We are in a time which values house slippers over work boots, ceramic mugs over travel tumblers, and computer keyboards over car keys. While we are all home, there are plenty of opportunities to stay connected to our friends, family, classmates, and colleges. Platforms like Zoom and Discord have features that make connecting fun, and the community around us is already finding exciting and creative ways to stay in touch. I wanted to take this time to share with you some of my favorite apps and ideas.
Zoom is well known on our new virtual campus, as many professors have chosen this platform to host lectures, or to hold office hours, but Zoom can also be used outside of class. With friends, you can make more use of Zoom’s green screen feature. Make it look like you are at the Morris Library, on the beach, or better yet, set the background to a silly photo of a friend. Zoom allows screen and computer audio sharing, so movies are a go on Zoom! Have one friend share the screen and you all can watch together! Virtual game nights are also in the cards. Pictionary can be played using Zoom’s whiteboard functionality, and other games such as Clue or Exploding Kittens have online versions, so it is definitely worth searching for an online version of your favorite board game. I really like Jackbox, which is downloadable to your computer, and allows you to host a variety of fun mini-games that others can participate in via their smartphones. This works the same way as the movie, a friend with Jackbox can share their screen and audio, and others can view the game on their screens as well!
Discord is traditionally used for collaborating remotely while playing video games, but it finds a second use for the day-to-day person. One of the advantages of Discord is that you can create subgroups for both written messages, and spoken conversations. For example, in my Organic Chemistry group chat, there is a specific text-channel labeled “Problem Sets,” so all information relevant to our problem sets can be in one place. There is a voice-channel labeled the same, so anyone in the class currently working on the homework set can speak on the channel to work together. Another wonderful feature is the ability to create and upload your own custom emojis. If your friend made a funny face in lecture, it can be an emoji! If you found a cute puppy photo on twitter the other day, it can be an emoji! One of the custom emojis for the Chemistry class is a small picture of the commonly used molecule, benzene.
I’d like to end this post with some honorable mentions, activities that I have not tried myself, but seem like a good use of our quarantine time.
Share a Google Sheets document with a friend. You will be able to see which box you and your friend have highlighted. One person starts off as “it.” and then uses their arrow keys to select adjacent boxes and “run” away from the other person. If you select the same box, the other person is “it.”
This idea is best carried out through a platform like Zoom, so that screen sharing is a possibility. You invite friends to a Zoom call, and ask them to come prepared with a short presentation on a topic of their choice. This could be as researched as “The History of the Penny” or as passionate as “Hamburgers ARE Sandwiches.” Grab some popcorn, sit back and watch what your friends have made to present, and don’t forget to make some slides of your own.