by Sarah Perez
by Izabella Perez
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely altered the way students around the world learn. After 1.2 billion students were affected during the pandemic due to schools shutting down, school districts around the world turned to alternative forms of learning, using various programs like Microsoft Teams as an alternative. The use of E-learning has become a long-term solution for schooling while COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Florida. Although the option to return back to school has risen, many students have remained to stay at home and continue E-learning. Along with E-learning is the new mandate of cameras being turned on throughout classes.
The decision to make cameras mandatory for attendance was implemented by the Broward County School Board. The mandate was created in order to improve the amount of supervision that teachers have on their students. While some parents and teachers have supported the decision, many have fought against the implementation of mandatory cameras by organizing and signing petitions on the basis that there is a breach of privacy when their cameras are turned on.
Before the use of obligatory cameras, teachers had no knowledge of the state of their students. Leaving one’s computer unsupervised during class was a very plausible thing for students to do, considering that the consequences would be limited if any at all. The option for students to not pay attention was something that teachers had almost no way of combating. The fact that E-learning has no foreseeable end at the moment makes this problem a large subject of concern.
Implementing cameras during class counteracts the temptation for students to leave their workspace, which may motivate them to genuinely participate in class. The ability for teachers to actually see the students they are teaching and not a screen full of initials may also be a positive reinforcement. Online learning is difficult as the lack of physical learning creates a significant barrier between teachers and students. The challenge of E-learning is prominent on both sides: there is a lack of the essential face-to-face concept that both students and teachers need to effectively teach and learn. Mandatory cameras will make learning just a little bit more similar to an in-class environment.
After the announcement made by the Broward County School Board about mandatory cameras, there was a large amount of backlash made by students. Multiple petitions were made on the website www.change.org in attempts to counteract this new rule on the grounds that mandatory cameras are a breach of one’s privacy. Some protested that their living situations make it difficult for them to have a place in their house where people would not walk by. Although the reason for concern is valid, the programs that schools use to teach offer ‘virtual backgrounds’, which blocks the room that one is in.
Obligatory cameras, in the long run, may help both students and teachers optimize E-learning due to the long-term circumstances that have been caused due to COVID-19. The concern of students due to a breach of security is easily assuaged, and the fact that observation is given to teachers provides them more power to have a more effective learning environment.
The pandemic has forced schools across the world to make difficult decisions with their students’ best interests and health in mind. This is most evident in decisions regarding the status of students learning. Asking for input and opinions from teachers and parents, school districts exempted students from giving their input on the future of their education.
The Broward County School Board met together to determine whether cameras would be mandatory following the second school semester. The decision was unanimous in deciding students would be required to have cameras on in all of their classes throughout the rest of the school year. The response was instantaneous, students around the country expressed their outrage and discontentment online, to their friends, and in their classes.
The main reason students were so against this policy was that they felt it was a breach of privacy. Implementing this rule left some students feeling violated, uncomfortable with having teachers and classmates watching them throughout class. Especially with them being in the comfort of their own house and room. This can impede their academic learning and can negatively impact students’ grades or mental health. Having to be presentable and be attentive every day is exhausting, because of the mandatory cameras students’ don’t have the luxury of looking or being tired.
Something teachers and the school board overlook is that, unlike inside a classroom, a student’s house is not a controlled environment. There may be interruptions or difficulties that may not be present in a classroom. A student doesn’t have to worry about their parent walking into their classroom unannounced whereas, in their house, it is free game. Seeing a student become distracted or even momentarily turn off their camera to deal with something privately, may initiate an unwarranted spark of anger and misunderstanding in teachers.
There is this constant pressure and instance to create your own work and study place inside your house when that option may not even be available to some students. Not all students own a desk or have a room large enough to have a desk. Attending class in a shared room, like a living room, leaves students prone to distractions or interruptions and being in an unconventional area, like a bed or couch, during class is met with backlash from teachers because they assume the student is being lazy or sleeping.
The necessity for mandatory cameras is often met with the same response—the constant worry for students’ productivity. The school board believes that cameras being on throughout class will force students to become more productive and accomplish more work if they are being watched and reinforced by a teacher. However, this line of reasoning doesn’t reach the sentiment of many teachers. Why should teachers be at fault for a student’s unproductivity? With in-person teaching there is a constant reinforcement that no one is responsible for your work and grades except you, how come this does not hold true to online learning? The responsibility lies with their students and how much work they’re willing to put into school, not with their teachers.
Forcing students to turn on their cameras aids no one in the long run. With students constantly being on edge and teachers not even paying them any mind because they’re on a different tab creates unnecessary stress and tension. The idea that students’ grades and livelihood are improved, as well as the way of life for online learning, is easily disputed by simply asking students how school is treating them.