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New article by the GNU Education Team

From: Dora Scilipoti
Subject: New article by the GNU Education Team
Date: Wed, 11 Nov 2020 10:57:51 -0500
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         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.

    * Tell them that you regret the use of Zoom and show them which are
the free programs to replace it. Explain that proprietary software such
as Zoom has no place in schools
( (or in any other aspect of
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

Copyright © 2020 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
CC-BY-ND 4.0 International.

Dora Scilipoti
GNU Education Team

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