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  • Writer's pictureViva Sarah Press

Kids vs. Zoom: Hacking the new school environment

Within minutes of exchanging their classroom for a computer screen, and Zoom specifically, my three kids figured out how to manipulate the software, draw on the teacher’s whiteboard, unmute themselves and change virtual backgrounds.

As kids everywhere have successfully done.

But the way in which my kids react to the technology varies greatly.

My two middle school kids learned how to navigate the software-based conference room solution speedily and aptly.

They are way ahead of the game in teacher vs. pupils vs. Zoom.

My fifth-grader kid, who is in a gifted class, takes a wholly different approach to computer applications altogether.

Sure, he, too, has learned all the Zoom options, how to share a screen, use breakout rooms, etc.

But within days of Zoom becoming his new classroom environment he also memorized all the hot keys and shortcuts.

He didn’t stop there.

During less than exciting moments of instruction, he reconfigured all the hotkeys to his liking. He called me over to show how he did it.

You know how some people like to memorize Pi digits? This kid rattles off the personalized hotkeys he created for Zoom whenever there’s someone who will listen.

That activity brought a few weeks of excitement.

Next up: hacking DevTools to change Zoom’s appearance on his screen. This kid has never taken a computer class in his young life.

I’m sure it’s not just gifted kids who are creatively adding some fun to their Zoom classes. But I also know that his friends have taken upon themselves the challenge of changing the software offered to them with personal elements.

There is no doubt that the way they react to online learning software is different to how my other kids react.

For the older two, hacking the system means finding ways to appear interested but play Among Us or other group online games during class. It means adding filters and apps to enhance the experience.

They are not interested in changing the Alt keys or the software code.

And while they are all missing out on frontal learning…

And while Zoom lessons can be desperately boring…

I’m fascinated to see how and what they do next with the tech at their fingertips.

Zoom offers an array of solutions for distance teaching. It also offers an accidental platform for kids – who are on the platform for hours on end -- to try new hacks and tricks.

Zoom's main window after the kid hacked its DevTools. Photo by VIVA SARAH PRESS

I am a mom of three. I write about my kids, among many other topics. I am pursuing an MA in Human Computer Interaction.

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