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13Apr 2020

Zoombombing Incidents – Why Schools Need To Use Safety Controls

Posted by : Mradula Singh
Category : Founders Desk
Date :

Lack of focus on online safety and policy by private schools is well known to everyone; the upshot is Zoombombing incidents, once again highlighting schools’ approach to quick fix methods in a race to go online. Read what is going wrong as schools have zoomed started online teaching.

 Everyone in schools is adjusting to the new territory they were thrown into during this pandemic crisis. In recent weeks millions of individuals, schools businesses adopted Zoom as a meeting platform in an increasingly remote world when shuttering commenced as the only measure during COVID-19 disease was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

And suddenly with the new territory came a new threat called “Zoombombing” or "Zoom raiding”. Some uninvited participants in Zoom classrooms and meetings started posting pictures of pornographic images and racial slurs. The term Zoombombing was non-existent untill a couple of weeks ago.

Schools Tried Quick Fix Methods To Go Online

As fast the homebound work increased so were the quick-fix methods adopted by the schools who decided to go online. They assumed online school or classes as same as the physical classes. All these include our little tikes in preschools as well. The only tool required to hold such online school or classes was an online platform which could connect a large number of students to teachers. The answer was there in Zoom, the easiest to use and most features required for live classes and whoa! It comes free for 40 minutes, good enough for one school period. 



Pertinent Questions Neglected In Hurry To Be The First Few Schools To Go Online 

The private schools in urban pockets raced to be the first in adopting technology without evaluation, chose the Zoom platform. Within days social media flooded with Zoom class videos and announcements - “We are live on Zoom”. In this hurry, all the cyber safety norms were kept aside. Children were shown in the gallery view screen of the computers with the names, and the preschool teacher was shown holding the biggest of the scissors in an effort to show her craft skills to an age group of 3 to 5 years old. 

As the torrent of videos, photos and screens started streaming on my social media feed I was wondering -

Did the schools know online safety features on Zoom?

Besides- Did they ponder to evaluate the online platform? Were the teachers equipped with devices to work on online lessons and classes? Did the school analyse the impact on children as young as preschool and primary schoolers? Did they consider the parents’ side - availability of data and devices?

And Zoombombing media reports were shared by parents…

The schools around the world reported Zoombombing and the parents were vigilant enough to bring the media reports to schools. Some schools sought help from the experts and looked into online safety features of Zoom to safeguard the live classes. As we run the campaign for cyber safety among schools my phone buzzed and WhatsApp messages started pouring in from school teachers and principals – there were only two types of messages:

1 train our teachers for Zoom and

2 how do we tackle the questions parents are asking by sharing the media report links about Zoombombing?

The schools around the world reported Zoombombing but not a single case reported so far from the Indian school?

What is going wrong as schools have zoomed started online teaching?

Let us understand the ground realities of schools who are conducting online classes. It is a great opportunity for edtech companies who were all out persuading the schools to adopt technology, the urgency to go online also shifted the positive mindset to adopt online learning. In an effort, I dug a little deeper and connected with educators personally. Here are some of the findings I gathered after interacting with 50 schools in India personally on call who confirmed they are 100% prepared to go online (besides 100 or 120 schools survey and polls on social media platforms) yet the findings show the downside of the preparedness:

  • time spent on training the teachers - a day or two
  • know-how of use of the devices - only smartphones or basic work on desktop
  • presentation skills to conduct live sessions-  hesitant to face the camera
  • Engagement tools knowledge during live sessions -  nil
  • Difference between physical and online lessons- Power Point presentations and PDF textbook links from NCERT or private publishers incase of other boards
  • Homework in the form of - Lesson 1 Question 1 to 5 through worksheet like the traditional school
  • Communication with parents and students besides live lessons - Email or ERP instruction uploads and WhatsApp messages.
  • Pre-work on planning - a week or a couple of days
  • Pedagogical disposition away from child-centric learning approaches - Not known
  • Last but not the least lack of cyber safety skills and knowledge 

“Sheila Tandon a teacher who has been a technology enthusiast, says, “I am working with colleagues who are trying to learn in a week what I’ve spent learning in the last 3-4 years. Needless to say. it is impossible. I am in a place to fine tune use of the technology and be responsive to students' needs.”

All the other online learning platforms for schools such as Microsoft Education, Google Classroom along with dozens of easy to use tools to enhance the teaching are either unheard of or seems to be the technology for the future. Most of the time, it is also cost-cutting by private schools on building foundations that play critical factors in avoiding incidents like Zoombombing. 

Zoombombing has gone viral, are we aware of other cyber safety breaches that could be stopped with awareness and education?

The online safety education is last in the list of priorities for the 99% of the schools, who charge enormous amounts as fees and burn a big hole in the pockets of parents but do not want to spend on the basic training and evaluation of the online learning tools.

The private schools in urban pockets along with towns and cities of tier II and III are using technology for sending worksheets through email, availing third party services, elogistics platforms and many more that save a lot of money for schools in the name of “paperless school”, “21st century school”, other jargons for mere marketing and building visibility to lure the parents. 

Are the schools following best practices with the student and school data privacy, following protocols to work with the third party vendors by building robust agreements to protect schools from becoming victims of cyber threats? 

The reality is school based technology infrastructure is expanding making it possible for all schools to be connected but almost every school management lacks a focus on policy for online safety, data protection and data sharing. An important piece that requires continuous attention and practice is to develop and deliver training for teachers, IT administrators and educate students to become digital citizens -  Cyber Warrior Ambassadors

Along with the school management, the Government and school boards too are not looking into this very important piece of missing link for long term policy formulation and regulation to survive in the technology era in the future and thrive during the pandemic crisis as faced globally today. 

How Can You Protect Yourself From Zoombombing?

Support is available

We at NexSchools have trained hundreds of teachers for online learning best practices and continuously supporting the efforts of the schools to work in the  interest of children in this difficult time.

Zoom video conferencing platform is also responding by adding new security and privacy measures to prevent Zoombombing.

You can contact us for teachers' training.

There are some simple steps Zoom users can take to protect their meetings, events and teaching sessions. Here are quick recommendations for making your Zoom more secure:

  1. Don’t share your meetings or classroom sessions public by posting on various WhatsApp groups or social media platforms.

  2. Always share passwords either to your guest list through the email registrations or closed group.

  3. Zoom has lately enabled the waiting room feature to give users full control of the admittance of guests.

  4. Most importantly, make sure you are running updated Zoom software. The new security updates are made available by Zoom in April.

  5. Enable security options when scheduling a class - controls are provided for chat, screen sharing, annotations control and many more.

  6. The class discipline can be maintained by mute all the audience or one student.

  7. An attendee on hold is helpful when you don’t want a student to be removed but on hold for some time. You can momentarily disable a student’s audio/video connections.

  8. Go for Cyber Safety Education and awareness for students and teachers as soon as possible.

Zoom has helped thousands of schools around the world to shift to remote/virtual learning. The knowledge of best practices and classroom control can prevent disruptions and help educators teach safely as their traditional classroom settings.

If you still have questions, comment below or contact us to set up training for your school or teachers.


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Mradula Singh

She knows the value of bringing technology to connect education fraternity and has taken a different route to bring awesomeness in education and parenting by starting NexSchools- an education resource and media platform.

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