So, last week, from 8th April onwards, the Singapore Government imposed a partial lockdown (PL) – or as they say euphemistically “circuit breaker” (CB).
The Singapore Ministry of Education introduced Home-based Learning (HBL) that they had initially trialed from early April with a once a week HBL setup.
And that was the week of 30th March.
But following the PL, all schools were closed and all 500k students and I guess 40k teachers had to switch to full-on HBL using online tools, especially Zoom.
Let me offer the following to all of those who are using Zoom. This is an info graphic that was shared on https://www.pcmag.com/how-to/how-to-prevent-zoom-bombing:
If you follow these steps, you can be rest assured that the chances of Zoomboming will be reduced. Just like safe distancing, hand washing and wearing masks are things that we now need to incorporate into our daily routines, once you get those steps listed in the advise above done, you should be OK – until the next breach.
Go on, go back to using Zoom for the HBL. You will be fine, for now.
I think Zoom does the job rather well, but my problem with Zoom is that the code is proprietary and there has been many analysis of the cryptography Zoom uses for the sessions. See this report by CitizenLab.ca. While the video streams used in Zoom for the HBL do not contain private and confidential information (“oh no! somebody sat in my online class and learned differential equations!”), if we are aware of the major shortcomings of Zoom and use it with eyes wide open, I think it is fine. Zoom has to step up and fix their broken security framework. I will never recommend Zoom for anything that is confidential. Fortunately, the organization that I am with uses BlueJeans.com which (so far) does not seem to have made the kinds of security decisions Zoom has (please correct me if I am wrong).
Do consider using tools like Jitsi.org. It is a 100% open source implementation of video conferencing and you can run it yourself as well. I have a jitsi instance running on my systems at home into which my friends and family can connect and chat.
Certainly, the MOE (and perhaps with the help of GovTech) could look at rolling out Jitsi so that they are in control and also be part of the global technical community to improve what is a critical technology for all of us. Run a thousand instances of Jitsi with each school being allocated two or three of those instances. Run it on OpenShift.com. Scale out as if no one is watching.
I can hear some of you who have read this far thinking “yeah, right. you think the MOE will step up and do this? who are you kidding?“.
But we can.
So, as we work our way through this PL, we need to revisit all of the assumptions we’ve had on how to collaborate. Let’s find ways to help one another to make the best of this situation and use the best possible technologies and ideas.
We need to build the post-COVID-19 world. It starts now.
Open unlocks the world’s potential.
[11:00 am 13 April] A good friend of mine posted this in his facebook page about the MoE/Zoom issue. Yes, you can read that page without logging into facebook – use the incognito or private mode in the browser.
[1140 am 13 April] The ACM has published a guide on how to run virtual conferences. HBLs are a variation of the virtual conferences, so the advise is useful for all. The 27 page report “Virtual Conferences: A Guide To Best Practises” is here.