Two Key Highlights from Zoom’s August Releases

New and Enhanced Features

  • Focus Mode: In Focus Mode, only the host can see participants’ videos and profile pictures. You can start Focus Mode from the “More” menu on the toolbar of the desktop client. This setting is available at the account, group, or user level setting pages. To use Focus Mode, you must have desktop client version 5.7.3 or higher for Windows or macOS.
  • Authentication exception for single instance of recurring meeting: If only authenticated users are allowed to join the meeting, account owners and admins can allow authentication exceptions for a single instance of a recurring meeting to allow guests to join the meeting. This feature can be enabled in the Meetings > Security Web Portal settings.

Focus Mode

Focus Mode does just that – it helps keep people focused in a Zoom meeting. Designed with educators in mind, Focus Mode places meeting participants in a view where they are only able to see themselves, the host/co-hosts, and the content they are sharing. In this view, hosts and co-hosts can also choose to view participants in gallery view, enabling them to see all participants simultaneously.

Focus Mode

Don’t forget to download the latest version of Zoom to access these features and more.

Some upcoming changes to students’ online access and experience

Googel Zoom

We’d like to alert you to two online services we use (Zoom and Google) who are enforcing changes to the student experience in the coming school year.  In June we posted about Google’s upcoming age-based changes taking effect and have re-posted our information below with a bit more elaboration.

ZOOM meeting changes

This summer Zoom announced a policy change that will be going into effect in a few weeks that prohibits any student from having a Zoom account associated with a K-12 educational institution. This is being done in part to align their terms and conditions since people under the age of 16 aren’t otherwise permitted an account (up until now those under 16 had only been permitted under the “School Subscriber” terms within Zoom for Education accounts) and in part done to increase the security of meetings. Their new solution is called external authentication, which allows institutions to have an increased level of security without having students in their account.  Students will be able to join Zoom meetings safely and securely without the use of a Zoom account and will simply authenticate for meeting access using their district Google account. Some FAQs they have shared are posted below.

Will Breakout Rooms work if my students do not have Zoom accounts?
Yes, you can still use Breakout Rooms as usual. If you would like to pre-assign students to Breakout Rooms, you will need to upload a CSV file with the details .

Will my guest speakers or teacher be able to join a meeting?
Any external guests will not be able to join the meeting unless that specific party has an authorized account in your SSO Identity Provider.

How is this different from standard Zoom/SSO Authentication?
This is authenticating users upon joining a meeting and does not create a Zoom account.

Can I pull a report of the students and have accurate attendance information?
Yes, all student’s names will be documented accurately with their associated email address.

[We had a virtual meeting with our account representative last month to discuss these upcoming changes and among other questions asked about the ability for users to add their personal pronouns. While they said that it was possible, it would have to be mapped via a field in Google since Zoom accounts were no longer going to be associated with our students. At this point, we’re not in a position to set up that mapping, but are looking into other options.]

Safer learning with Google for Education

  • Google is launching a new, age-based setting to control their app experience for users that goes into effect next month. See this support page for more detail. [Since we don’t have a way to group students by their age in our admin console, these settings will apply to ALL of our students, from our youngest to any students at PCEP and Starkweather that might be 18 or older during their time in district.]
    • After September 1, 2021, students will see changes in their experience across Google products.  For example, after September 1, students in K-12 domains can view YouTube content assigned by teachers, but they won’t be able to post videos, comment or live stream using their school Google account. More specifically, our students’ district YouTube accounts won’t have access to or be able to…
      • Create channels, playlists, stories, shorts, or upload videos
      • Watch or create live stream events
      • See or post comments
      • Participate in live chat
      • Use apps, including YouTube Go, YouTube Music, YouTube Studio, YouTube TV, and YouTube VR
    • After September 1, 2021, students will see changes in their experience when signed into Chrome.  For example, after September 1, to ensure a safer web browsing experience for K-12 institutions, SafeSearch and SafeSites will be on by default, and Guest Mode and Incognito Mode will be off by default.

Updating the Zoom App

Keep calm and update zoom

In order to get the most out of our Zoom experience, it is important to update the app. An out-of-date Zoom app may lead to sound or other technical issues. Additionally, Zoom has recently pushed out live captioning and the ability to allow co-hosts to set up breakout rooms. These features don’t appear unless you are running the latest version of the Zoom app. Chromebook users or any device that used the mobile app should be getting these updates automatically. If you are using the desktop client/software on a school-issued HP Probook, a Windows, or Mac device you will need to update manually.

Next Wednesday afternoon, February 10 17th (rescheduled to avoid any possible, but unlikely conflict due to it being Count Day), the district will activate a prompt so that when you open the Zoom app, if it can be updated to a newer version, you will be required to update it. Before any meeting you might have, please give yourself a few extra minutes to take care of that update by launching the app earlier than you might otherwise. And be advised that students may run a little late if they launch the app and find they are being prompted to update. To avoid any issues you can always check for updates at a time that is most convenient for you.

Helpful Tip: Zoom automatically signs you out of your account fairly often. If you notice your thumbnail picture is not showing or your virtual background is missing, you may want to relaunch the Zoom app and make sure that you are signed into the app and not just the Zoom website.

Sound issues in Zoom?

Below are a few suggestions to address sound issues you might be experiencing in a video meeting.

