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Introduction

Welcome to the Owl Labs flock!

We’re honored to be supporting more than 2,000 K-12 schools, colleges, and universities as they prepare for virtual and hybrid learning during the 2020-2021 school year. We know that this year has presented many challenges to educators, school administrators, students, and their families, and we hope we can be a part of the solution as schools drive to achieve student and engagement and learning amidst the “new normal” of COVID-19.

We also know that schools are doing a lot of training and professional development to prepare for the upcoming school year. This guide was created to help you prepare for hybrid and distance learning using the Meeting Owl so you can focus on your students without worrying about your technology. The guide covers:

Unboxing and registering your Meeting Owl
How to set up your Meeting Owl and arrange your desks in the classroom
Key Meeting Owl features and how to use them
Best practices for hybrid and distance learning with the Meeting Owl

We hope this guide helps you get acquainted with the Meeting Owl so your students can learn from anywhere and you can seamlessly teach from anywhere. Keep this guide bookmarked or print it out to keep in your classroom for easy reference when you need it, and as always, we’re available to help via phone or email for anything else that comes up.

Thank you for being an Owl Labs customer! We appreciate your support and look forward to supporting you this school year.

Hoot hoot,

owl-labs-intro-sig

Frank Weishaupt

CEO of Owl Labs

hello@owllabs.com
+1 (857) 214-4341

Unboxing & Registration

There are two simple steps for getting your Meeting Owl online for the first time: unboxing and registration.

Unboxing


When you open your Meeting Owl packaging for the first time, you’ll find:

1. Your Meeting Owl
2. USB cable
3. Power cable
4. Power supply
5. Quick Start Guide and other product documentation

To get your Meeting Owl ready for your first hybrid class: 

1. Peel the protective plastic film off of the 360° lens on top of the Meeting Owl

2. Plug the power cable into the power supply, then plug it into an outlet and into the round port on the bottom of the Meeting Owl

3. Plug the USB cable into the computer where you'll be running your video conferencing software and into the rectangular port on the bottom of the Meeting Owl

Owl Setup Illustration-1

Registration

Next, you’ll need to register your Meeting Owl Pro by downloading the Meeting Owl mobile app for your iOS or Android device. 

(Note: Device registration is required to use your Meeting Owl Pro. It’s not required to use the original Meeting Owl, but it helps us keep you informed on which of your Owls are up-to-date or offline so we can better support you.)

1. Ensure the Meeting Owl is plugged into both a power source and the computer you’ll be using to run your video conferencing meeting.

2. Download the Meeting Owl mobile app in the App Store for iOS devices or the Google Play Store for Android devices.

3. Open the Meeting Owl app on your mobile device.

4. Select your Meeting Owl from the Nearby Owls list. This may be labeled “Meeting Owl,” followed by an 8-digit serial number.

5. Select Start.

6. Enter a name for your Meeting Owl and select Next. (You can name your Meeting Owl after your classroom, your teachers or professors, or anything you want!)

7. Enter your name, your school’s name, and your work email address to register your Meeting Owl. Then, select Register. (You will only need to do this once.) Now, your Meeting Owl Pro is unlocked for use!

8. Select Connect to connect your Meeting Owl to your WiFi network and receive automatic software updates. If you do not wish to connect your Meeting Owl to WiFi, skip this step to complete the setup process.

Meeting Owl Registration Walkthrough GIF

Once you’ve completed the registration process, your Meeting Owl is ready to set up in your classroom. Next, we’ll dig into the ways you can place your Meeting Owl and set up your classroom for best results during hybrid classes.

Placement & Setup

The Meeting Owl doesn’t require permanent installation to work in your classroom, but there are a few different ways to place your Meeting Owl in your classroom to ensure collaboration and communication are simple and clear for you and your students. We’ll dig into the best ways to place your Meeting Owl, as well as the best ways to arrange your classroom, next.

Placement Options

 

1. Desk or Tabletop Placement

The easiest way to set up the Meeting Owl is to place it on a level surface, such as a desk or a table, at the front of your classroom. The Meeting Owl will work perfectly with this setup, but we don’t recommend it for classes where you anticipate needing to move the Meeting Owl around to different locations frequently, as this setup will require you to move both the Meeting Owl and the desk or table to a different part of your classroom. 

