Another dot in the blogosphere?

Meeting needs

Posted on: June 30, 2020

If I had to choose a video conferencing platform for education, I would stick with Google’s offerings. Why? It has a better track record in education and privacy policies for learners [1] [2] [3] compared to Zoom.

I have been forced to use Zoom before, and while the tool was convenient, the company’s statements and claims did not create confidence. It was also designed to work in the office space and not the classroom, so its privacy policies and user protections are barely in place.

Unfortunately, Google Meet languished even when emergency remote teaching was in full swing. So when someone tweeted some upcoming changes to Meet, I was excited.

But the same person did not provide a link to an official source of this information. This was not a responsible move.

About 10 days later, Google officially announced several of the changes represented in the tweet. Google clarified that features like attendance tracking, polling, and breakout groups were only for G Suite Enterprise for Education customers.

Changes to GSuite Enterprise for Education customers: Attendance tracking, polling, breakout groups.

The background blur and/or replace feature is an example of empathetic design. It recognises that students might not be comfortable showing their home environments.

Whiteboarding? Sigh. That is a classroom relic brought into the online space. They are clunky at best — writing and drawing are still not as immediate and easy.

Meeting moderation and attendance taking. This should make administrators, policymakers, and parents happy. But they recreate what Zoom already does and create unnecessary busy work for an online educator.

Consider how an attendance list is something learners can sign on their own time (even as the class is in session). Online attendance and being corralled in a waiting area requires someone to check each student and permit them to enter the online classroom. This is administrative busy work that should be done by an adjunct or a member of support staff.

An educator has already enough to do. An administrator might be worried about physically getting bums on seats and they transfer that worry online. But an educator recognises that physical or online attendance does not mean that the student is also there mentally. S/He would rather focus on the teaching and learning, not the attendance taking.

But I digress.

Hand-raising, polling, breakout groups? These also recreate what happens in the classroom. But they are good for interrupting teaching so that learning can happen, i.e., get the teacher’s attention, taking a pitstop to gauge progress, and provide opportunities to negotiate meaning.

I look forward to the upcoming changes in Google Meet. Unfortunately, I will not get to use all of them (or at all) since many of the agencies I work with have been seduced by the popularity of Zoom.

I do what I can to educate my parters, but if they choose not to listen to me, they get a harsher teacher — Miss Takes. She might offer painful lessons, but they are effective.

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