*** In a pinch, JOIN BY PHONE instead of COMPUTER — While continuing your video stream, if you joined computer audio automatically, you can leave the computer audio and join by phone. For visual guidance on how to either join initially by phone or transition during a meeting, see this article 

*** FOR WINDOWS 10 devices – Microsoft released a recent update that might resolve this issue. We recommend running the update when you don’t need your laptop for an hour or so since it takes nearly all of that time for the update to run. Make sure the laptop is plugged in. Close any open tabs/programs as well before clicking on the link below to run the update.

Please go to this link

Click on update now, it will download a small executable program, then run the program when it finishes downloading (should be quick) then follow the prompts to update the Windows 10 operating system.

Or you can go through the Start menu, up to PC Settings, select Update & Security, and run the 20H2 update.


  • Make sure that the Zoom app you are running is that latest version.  Zoom does not normally update on it’s own, so this has to be done manually. See this article for guidance
  • Adjust/Disable sound processing to see if that helps.

    Adjusting sound

    By default, Zoom enables a suite of sound enhancements to suppress background noise. In some environments, though, these settings can make your audio choppy. If this is the case, you can disable them.

    If you’re on a PC or Mac, start the Zoom app and click the Settings icon, then click “Audio.” Click “Advanced,” and use the drop-down menus to disable the audio processing options.

    See this page for more on the steps on the disabling and a couple more tips.

Closed Captions Zoom Update

enable captions in zoom

Closed captions are an essential accessibility tool for people who are deaf or hard of hearing (and for people with other conditions as well). Captioning is also a useful feature for many students as an additional representation of information in a virtual setting. Previously in Zoom, closed captioning was only available from third party providers or by assigning someone to type captions. Now automatic, live transcription of closed captions is an available feature in the Zoom desktop client (not the Chrome browser application). Once enabled, this automatically adds text to the bottom of the video with what the host and others are saying. Please note however, live transcription does not work in breakout rooms, only within the main session.

Zoom captions screenshot
The option to turn on Closed Captioning is in the Zoom toolbar (it may be under “More” depending on window size).

When closed captioning is enabled, as the host you will see the live-transcript below your video, but they DO NOT automatically appear for your participants. Instead, participants will receive a notification and must click the “Closed Caption” option in the menu bar (and usually click Show Subtitle) to start viewing the captions.  Once they have done so, the size of the captions can be adjusted under “Accessibility” in the video settings.

screenshot of adjusting caption font size
Adjust font size in “Video Settings,” under “Accessibility.”

Elaborating on the CC options:

  • Show Subtitles – Displays captioning on the bottom of the video. You can also select Hide Subtitle once subtitles are selected to hide them.
  • View Full Transcript – Opens a panel/pop-up and displays captions in real-time with both the speaker’s name and time stamp. In that pop-up, participants will also see a button to save the transcript (this button might not be available if the host has disabled this functionality). If enabled, click Save Transcript. A copy of the transcript as a .txt file will be downloaded to your machine.
           Note: Transcripts save up to the moment when you click Save Transcript. If you click Save Transcript multiple times throughout the event, it will overwrite/update the existing file. We recommend clicking Save Transcript just before the meeting ends to ensure you have the transcript from the entire meeting. There is no option to auto-save these transcripts.

Bear in mind:

  • Speak slowly, it will help the system capture the words you are saying
  • If there are any loud disruptions (i.e. cars outside or school bells) pause and hold your thoughts until the noise passes.

If you are hosting a meeting with live-transcription, we recommend making a comment at the beginning of your meeting informing your meeting participants that live-transcription is available and a note about how to enable them. Encourage all your students to try turning the captions on to see if it has an impact on their comprehension or capacity to pay attention.  Make it a best UDL (Universal Design for Learning) practice to enable closed captioning during all of your meetings.

For more information on UDL and closed captioning, please read this article.



Beware ‘Zoom’ Phishing and Smishing Scams among others

Avoid Zoom scam

No matter what kind of phishing or smishing message you receive, scammers hope you will click on the link they’ve included in their email or text. These links can download malware onto your computer AND/OR lead you to a page where you are prompted to enter your login information.

If the latter, you’ll arrive at a realistic, but fake Zoom login page. That fake login page is designed to get you to enter your user name and password. Scammers will use this information to log in to other services and platforms as well.

Avoid getting Scammed

Don’t click on anything! (This includes links, photos, attachments, and/or files). If you feel that this might be real, type the URL yourself in the URL bar and confirm that you can log in with your district Google credentials.

Always remember to double-check the sender address. Look carefully at the sender address as we are seeing return email addresses that closely mirror real email addresses. Also, please remember that mobile phones are an even bigger attack vector and smishing is on the rise. Return email addresses are harder to see when viewed on mobile devices. Often users on cell phones may be more distracted and in a hurry and scammers are hoping they won’t be paying close attention.

These steps should be followed for all email and text messages. While we all may be used to just clicking on links, we have to be careful that our behavior doesn’t help bad actors take advantage of us. If you get an unsolicited email or text and you aren’t sure who it really came from, NEVER click on any links, files, or images it may contain.

Resolve issues directly. As with Zoom warnings, if you receive an email or text stating there is a problem with your account and you aren’t sure if it is legitimate, contact the company directly. Go to the official website by typing the name in your browser and find the “Contact Support” feature to get help.

For more information

Read more about common phishing scams and how to avoid them at and at

If you’ve been targeted with a phishing scam, report it at Your reports can help limit scammers’ success in the future.