The Computer is Not the Problem

From the inbox: In response to the op-ed published last week on regarding the challenges of using the zoom platform for schooling, one reader suggests some practical suggestions on how to deal with these challenges.

By Yehuda

While it’s good that parents are attempting to achieve the very best for their children during this difficult situation, I think it’s important to provide your readers with some simple and pragmatic solutions to try first, before taking more extreme steps that may frustrate an already delicate schooling system.

Here are few solutions for the problems presented in this article, and I’m sure other readers can think of many others.

1. Although I imagine that parents who are calling for a petition, have at the very least already tried this, it is still absolutely crucial to remind all parents to try to communicate with their children’s teachers, and arrange for accommodations that address their children’s needs.

In this particular case, that would mean getting special permission for their child to call in to the Zoom class with a regular phone, which is something that is a built in feature with the Zoom system.

While not all teachers will allow this, some may, and it’s worth a try.

2. If for some reason, this cannot be arranged, a few creative ideas come to mind as stop-gap solutions. E.g; taping a cover over the child’s screen to stop them from using it. (with a cutout for the camera so the teacher can still see the child). It sounds crude, but it may just work.

3. Another more elegant solution can be found in the settings of certain devices. For example, Apple IOS devices have something called “Guided Access” (which is another set of ’parental-control’ style settings, separate from the standard “screen time” settings, and can be found in “Accessibility” in the settings app). This feature allows parents to temporarily disable literally ALL Touch screen functionality from their device.

Aside from alternative solutions, it’s important to see what the main cause really is for why children are getting distracted. Taking away one device that they use to distract themselves is addressing the symptom, not the root cause.

For most children, simply not being in the more ideal learning environment of school, likely plays a huge role in this. So if they are still in an environment that is more prone to causing distraction, taking away one device won’t stop them from looking for another.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s best not to cause unrest of any kind when it is avoidable, especially in times like these. The only reason to make such a petition is if all other methods have been tried. Have they?

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  1. I think it is important to ask the Rabonim what they think, why are we making these decisions without consulting them?

  2. If you don’t allow kids to watch the video stream, how on earth is a morah to teach a 3 or 4 year old child what an alef is? Try describing it as 2 yuds with a vov in between? It’s not going to work when the child doesn’t know what a yud is either.

    Shluchim’s kids have been learning via Nigri School on line classes for years.
    Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Reach out to shluchim you know and ask them what they did when their child was distracted.

    A lot of it is discipline, and the child’s ability to stay focused. Some kids will sit and watch and participate the way they did in a classroom and some kids won’t be able to, just like they couldn’t when in the classroom.
    Did your child have a para? Maybe s/he needs someone now to help stay focused, even if it wasn’t necessary before.

    But how will just listening to a detached voice and not being able to focus on the teachers face be easier than watching?

    1. As a teacher who has taught students who learned online I can tell you that the skills of kids who learn online are below standard.

      From my experience, the kids who pick up the skills, are the ones who their parents take the time to do text learning with them on a regular basis.

      1. right now we are in a time where it isn’t possible to learn in a classroom,and it is obvious that the second best option is zoom,

  3. I strongly disagree with this!

    My kids are going through this issue and I tried all the issues above for a month and many other solutions, but I came to the realization that they are children and you can’t give a screen to a child and expect a child to use it like an adult.

    We must remember that they are children as many restrictions as we put they are children, and what I realized is that’s zoom is a distraction, we can try to find many ways to stop this distraction but we can’t hide the fact that it is the distraction!

    Aside from all the damage that is done from the internet, there’s also the fact that the child becomes a computer technician overtime can override your filter and just gets addicted and many more negative things, I tried many things and I spoke to teachers. I have to agree with the first article and use a phone like many frum schools around the world are doing successfully.

    Regarding the comparison to the online school that the shluchim use, there are 2 points:
    1) Many of their kids are unfortunately exposed to negative things online (I have verified this).
    2) you can ask the parents and I’m sure they’ll tell you they will be pleased if it would be only by phone it would have saved her child much damage,

    Using a phone may not be as good as seeing the teacher, but on the other hand, it’s not a distraction, so automatically the child is more focused.

    Giving the option for calling in is not a solution since the child is used to zoom with his friends now and telling him to go off will make him very disappointed.

    I would love to hear what our community rabbonim say on this matter.

  4. I must say everyone is bringing up very valid points, and we are all looking for a solution. If I may add a suggestion to what has been said:
    Zoom wasn’t designed for children/schooling.

    I do hope this situation does not continue too much longer, but if yes, perhaps we can get designed a program similar to Zoom that will give the teacher full administrator control over the child’s device. The teacher can turn off the child’s screen so the child will know they are being watched by the teacher, but cannot see. When helpful (with suggested guidelines for teachers from the experts how much screen time is healthy etc.) the teacher can turn on the child’s screen and control exactly what they will see.

    I’m not a computer expert, but I do believe all the technologies are already there, it’s just a matter of designing the system and making compatible with different devices.

    Alternatively, perhaps we can talk to Zoom, google meet etc and request they design a version of their system for what we need.

    The burden cannot be put on parents, this should be done collectively by those who can and care.

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