El Roble classrooms zoom away from Zoom chat rooms


It is December 4th, 2021, and three El Roble debaters are clustered around a single computer, the only device in the room that they can use to compete against the opposing team. Despite the three school iPads in the room, Speech and Debate advisor Mr. Chamberlain’s computer is the only device that has Zoom downloaded. Weeks before, the conferencing app mysteriously deleted from all El Roble iPads. Left Zoomless, El Roble students had nowhere to communicate.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise and rumors of returning to online school circulating the schools, students wonder if Zoom will be needed in the near future. During distance learning the previous school year, live classes were taught through the app.
However, what most do not know is that Zoom is not just a conferencing app, but an instant messaging service. If people have a free Zoom account, then they can send a request to chat with anyone else. If that user accepts the request, they can start up a conversation with that person. With this tactic in mind, El Roble students created enormous conversations with each other, ranging from one-on-one private messaging to huge group chats with thousands of people. Students could have used Zoom to collaborate on group projects, or ask each other homework questions, however knowing the nature of middle schoolers, the purpose of the group chats might not have been used for academic improvement.
Some El Roble students, such as 7th grader Julia Little, used Zoom to chat with their friends. They were also randomly added to enormous group chats with strangers, such as one titled ‘Invite all your contacts.’
“I know that a lot of people were abusing Zoom because you can text on it,” Little said. “I saw a lot of people use it [to text each other]. It was probably reported a couple of times to the principal.”
These group chats posed a significant possibility of cyberbullying, which could be a reason why Zoom was deleted from the El Roble iPads. Some students at the middle school heard rumors of Zoom messaging having people being racist and homophobic, although this was never confirmed.
In response to an inquiry about the reasons behind Zoom deletion, the El Roble principal, Dr. Delgado, wrote in an email to the Wolfpacket that Zoom was no longer needed because of a return to in-person instruction.
“There really isn’t a mystery to why it was deleted, other than the fact that it no longer serves as educationally necessary, now that we are in face-to-face instruction,” Delgado wrote. “We would like our student devices to be used for learning purposes, so we attempt to give students access only to apps that have a learning value.”
Since Zoom now offers zero learning value for El Roble students (while they are learning in-person), they are now stranded from their former nefarious method of communication. Strangely, iPads supplied for the elementary schools and CHS still have Zoom on Self Service, further enforcing the idea that the school iPads are not controlled by the same entity.
It could be the fact that El Roble is a middle school; it could just simply be that the different school iPad administrators did not communicate with each other. We do not know why El Roble was the only one affected, and perhaps we never will.
“If [Zoom] didn’t have the chats, I think it would have been perfectly fine to use,” Little said.
Without the chat function, would Zoom not have been classified as an app with no learning value? Would it have stayed on everyone’s school iPads, regardless of frequent or infrequent usage? Would students still be using it to communicate with each other both in and out of school? Possibly. Potentially. Probably.
That is what El Roble students such as Little believe. On the other hand, Dr. Delgado stated that the reason Zoom was deleted was because it was no longer necessary. In reality, the true reason behind the deletion may never be public knowledge.
Well, what is done is done. Now, it is up to El Roble students to discover a whole other way to communicate with each other via school iPads. Unless we go back online, which is a whole new story…