Please… Just Switch to Zoom
Issue 8, Volume 111
By Erica Li
Online schooling is tough. We’re all struggling out here. I, for one, have sat at my desk crying angrily as I pressed the same key on my MacBook over and over again when my Algebra 2 exam refused to submit. I couldn’t contribute to class discussions because my teacher couldn’t see the “raised hand” feature, even though my already-fragile grade in Spanish is held up solely by my participation. And despite having engaged in remote learning for nine months now, I still don’t understand why my laptop lags so much when I use Google Meet and not when I use Zoom. What I can grasp, though, is that by simply switching between video platforms, our lives could be made a whole lot easier.
Zoom, a platform everyone knows and loves, was quickly taught to most teachers at the start of the pandemic. However, certain Stuyvesant teachers, including some of my own, have continued to use Google Meet over Zoom.
Google Meet glitches, lags, and doesn’t provide half the features that Zoom offers. My laptop gets so hot to the point that I am unable to even unmute myself to participate because it lags so much. I can’t view everyone in my class all at once when I go to gallery view because it automatically kicks me out of the meeting. The audio is glitchy too, especially when I use Google Meet on Safari instead of Chrome.
Many other students have echoed these concerns: Messenger class chats are regularly flooded with complaints and meltdowns about the usage of Google Meet for synchronous instruction.
They bemoan how Google Meet when used on any browser other than Chrome lacks the virtual backgrounds and filters that help Zoom users whose surroundings are extremely messy or who don’t feel comfortable exposing their homes. They lament the fact that there’s no option to mirror their video or touch up their appearance to ease the anxiety they feel about being on camera. They tout even more basic concerns: you can’t change your name on Google Meet,go into breakout rooms, or even private message the teacher.
So why have some teachers continued to use Google Meet over Zoom?
The answer: it’s convenient, easy, and secure. Google has been able to integrate both Gmail and Google Classroom with Meet. Google Meet links can be found directly under the class names on individual Google Classroom sites and on the bottom left in Gmail. Teachers also don’t have to waste time admitting students one by one, made possible by the fact that Google Meet is more secure than Zoom. Google has confirmed that only people with Google accounts or with a given organization’s domain (such as “stuy.edu”) will be able to join certain meetings. Waiting rooms, which are necessary to curtail “Zoombombing,” are thus extraneous for Google Meet users. In addition, Google’s meeting codes are complex to the point where Meet is not vulnerable to simple brute force hacks.
In fact, Google Meet is so secure that the Department of Education (DOE) even banned Zoom back in the spring term of 2020. For a period of time, Zoom’s privacy issues were so severe that teachers were only permitted to use Meet or Microsoft Teams. The terms and conditions you agree to when you use Zoom may not be as simple as you think. On the surface, Zoom collects and stores your personal information similar to apps like Facebook and Google. Unlike them, though, Zoom is also entitled to collect “customer content”—which includes the videos, chats, documents, and names of everything that is shared on call.
However, Zoom has clarified that they do not mine or sell user data in any way, nor do they allow anyone to directly access the information users share during their meetings. They have also clarified that they only collect this information to ensure the high functionality they are known for. And though Zoom still has a long way to go, they have admitted that their encryptions were lacking and have completed their 90-day plan. They have been implementing new system updates and better privacy mechanisms. They have started hosting weekly webinars that provide updates on new security details. They are also continuing to administer more penetration testing and new security hires, even offering “end-to-end encryption” for everyone, not just the paid users. This also ensures our safety and privacy while using their application.
In addition, thanks to the collaboration between Zoom and the NYC DOE, the platform is more secure than ever. Students, teachers, and other staff members are allowed to use all of Zoom’s features for free with no limit so long as they sign in with their assigned DOE account. Students can also only join the Zoom meeting if they are using said DOE accounts. Even though teachers still have to admit students into the call (unlike in Google Meet), it is still only one drawback for the many benefits Zoom offers. Zoom is still actively making efforts to improve—they have just released their newest update. Nonetheless, the honesty and transparency Zoom gives to the public allow us to see that they have not taken criticism lightly and that their security and privacy details have improved.
Beyond the improved security and the evidently more positive student experience that Zoom provides, the platform has also recently developed a great deal of new features, one of which allows students to actually choose which breakout room to go into. This further mimics the classroom setting, especially for the freshmen who don't know anyone and are still trying to transition to Stuyvesant life. Another such feature is the ability to spotlight someone if you are the “host,” which forces everyone’s screen to focus on the person that is “spotlighted.” This function emulates the experience of students giving presentations or teachers giving announcements in real life.
To our teachers: technology is hard; one of my teachers has recently made the transition from Google Meet to Zoom, and she was only able to do so with the help of a student. But the switch to Zoom is necessary for everyone’s benefit. So even if you don’t know how to create a Zoom meeting, you can check the instructions here, or just ask any of your students! We’re more than willing to help and promise to remain understanding as we all adapt.
Now let’s meet together and zoom our way out of here!