2. Cart or Stand Placement

Some schools place the Meeting Owl on a mobile classroom cart, along with a TV or monitor where remote students can be displayed. This can be a more convenient and affordable placement option, as many classrooms already have rolling carts to display content on TVs or monitors, that give teachers more flexibility during discussions.

(Pro tip: Attaching adhesive Velcro strips to the bottom of your Meeting Owl and the surface you place it on will ensure that it doesn’t fall onto the ground if you or a student bump into the cart or table.) 

Here’s the stand we recommend for use with the Meeting Owl.

3. Tripod Mounting

Many schools mount their Meeting Owl on a tripod, which gives you more flexibility to move your Meeting Owl into different spaces in the classroom depending on your needs. The Meeting Owl Pro includes a universal tripod mount so you can easily screw the tripod plate onto the bottom of the Meeting Owl Pro and mount it on the tripod. Watch our installation video below for more detailed instructions.

Here’s the tripod we recommend for use with the Meeting Owl. If you choose to use another tripod, make sure the tripod screw length is no greater than 5/16” (8mm) long.

4. Ceiling Mounting

Some colleges and universities with circular lecture halls choose to hang their Meeting Owl Pros upside-down from the ceiling so remote students can hear and see everyone in larger classroom spaces. 

Stadium Lecture Room- Bat

The Meeting Owl Pro can be mounted to a ceiling mount bracket, which would then be attached to your ceiling uses included self-tapping screws. If you plan to mount your Meeting Owl Pro to a drop ceiling, support the mount on the back side of the tile using toggle bolts or by driving the included self-tapping screws through the tile into a piece of plywood. 

Position the Meeting Owl Pro so the lens is approximately 6-7 feet (1.8-2 meters) above the ground in the center of the classroom or lecture hall, and adjust the height according to the best position for your use case. Then, using the Meeting Owl app, the Meeting Owl Pro’s Stage View can be inverted for remote participants. 

Note: If you'll be walking under the Meeting Owl, ensure you hang it with extra clearance, and ensure seated participants sit at least 3 feet (1 meter) away. There will be no visibility directly underneath the Meeting Owl.

Here’s the bracket we recommend for use with the Meeting Owl Pro, along with our full instructions for installation.

(Note: This feature is only available for use with the Meeting Owl Pro.)

Next, we’ll dig into our classroom setup recommendations so you can configure your desks and whiteboard for use with the Meeting Owl Pro.

Classroom Setup Options

Below are the optimal classroom setup options we recommend for use with the Meeting Owl. All students should be seated within 12 feet (3.5 meters) of the original Meeting Owl or 18 feet (5.5 meters) of the Meeting Owl Pro to ensure they can be heard clearly when speaking by remote students.

1. U-Shaped Desk Arrangement

The U-shaped or horseshoe desk arrangement is best for classes where teachers will be using the whiteboard. Place the Meeting Owl at the front of the horseshoe desk arrangement for an unobstructed view of the whiteboard.

EDU U Shape Diagram

2. Circular Desk Arrangement

The cluster desk arrangement is best for classes where students have to work together in groups or where teachers plan to walk around the classroom while lecturing. Place the Meeting Owl in the center of the classroom so remote students can see all of their classmates.

EDU Harkness Diagram

 

3. Cluster Desk Arrangement

The circular desk arrangement is best for discussion-based classes where teachers don’t need to write on the whiteboard. Place the Meeting Owl in the center of the circle or table so remote students can be a part of the discussion.

EDU Cluster Diagram

Now that you’ve set up your Meeting Owl in your classroom, we’ll review some of the key features of the Meeting Owl and the Meeting Owl app you can use to manage your classroom experience.

Using the Meeting Owl

Below, we’ll give you a rundown of how to get started using the Meeting Owl, as well as a tour through the key camera and app features you’ll be using.

Getting Started with the Meeting Owl

Here are the basic steps to get started using the Meeting Owl with your preferred video conferencing software once you’ve registered your Meeting Owl and set it up in your classroom:

1. Make sure your Meeting Owl is plugged into a power source and your computer. When the Meeting Owl’s eyes stop pulsing and you hear a “hoot,” your Meeting Owl is ready to use.

