Cut the Cameras

October 22, 2020

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photo by A. Brauchler

Grant DeRose ’21 studies at Ziggi’s coffee shop Oct. 2. DeRose sometimes goes to coffee shops to participate in Zoom calls during his online learning days.

     Participating in online conferencing during online learning has raised the question of if teachers are allowed to ask students to turn their cameras on during Zoom and Google Meets calls. The answer is: yes. Teachers are allowed to create their own policies regarding camera usage. It is not illegal to require students to turn their cameras on.

     However, it is illegal to record students’ faces when recording an online lecture and post it to a public platform, such as Canvas, if the student’s parent or legal guardian signed the RCHS Media Consent Form in any regard stating they would not like their child’s image posted.

     Parents can sign a section of the RCHS Media Consent Form requesting that their child not be allowed to “[participate] in learning opportunities that result in the school or District publishing of a student’s basic information (like… their school photo)”.

     Because of this section, social studies teacher Aaron Paul requires students to turn their cameras off when he records lessons to post to Canvas.

     “It’s just to be on the safe side,” Paul said.

     According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), schools have the right to release directory information, which according to Franczek P.C. Lawfirm, includes photos, and if those with rights protected by FERPA (parents or “eligible” students– students over the age of 18 or in post-secondary education) have acknowledged that the student is subject to being published in a photo without being notified and did not in some way (that must be provided by the school) express the desire to opt out, the school may publish photos of the student without notifying the parent or eligible student.

What Teachers Have to Say

Online learning has not only been an adjustment for students but for teachers as well; they have had to adapt their teaching styles and try to figure out how to best teach students in an entirely different manner.

 

Matt Sassali, social studies

Should teachers be allowed to require that students turn their cameras on?

“I think it’s a case-by-case scenario. I don’t think there’s one blanket rule we should have… I think that teachers can… ask, “hey, when you chime in on discussion, turn your camera on so we can see your face.”

What is your policy about cameras on or off?

“I tell my kids, when it’s a lesson [during which] I’m just teaching and they’re listening, to turn all their cameras off just to give them that privacy and also to record those meetings… I don’t want any recording of a student’s image that I’m going to then publish to my Canvas site.”

How does being on Zoom affect teaching?

“Non-verbal cues are really important to teachers, and it’s hard right now. Google Meets or Zoom are the only times we get verbal cues– when everybody’s in class, they have masks on. It is a valuable tool to be able to see kids’ faces.”

 

Aaron Paul, social studies

What is your policy about cameras on or off?

“If I ever record my presentations, I have to have the cameras off because students have legal rights, and I don’t want to put your pictures out there in a recording… because that’s your image and you have privacy rights… Honestly, anybody could really get in[to a Google Meet] if they wanted to. You have to have a DCSD email, but you guys work together on Fridays– if I record something, who in your house is working with you?”

Do you think students turning cameras off affects their engagement during class?

“I think [engagement] depends on the class. Honestly, I think if you’re in an elective or if you’re in a class that interests you, it doesn’t matter that we’re home or here. [In] some of these required classes, some students will maybe be easily distracted, and I think that can happen online or in a classroom. I am just very happy to see the numbers I am online. I’m teaching some new criminal justice classes so these kids really have to be online because this is a college course, so they’re going to fall behind quickly if they’re not paying attention.”

How have you tried to help transition students into online learning?

“I’ve been very honest with these kids how difficult this has to be for them, and for me. I think once these kids understand I’m in the same boat they are, as in that from a teacher perspective, we’re swamped– we’re learning new things like students are– that builds some trust… I’ve tried to make it very clear that we’re in this together and that we’ll get through it.

 

Mary Burnham, English 

How does having cameras turned off affect teaching?

It is hard to teach a group of students online that you can’t see their facial recognition and check for their understanding in those ways. It’s just kind of trying to figure out a new way of checking for understanding as a teacher, and that’s a challenge. I think it’s a case-by-case thing, and I think all of us need to learn better etiquette when we’re on these kind of calls.”

What Students Have to Say

Hear what students have to say about engagement during online school, what teachers’ camera policies should be, and how online school has affected them socially.

 

Grant DeRose ‘21

How has being online affected student engagement during class?

“I think [being online] makes the school day a lot harder to get through because I don’t have much stimulation throughout my day. In every class, I unmute myself maybe every 30 minutes to answer a question, but other than that I don’t get to talk to anybody. It gets very lonely.”

 

Riley Lanziner ‘23

How has being online affected student engagement during class?

“I think [online calls] have decreased the amount of engagement in classrooms. It has become a lot harder to ask questions and interact with a teacher. Plus, very few people [who are] online answer questions from teachers.”

Should teachers be allowed to require cameras to be turned on during Zoom/Google Meets calls?

“No, [teachers should not be allowed to require cameras on] mostly for the privacy of students and because many students might not like to show their faces, or it makes them uncomfortable. I understand having the cameras on for testing though.”

How has being online affected you socially?

“[Being online] has somewhat affected how social I am because I usually hang out with friends and get to know people at school since I am so busy outside of school, and now online has made that harder to do.”

Should teachers be allowed to require students to turn their cameras on during Zoom/Google Meets calls?

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Justin Edell ‘22

How has being online affected student engagement during class?

“Levels of engagement are way lower during online days. There’s no question that just giving students work to do during their ‘off day’ and not having them log into a disconnected environment like a Google Meet would be more effective.

Should teachers be allowed to require cameras to be turned on during Zoom/Google Meets calls?

“Teachers should not be allowed to ask their students to turn their cameras on. It is a huge invasion of privacy for those who don’t feel comfortable. I personally am fine with turning my camera on but I know there are some who aren’t and shouldn’t be punished for not doing so.”

How has being online affected you socially?

“I think it has been good for everyone to at least see half of the familiar faces at school. Online learning can get very boring, but I haven’t seen any impact on people socially.”

Zoom Fatigue

What is Zoom fatigue, and why do we experience it?

     “Zoom fatigue” refers to the exhaustion students feel after participating in Zoom calls, Google Meets, or other online conferencing platforms for extended periods of time for school.

     “We’re spending a lot of mental energy filling in these non-verbal blanks, and it’s using up our mental resources to pay attention, to figure out what we can contribute to the meeting,” Dr. Scott Debb from Norfolk University said. According to an article from Stanford University, not being able to read body language over video communication is mentally taxing.

     According to an article from Vox, the more we try to understand the body language of those online, the more depleted we feel; it takes a lot of energy to figure out how people are feeling through a screen because of the lack of the in-person element of being able to fully read body language.

How can I beat Zoom fatigue?

     Vanessa Van Edwards, bestselling author, in a Science of People article recommends making sure you take breaks to move throughout long Zoom calls. Getting up to stretch gives your brain a minute to take a breath and refocus. Sitting in front of a screen for hours on end can be draining, so make sure to take a passing period at home to walk around and stretch your legs.

     Van Edwards also recommends having a “work outfit” and a “home outfit”. This helps the brain be in school-mode and trains the brain to know it needs to focus and also be aware of when it is no longer work time and can help reduce the Zoom fatigue you feel.

Adjusting to online school is a new task for students and teachers alike. Zoom Fatigue can impact anyone making this adjustment, but follow the tips above to help you keep some of your energy up during the school day.

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