appropriate for any and all audiences, for a variety of perspectives and viewpoints. It typically is for productivity purposes (to inform of a date/meeting, information needing to be shared and communicated publicly, solve a problem, etc.) and should be professional enough to be used to solve legal/human resources or other issues and conflicts. The most common type of business writing we experience daily is the dialogue that occurs in work emails – discussing work topics, problems/solutions, schedule. As a teacher, I often also use this more formalized writing style when communicating with the parents and guardians of my students.

The most “fancy” or formal writing we experience as graduate students (and for those in the educational field) is “academic” or “scholarly” writing. As someone who routinely exists in a performance field, this would be my “concert black attire”, which usually is a floor length formal dress (sometimes a ball gown if I’m feeling super dramatic about it), with heels, fancy up-do, and lots of sparkle.

Scholarly writing feels the most formal because it takes into consideration not only the audience in which you are providing narrative to (which is often academic/higher educational circles), but also requires you to provide supporting arguments and ideas using existing sources and peer-reviewed research. This type of writing requires you to be objective, putting forth your findings to be evaluated and scrutinized by anyone in your field. Scholarly writing requires the author to not just state an opinion, but back it up with summarized, supporting sources. It is often used to showcase what your understanding for a specific topic or focus, while ideally providing some sort of contribution or new thought to the existing pool of academic sources.

References

Holland, P. (n.d.). How Does Academic Writing Differ From Other Forms Of Writing. Retrieved March 31, 2020, from https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/how-does-academic-writing-differ-from-personal-311877

Long, A. (n.d.). LibGuides: Writing for General Curriculum: Scholarly vs Non-Scholarly. Retrieved March 31, 2020, from https://libguides.enc.edu/writing_basics/scholarly

Scholarly Writing: Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved March 31, 2020, from https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/scholarly

Tutorials

Zoom Tutorial

Hello all! Day 3 of ? in our COVID-19 extended break.

Since so many people are using Zoom for the first time, I thought it would be useful to make a video in the different settings and functions on the host/participant end to accelerate the learning process.

I would recommend starting a Zoom meeting so that you can see the different things I’m talking about in this video. To do that, open up the Zoom client (or Chrome extension) on your end and start a new meeting.

Zoom Tutorial YouTube Link

PS – If you want to be extra and learn how to make the background super fancy instead of showing whatever room you’re videoing from, here’s how!


For Visual Learners

Here is the picture of what the bar looks that I’m describing when you’re in the application:

zoombar

Here’s what your Mute/Stop Video functions should look like if you are muting yourself and not sharing video (recommended to reduce lag + audio feedback):

snip

Here’s what the Manage Participants button opens up (the mute all is FUNDAMENTAL for making this an enjoyable experience):

manageparticipants

 

This is what the Share Screen popup looks like:
Screen – shows them whatever tabs/things you have on your screen except for Zoom
Whiteboard – creates a pretty blank canvas in which you can add text or draw things on

sharescreen

This is what the chat box looks like when you click it:
You can use this to directly message one single person in the group directly just for their eyes, and also to share files to the whole group.

chatbox

This is what comes up when you click the Record button:
The pause button is useful if you are taking a break during the session, returning, and want to continue on. The stop recording ends the video/file at the moment you click stop. If you leave or end the meeting, the video automatically stops recording and it will prompt a box that is configuring the files, and take you to the location in your Folders/Finder where they will go.
Note: The longer you record, the longer it takes Zoom to process and create the files.

recordingoptions

Hope that helps – let me know if you have any questions either in the comments or you can contact me through email at nicole_laborte@enumclaw.wednet.edu!