2. Launch your preferred web-based video conferencing software, such as Zoom, Google Meet, Skype for Business, or Cisco Webex. (Here’s a full list of the software the Meeting Owl is compatible with.)

3. Enter your Meeting ID or start a new video conferencing meeting.

4. Select the Meeting Owl as your camera, microphone, and speaker.

(For detailed instructions for using the Meeting Owl with specific platforms, read our support articles.)

Camera Features

Here are some of the key Meeting Owl features you’ll see and use when your hybrid classes begin:

1. Stage View

The Meeting Owl Stage View is the split-screen that’s visible to remote students showing who’s speaking in the classroom, as well as the 360° Pano view of the entire classroom. Here’s what will appear on remote students’ computer screens at home.

meeting owl stage view

2. Volume Controls

The Meeting Owl has manual volume controls along the bottom of the device to raise or lower the Owl’s speaker volume for in-classroom attendees, or to mute the Owl’s microphone.

Owl mute button

Meeting Owl App Features

Within the Meeting Owl app, the following features are available to customize your video conferencing experience in the classroom.

Camera Lock and Zoom

The Meeting Owl focuses on whoever is speaking and moving in the classroom automatically, but you can use the Meeting Owl app to focus on a specific area of your classroom, such as the whiteboard or a presenter, without moving.

(Note: Meeting Owl Pro users can use the Camera Lock and Zoom feature to lock their camera, zoom in, and pan and tilt their camera vertically and horizontally. Original Meeting Owl users can use the Camera Lock feature to lock their camera and pan their camera horizontally.)

To use the Camera Lock and Zoom feature on the Meeting Owl Pro:

1. Select your Owl from the Nearby Owls list.

2. Select Camera Controls.
3. Select Camera Lock and Zoom.
4. Select Take Control.

Android:
 
1. Pan: Slide the frame left or right to pan the camera left or right.
2. Tilt: Move the slider up to tilt the camera up, and down to tilt it back down to center.
3. Zoom: Adjust the zoom slider up and down ( - / + ) to zoom in and out.
 
iOS:
 
1. Pan and Tilt: Drag the frame horizontally or vertically to change the Owl's focus. 
2. Zoom: Adjust the zoom slider up and down ( - / + ) to zoom in and out.

5. Select Reset to Auto Focus to reset to auto-focusing behavior.

Meeting Owl Camera Lock and Zoom GIF

To use the Camera Lock feature on the original Meeting Owl:

  1. Select your Owl from the Nearby Owls list.
  2. Select Camera Controls.
  3. Select Camera Lock.
  4. Select Take Control.
  5. Move the slider back and forth to select the area you would like to see locked on the screen.

6. Select Reset to Auto Focus to reset to auto-focusing behavior.

Passcode Lock

School administrators or IT managers can use the Passcode Lock feature to password-protect the Meeting Owl’s in-app settings so only teachers and administrators can adjust them.

To set your Passcode Lock:

1. Select your Owl from the Nearby Owls list.

2. Select About your Owl.

3. Scroll down and select Set Owl Passcode.

4. Enter a numeric passcode to restrict who can access your Owl's settings.

Meeting Owl Passcode Lock GIF

Inverted Meeting Owl Pro View

You can use the Meeting Owl app to invert your Meeting Owl Pro’s view to support a ceiling-mounted upside-down installation. 

Meeting Owl Vertical Flip GIF

To invert your Meeting Owl Pro’s view:

1. Select your Owl from the Nearby Owls list.

2. Select About your Owl.

3. Scroll down and select Vertically Flip Owl Camera View.

4. Select Yes to turn on this feature

(Note: This feature is only available for use with the latest Meeting Owl Pro software Learn how to update your Meeting Owl software here.)

360° Pano Removal

For presentations, tests, or any other settings where the 360° Pano strip isn’t necessary for your remote students, Meeting Owl Pro users can disable the 360° Pano strip and re-enable it when they want to show a 360° view of the classroom.

To disable 360° Pano:

1. Select your Meeting Owl from the Nearby Owls list.

2. Select Camera Controls.

3. Toggle the 360° Pano Off to turn off the 360° panoramic strip. Toggle it On to turn it back on.

360° Pano GIF-1

(Note: This feature is only available for use with the latest Meeting Owl Pro software Learn how to update your Meeting Owl software here.)

