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Teachers: Help Your Students Resist Zoom

Item posted by Dora Scilipoti <dora> on Wed 11 Nov 2020 06:25:31 PM UTC.

New article published by the GNU Education Team.
Read and share at https://www.gnu.org/education/teachers-help-students-resist-zoom.html

Teachers: Help Your Students Resist Zoom

In the wake of the global COVID-19 emergency, the urgency of ensuring the continuity of classes left little to no space for a healthy debate on how to favor software that empowers students to learn. As a consequence, freedom-denying and privacy-violating software has seen widespread adoption in education.

Zoom, a proprietary online conferencing program that is becoming more and more dangerously popular, is an example of such harmful technology. No educational institution should ever use it.

Please don't force students to install Zoom on their computers, or to use its web version.

To all those teaching remote classes with Zoom

It is unfortunate that you are using Zoom, a nonfree program that spies on users and takes away your students' computer freedom, along with your own. By using Zoom, students are dependent on a software they cannot inspect, study or change. Their freedom to learn about technology and how it works is destroyed.

If you use Zoom, some students might decide to continue using it beyond your classes, effectively surrendering their privacy over communication, and would hence miss on the opportunity to learn how to keep control of their data and computing.

There are better programs you can use for teaching remote classes, free/libre programs like Jitsi or BigBlueButton. By choosing these and other free programs for education, you are enabling motivated students to learn about the software they use everyday, and some of them one day will be able to adapt it to their needs, serving a larger community. Those who will not pursue such curiosity, will still benefit from using a software that respects their freedoms and doesn't spy on them.

Choosing free software for your classes will positively impact life-long learning, a crucial skill for any student. In fact, students will learn that it is in their power to run, study, modify and share any free software they wish, according to their own curiosity and needs. In contrast, by adopting proprietary software, students are taught to become mere consumers of a user interface, with no power over the technology they are using.

If you independently opted for using Zoom in your classes, we urge you to switch to software that respects your students' and your freedom.

If Zoom was imposed on you by your school's administration, we recommend you to contact them and ask to drop Zoom in favour of a free program. Ask other teachers for help, and explain why software freedom is paramount for education.

Last resort

If you really can't remove Zoom, we propose this temporary workaround only as a last resort to help your students avoid using Zoom in the short term. We do not recommend it as a stable, long-term solution.

  • A day or two before the class, post the visual materials for each day in some freedom-respecting way, so students can download them.Any simple old-fashioned web site is suitable for this.
  • Encourage students to phone the Zoom server; tell them the phone number and the code for the conversation. That way they can listen to the audio of the session, while they follow the visual materials alongside.

life.) You could take this opportunity and talk about free software, and why software freedom is even more important today.

  • Make a recording of the Zoom conversation for each session, and post it in a freedom-respecting way soon after that session ends.

If there were situations in which this solution is not feasible, such as examinations, and students refuse to use Zoom, then you, as a teacher, could set up a different meeting in parallel or an alternative exam session using one of the free programs mentioned above. Another possibility is to provide a computer in your school with Zoom installed, and let the student join the exam using that computer. That way, the student won't be forced to install non-free software on their computer, and the use of Zoom will be limited to the exam. If you opt for this choice, we recommend the school computer to run a free software distribution.

Simply by telling students about this possibility, which you can do more than once, you will help inspire resistance
to Zoom and other freedom-trampling programs, and avoid inculcating surrender.

You will still be using Zoom, which is deleterious for your freedom. Some of your students will probably still be using Zoom, which is deleterious for their freedom. But, thanks to your efforts, some of them will avoid using Zoom.

Please note that the workarounds we suggest here are only meant as a short-term solution to help teachers react quickly to oppose the use of nonfree software for remote lectures rather than deferring to the new academic year. In the long-term, it is crucial to migrate to free/libre software and online conferencing programs like Jitsi and BigBlueButton.

All software and technology as a whole must be free, and this is a small step towards that goal. Saying NO to unjust computing even once is progress.

See examples of how people are successfully resisting nonfree software.

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