How to Use mmhmm to Engage Students in Online Learning

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Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

The global pandemic of 2020 forced many classrooms into online or hybrid learning environments. For educators that had to teach like this, it was not familiar territory. They had to adapt quickly and learn new ways to engage and motivate students who were not physically present any more. Technology helped teachers navigate many of these scenarios, and it continues to have a profound effect. That’s why apps like mmhmm are quickly becoming a popular addition to a teacher’s toolkit. Here’s why.

What is mmhmm?

It’s the brainchild of Phil Libin, the former Evernote CEO, and it’s designed to take your Zoom (or Google Meet) calls to another level. With mmhmm, you can superimpose yourself on top of a virtual background, just like you can in Zoom or Google Meet. However, unlike Zoom and Google Meet, your virtual background could be a slide deck, a video, an animated GIF, a web browser, a PDF, or even your iOS device. Best of all, you can quickly switch between all of these backgrounds with just a click. It’s fast and it’s easy to learn. You can use mmhmm with or without a green screen, but your end results will be better with a well-lit green screen, should you happen to have one.

a screenshot of the mmhmm app for MacOS

How Does mmhmm Work?

You can download mmhmm for MacOS at mmhmm.com, or sign up to join the private beta for Windows users. Once installed, you can use mmhmm in a video call by sharing your screen and selecting the mmhmm app. The app can be pre-loaded with all the media you want to share with your audience, but all your students will see is you and the backgrounds you choose to reveal. Want to present over the top of your favorite slide deck? You can do that either by saving your deck as image files and adding them to mmhmm, or by cueing up your slides in a web browser and sharing your screen inside the mmhmm app.

When presenting, you can move yourself around the screen by clicking and dragging on your face. You can also shrink, grow or hide yourself to make sure your background slides are not hidden from view. Slides can be shown full screen or in a newsreader-style box above your shoulder. When you don’t need a slide as your background, you can turn them off and switch to one of the many virtual background rooms that come with the app, or upload your own virtual background and use that instead.

How Can Educators Use mmhmm?

Lots of teachers are already using mmhmm to provide engaging online lessons for students and you can too. You can use it synchronously during a Zoom or Meet video call, or you can record your lesson ahead of time with the mmhmm app and send it out for students to watch asynchronously. Here is a video of Lorrie Salome, a fifth grade math teacher based in Austin, Texas. I think gives you a great idea of some of the things that you can do with the mmhmm platform.

In this next example, Tamera Miyasato takes advantage of the co-pilot feature that allows for two presenters to be a part of the same presentation. When you present with another person, both of you have control over the background slides. The video below shows an example of the Indigenious Storytime project that she worked on with Red Cloud Indian School. As you watch you can see how they use the co-pilot feature to switch between English and an Indigenous language to tell the story.

What Does mmhmm Cost?

For 60-minutes a day, all mmhmm users get access to the basic features of mmhmm as well as the entire Premium Tools set that includes customizable rooms, presenter controls, and other useful features like laser pointers. If you need more than 60-minutes a day, the premium plan will cost you $9.99 a month, or $99 per year.

However, mmhmm Premium is available free of charge to students and educators for one year. This gives you access to everything that the app has to offer and allows you plenty of time to try it out and see if it could work for your needs. To get started, download the mmhmm app and create a new account. Then, log in at account.mmhmm.app/education and fill out the form with your school email address in order to get verified for a premium account.

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