Pro Connect

Pro Connect allows you to pair two Meeting Owl Pros together to increase their video and audio reach to support larger classrooms. If your classroom is so large that all of your in-classroom students aren’t visible to remote students, or if your in-classroom students can’t safely social distance while remaining within the 18-foot (5.5-meter) audio pickup radius of the Meeting Owl Pro, Pro Connect is a perfect solution.

To connect two Meeting Owl Pros using Pro Connect:

1. Place your Meeting Owl Pros 6-8 feet (1.5-2.5 meters) apart from each other. Plug both Meeting Owl Pros into your power source and plug one Meeting Owl Pro into your in-room computer. (This will be the “Primary” Meeting Owl Pro and should be placed at the front of the classroom.)

2. Select your Primary Meeting Owl Pro from the Nearby Owls list.

3. Select Pro Connect.

4. Choose your Secondary Meeting Owl Pro.

5. Press Pair.

(Note: This feature is only available for use with the Meeting Owl Pro in the United States and Canada.)

Next, we’ll dive into how to use the Meeting Owl with other in-classroom technologies you may already be using.

Classroom Technology

You may already have other tools and technologies installed in your classroom that you want to use with your Meeting Owl, or you may be interested in purchasing new compatible classroom technology. In this section, we’ll run through the compatibility requirements for different tools you may be using, as well as how to use them with your Meeting Owl.

Personal Computers

The Meeting Owl works with most computer operating systems that are able to run web-based video conferencing software. You can use your personal computer to display remote students on your video conferencing software, or you can connect it to a TV or monitor via HDMI to display them on a larger screen so they’re more visible for in-classroom students.

The Meeting Owl works with USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, and it’s been tested to work well with these USB-C port cables and adapters

The Meeting Owl works with the following operating systems:

1. Windows 7 or higher
2. OSX 10.8 or higher
3. Chrome OS
4. Limited Support on Ubuntu 16.04 or higher (some video applications will work, others may not); may work on other Linux-based systems

Mac Minis, Chromeboxes, and Other Small Computers

If you’re using a small computer, such as a Mac Mini or Chromebox, as your in-room computer to run video conferencing software, the Meeting Owl works similarly to the way it connects to a typical personal computer. It connects to the Mac Mini or Chromebox via USB, and the Mac Mini or Chrombox connects to a larger monitor or TV screen to display remote students via HDMI.

Zoom Rooms and Other In-Room Video Conferencing Systems

The Meeting Owl is compatible with Zoom Rooms, GoToRooms, or other in-room video conferencing systems by connecting to your in-room meeting computer via USB.

For further reading and setup instructions, read our in-room video conferencing systems comparison guide to see how each system works with the Meeting Owl, or read our Zoom Rooms setup guide.

Projectors

If you prefer to use a projector to transmit what’s on your computer onto the whiteboard to make it easier for in-classroom students to see your remote students, you can connect the Meeting Owl to your computer via USB connection as normal, and connect your computer to the projector via VGA connection. When you do this, make sure you’ve selected the Meeting Owl as your video conferencing software’s audio source, as some projectors can transmit audio and may be listed as an option.

Next, we’ll dig into the best practices we recommend for using the Meeting Owl during your hybrid classes.

Best Practices for Using the Meeting Owl

The Meeting Owl was originally designed for meetings in small and medium conference rooms and boardrooms, so we wanted to lay out our best practices and recommendations for using the Meeting Owl successfully in a classroom environment, where your classroom might be larger and your students may behave differently than in a typical business meeting.

Ideal Environment for the Meeting Owl

1. Installed on a level surface at the front of center of the classroom, depending on if you need remote students to look at in-classroom students or the whiteboard

2. Students seated within 18 feet (5.5 meters) of the Meeting Owl Pro or within 12 feet (3.5 meters) of the original Meeting Owl 

3. Teachers and students facing the Meeting Owl when they speak and raise hands so the Meeting Owl knows who to focus on

4. Minimal side chatter or movement during classroom presentations or discussions

 

Speaking and Moving During Class

We know that asking students, particularly younger ones, not to speak or move out of turn during class is a challenge. The Meeting Owl decides who to auto-focus on based on sound and movement, so it will shift focus onto students who are moving around and talking or making other noise during your discussions. 

