Love the one you’re with

If you’re down and confused
And you don’t remember who you’re talking to
Concentration slip away
Because your baby is so far away

Well there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you’re with

Stephen Stills, Love The One You’re With

I always thought this was a pretty pessimistic song. I wasn’t sure you should settle for the ‘girl right next to you’ just because the person you thought was the love of your life had kicked you to the kerb. It didn’t seem right. Surely you should hold out for True Love, particularly if what Sonny said in A Bronx Tale was true and you got three ‘great ones’ (I’m still trying to get over the rise of central locking and its detrimental effect on The Door Test, but I digress).

But what’s this got to do with education? I’m glad you asked.

Since the idea that schools were going to close over the coronavirus pandemic started to crystallise, there has been an urgency to enable remote learning through digital tools. Now, I’ve been part of an iPad rollout previously (and am currently about to be sucked into the middle of another one). They were meticulously planned months in advance and were phased in gradually after the infrastructure had been installed and rigorously tested. And it was still a really challenging task, with many unseen pitfalls.

That is, of course, not the situation we currently find ourselves in; trying to piece together in days what would ordinarily take months or possibly years to plan.

To further complicate issues, many digital providers (for a number of reasons) have been making their products available to educators for free. And some of these products seem really, really good – they might even be sector leading. A Great One possibly.

But I shudder when I hear people are jumping onboard with these without doing their ‘due diligence’. Every platform can bring its own issues, and whilst you may be happy to accept these (or happy to ignore these!) from a personal point of view it is a whole different ball game when you are accessing them on a professional basis, especially where parents or pupils might be involved.

Take WhatsApp as an example. Like many of you, I have it on my phone and it’s great. Keeps me and my pals who are spread all over the country connected, helps with sharing ‘Kodak’ moments with our families and it’s all very instant, easy and intuitive. So I can understand when you need to communicate quickly with a large group of employees or colleagues and you have access to all their mobile numbers that it’s a tempting choice to fire up a WhatsApp group and get texting. I’ve been added to a couple of groups like this over the years and whilst personally I am quite relaxed about it from a privacy/information security/safeguarding point of view it absolutely makes me shudder.

Sure, those people may all have individually shared their numbers with you and are happy to do so, but have they given you the okay to share it with everyone else in the group? Maybe there are people in that group who have some kind of conflict going on – are you sure you want to facilitate them having access to each other’s phone numbers? Or maybe there’s someone on there who has been fending off the romantic advances from someone else, and you’ve just handed out their numbers to each other. Doesn’t sound great, does it?

Plus, it’s Facebook who own this, and they don’t have the greatest record on privacy. Are you sure you want to expose the (private) business of your school to them? Me and my son were talking to my sister over WhatsApp about the story “You’re Called What?” (great story, by the way. Look it up) and one of the characters referenced is a Blue Footed Booby. Two minutes after the call ended, my sister tagged me in a screen grab of a post Facebook had just recommended for her all about – can you guess?

That may be a trivial example, but think of opening up your (private) school communications to that level of data-scraping?

And then there’s Zoom. I have heard and seen many teachers clamouring for their school or local authority to give them access to this, or who are trying to work out how they can leverage it into their digital offering. It’s a highly popular platform, it’s offering its platform for free and they think “Why not?” I also know adept and informed individuals who swear by it, but again I’m sure they’ve done their due diligence, assessed any potential problems and taken action to mitigate these. A headlong rush into the platform by educators looking to fill the gaps in learning caused by schools closing is none of these things. A colleague from the States shared an article with me on the phenomenon of ‘Zoombombing’. Let me share a small part of that with you:

The Conejo Valley school board’s first attempt at holding a public meeting via videoconferencing went horribly wrong Tuesday, ending before it even began.

As district staff was preparing to start the 6 p.m. meeting, which was hosted on the Zoom app to comply with coronavirus-related social distancing directives, one or more unidentified persons took over the online group chat, a practice known as “Zoombombing,” and began saying the N-word repeatedly. Among those logged in at the time: the board’s teenage student rep, who is African American.

As participants, who patched in via video, reacted with shock, the hackers took over the meeting’s center screen and began sharing hardcore pornographic images, including people having sexual intercourse and close-ups of male genitalia.

The person or persons, at least one who could be heard laughing loudly, also showed Nazi images, including a flag with a swastika. They threatened school board members, saying that if they could hack into a Zoom meeting, they could find the trustees’ home addresses.

The online trolls went as far as telling board members to kill themselves and threatening to hurt members of their families.

CVUSD meeting falls victim to “Zoombombing”
Unwelcome guests unleash racist, pornographic barrage
Thousand Oaks Acorn
March 25, 2020
By Dawn Megli

Now, if I’d set up such a meeting for my school – obviously with the best of intentions – and it had gone so badly wrong, I’d be expecting a call from HR for a disciplinary, or even my P45 in the post. And that’s without even thinking what would happen if when the media got hold of it. And in my imagined nightmare scenario it was only a staff meeting; multiply the horror by a million if parents or pupils were involved too.

So that’s where we come to a new found appreciation for “Love The One You’re With”

Glow has traditionally had a bad press. A very bad press in fact. But it actually does contain tools that will allow us to do what people want the bright, shiny other tools to do. In our authority it’s the Microsoft Office 365 tools – Teams and Yammer – but in other authorities it might be Google platforms. They may not be as flash, or as popular, or as intuitive but we should be able to get them to work. Sure, they might not be sector leading and have demographic appeal amongst startups, but they should be good enough for what we want to do.

***UPDATE*** I finally, FINALLY(!!!) got a test Glow Meet up and running on the new Skype for Business platform, so that’s another possibility.

Plus, they come with one *massive* advantage. These are supplied for you by your authority. They’ve been put through and passed a Privacy Impact Assessment. That means that providing you follow any guidelines laid down by your authority, if something goes horribly, horribly wrong then it’s not your head on the block. That has to be worth taking into consideration, surely? Would a disciplinary investigation take the global coronavirus pandemic into account when looking into your use of an unauthorised platform and the repercussions of that, and if they did would they consider it enough of a mitigating factor to spare you from disciplinary action?

For me it’s a no brainer. “Use what you were given” rather than “Run what you brung”, even if it isn’t your Number 1, tick all your boxes, absolute favourite. Even if you know something else that could do a better job – for the sake of your own job, learn to live with the shortcomings.

In short, Love The One You’re With.

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