Below are a few of our suggestions for minimizing those distractions while still being mindful of your students’ shorter attention spans:

1. Schedule regular breaks throughout the school day so students have time and space to get their energy out without disrupting the flow of classroom discussions.

2. Use the Camera Lock feature where it makes sense to hide in-classroom distractions from view of your remote students. This feature will force the Meeting Owl to focus on you or another presenter in the classroom and ignore other movement or speaking in the room.

3. Periodically hold less structured discussions using the Meeting Owl, such as Show and Tell or talking about fun topics or personal stories, so younger students can engage and have fun with the Meeting Owl outside of your lessons and discussions.

Speaker Tracking

When you first start using your Meeting Owl during classes, you may notice an initial 3-5 second lag before the Meeting Owl begins auto-focusing on a new speaker. The Meeting Owl isn't strictly a motion-tracking camera — it relies on movement and sound in your classroom to intelligently decide where to auto-focus to support collaborative discussion between multiple active speakers.

To help the Meeting Owl auto-focus on you more easily when teaching, stay in the same general area of your classroom while you're lecturing. If you're someone who likes to walk and talk at the same time, make sure you're speaking consistently and not taking too long of pauses so the Meeting Owl can see and hear where you are in the room. If you need to take a pause, that's okay too, but the Meeting Owl will need another 3-5 seconds to catch up to you when you start speaking again.

In-Room Noise Reduction

Many schools have powerful ventilation, heating, and cooling systems that can produce a lot of ambient noise for the Meeting Owl to process during classes, so we have a feature to turn on stronger Noise Suppression within the Meeting Owl app.

To turn on Noise Suppression:

1. Select your Owl from the Nearby Owls list.

2. Select About your Owl.
3. From within the About your Owl screen, tap the Software Serial row 5 to 8 times quickly.
4. Scroll to the bottom of the screen.
5. Under Debug, select Audio Settings.

6. Tap the Enable Noise Suppression switch to turn on noise suppression.

Meeting Owl Noise Suppression GIF

If turning on Noise Suppression in the Meeting Owl app doesn’t resolve the noise issues, there are a few other inexpensive ways you can improve the acoustics of your larger classrooms for optimal Meeting Owl performance:

1. Lay down area rugs and carpeting. 
2. Install fabric window curtains.
3. Use upholstered furniture where possible.
4. Install soundproofing foam onto the walls and doors of your classroom, or around the location your Meeting Owl will be most frequently, such as the front of the classroom near the whiteboard.

Remote Student Engagement

A key aspect of hybrid or remote instruction will be remote student engagement. It will be easier to keep in-classroom students focused since they’ll be present with you, but for your remote students, they will be learning and participating from home, where they don’t get the benefit of interacting with their peers and may be distracted by what’s going on in their homes.

It’s critical that remote students get an equalized learning experience during virtual or hybrid instruction, so below are a few of our suggestions for using the Meeting Owl to facilitate their participation:

1. Alternate between calling on in-classroom and remote students for participation. Use your video conferencing software to show all of your remote students’ faces using the “Gallery View” or “Grid View” on your classroom monitor so you can easily call on them and alternate to make sure all of your students are engaged.

2. Move the Meeting Owl into the center of a desk cluster or circle so remote students can join small group discussions.

3. Call on remote students to read out of textbooks, answer homework or quiz questions, or lead presentations so there’s a balance of in-classroom and remote speakers.

Screensharing

If you want to share a presentation on your monitor or TV in your classroom from your computer, be mindful that this may hide the view of your remote meeting participants and make it more difficult for remote students to ask questions or participate.

If you anticipate needing to screenshare presentations or other materials frequently in your classroom, you may want to consider setting up dual monitors or TV screens so you and your in-classroom students can see shared content and remote students at the same time. Different video conferencing software have different instructions for setting up dual monitors, so you’ll want to consult their resources for setting this up.

Whiteboarding

For classes where you need remote students to be able to focus on what you’re writing on the whiteboard, use the Camera Lock and Zoom feature on the Meeting Owl to lock your Meeting Owl’s view on the whiteboard. For best results, we recommend whiteboarding with the Meeting Owl using black or dark blue dry erase markers.

 

Social Distancing

The Meeting Owl Pro has an audio pickup range of 18 feet (5.5 meters), with a 12-foot (3.5-meter) range for the original Meeting Owl, so social distancing in your classroom will be best achieved with the Meeting Owl Pro. This can be achieved through your desk arrangement for smaller classes or by using breakout classrooms for larger classes.

Masks, Face Shields, and Partitions

If you plan to use masks, face shields, and/or partitions in your classroom, the Meeting Owl will still work properly to auto-focus on whoever is speaking in the room. Teachers and students may need to speak more loudly than they are used to or repeat questions that are asked in the classroom while wearing masks in order to be heard clearly by remote students. 

If in-classroom students will be wearing a mask and speaking for a longer period of time for a presentation or leading a discussion, they should be seated in closer proximity to the Meeting Owl to ensure remote students can hear them clearly.

Screen Shot 2020-09-09 at 6.21.15 PM

Satellite Classrooms

For larger class sizes where social distancing within an 18-foot (5.5-meter) radius of the Meeting Owl Pro isn’t possible, some schools use satellite classrooms to safely accommodate larger hybrid class sizes.

To set up satellite classrooms, you’ll need 2 Meeting Owls, 2 in-room computers, 2 monitors or TV screens, and a proctor.

1. Connect one Meeting Owl to the in-room computer in the classroom where you’ll be actively lecturing.

2. Connect the second Meeting Owl to the second in-room computer in the satellite classroom where the proctor will be supervising students. (If the two classrooms share an adjoining wall, ensure that the Meeting Owls aren't placed directly against the wall to avoid feedback during classes.) 

3. Launch your video conferencing software on the primary in-room computer where you’ll be lecturing.

4. Invite your remote students and the proctor to join the video conferencing meeting.

5. Select the Meeting Owl as your video, audio, and speaker source on the in-room computer in the satellite classroom.

Here's what an Owl-to-Owl call looks like in action:

Desk Arrangement

Below are the desk arrangements we recommend that allow for social distancing while still staying within the range of the Meeting Owl Pro. This is most easily achieved in classes with 10-15 students in the classroom at a time:

1. U-Shaped Desk Arrangement

EDU U Shape Diagram

2. Circular Desk Arrangement

EDU Harkness Diagram

3. Cluster Desk Arrangement

EDU Cluster Diagram

Next, we'll share some of the accessories we recommend to improve your experience with the Meeting Owl in certain settings.

 

Recommended Accessories

These are the accessories we recommend to enhance your Meeting Owl experience in the classroom.

Owl Lock Adapter

Our Owl Lock Adapter locks your Meeting Owl in place so it can’t fly out of your classroom. It also helps keep your cords organized!

kensington lock

USB Extension Cable

USB or power extension cables may be necessary, depending where you want to place your Meeting Owl and how you want to install it. We sell a 16-foot/5-meter USB extension cable, or you can purchase another one from our approved list of USB extension cables.

usb extension

Owl Care

For advanced device protection and support, we offer Owl Care, which includes the Owl Lock Adapter, our USB extension cable, an extended 3-year warranty, a one-time free device replacement, and unlimited end user onboarding and training.

owl care-1

 

Carrying Case

If you’re sharing your Meeting Owl with other classrooms, or if you want to be extra-cautious to prevent any damage, you can purchase our recommended protective case or carrying bag to keep it safe.

Tripod

For tripod installations of your Meeting Owl Pro, we recommend you purchase this tripod. If you purchase a different tripod, make sure the screw length is no greater than 5/16” or 8mm long.

Conclusion

We’re honored to be supporting schools, colleges, and universities this year as they prepare for hybrid and distance learning. We know this school year will present a lot of challenges for educators and administrators, and we’re here to help with troubleshooting or answering questions whenever you need us.

We’re available Monday-Friday from 8am-8pm EST at +1 (857) 214-4341, or you can contact us via email at support@owllabs.com.

Thank you for being a part of the Owl Labs flock!

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