Whether to Require Students to Present on Camera
An all-important question that teachers are having to answer during the summer of 2020
At the time of this writing, the 2020 (Coronavirus shortened) school-year is about to end but at my school that doesn’t mean teaching and learning will come to an end.
Starting June 1, a mere two weeks from now, something called the PTSA is offering a six-week summer school program, with just some of the courses to be offered to include US History, US Gov, Economics, World History, Health, and Geometry.
One of the more interesting questions that those of us planning to teach these state-required courses are having to answer is whether we, in an attempt to ensure attendance and participation, can require our students to present themselves on camera.
In other words, can we in any way punish a student who says “no, I’m not going to share my face on camera with either the teacher or the members of the class; nor am I going to share my voice. The most you will get from me is whatever words I choose to type into a chat box and even that can’t be required. I have a free speech right not to speak.”
I agree with those who say that we should not require students to present on camera. Furthermore, I’m guessing that down the road, policy makers will say as much. This, for many different reasons:
- There are other and less intrusive ways to check for attendance and engagement. When teachers use Zoom, for example, they can print out an attendance report, even with the free version, with this report also showing how many minutes a student was in the room.
- Not all cameras work and not all students have the ability to troubleshoot camera issues.
- Not all students want their homes viewed by their classmates and/or teacher.
- Some students may be doing double duty — learning and babysitting — and they should be afforded this opportunity without either the teacher/students being placed in a position of making a judgement.
- Not all students want to blast their image all over the internet.
- Zoom fatigue is real.
- According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “the fear of public speaking is the most common phobia ahead of death, spiders, or heights,” and it “affects about 73% of the population.”
Bottom line — I think we need to allow our students some degree of privacy, though given that room to roam, at least some students are sure to log in and then walk away.
To counter, I plan to ask the students a daily question (one upon entrance, one at the midpoint, one to close out) with students to answer these questions in the chat box or Google Form.
Furthermore, I plan to occasionally call for a on-camera check ins.
The rest of the time, I plan to give my students the choice of whether to turn on their cameras.
As for the question of whether I will require my students to speak live on camera? That, I will make optional, though I will strongly encourage it.
To “encourage” my students to speak-up the past two month, I would ask for for 3–5 volunteers at the start of each of my synchronous class periods. I would then periodically ask these volunteers to turn on their microphones and answer one or more of my question(s). For their willingness to participate, I would then “reward” these students with what in essence amounted to a sticker . . . something similar (though digital) to what football coaches in my day would place upon the helmet of any of us who had made a good play in either a game or in practice. I so used to long for those stickers. Today’s students, many of mine for sure, seem to have a similar longing.
For those of you wondering what are my 2020 summer school administrators calling for? The answer is they are working on it. Certainly, if directed to require students to present on camera, I will, and without hesitation. I’ve been teaching summer school at SMHS for more than thirty years and don’t want to rock that boat and that’s because year in and out, it’s been one of the best experiences of my career. Everything typically works to perfection during summer school. I therefor come out of summer school every year saying that was fun, I much enjoyed and am now seriously looking forward to the coming school year. My guess — every SMHS summer school teacher says the same.
So curious to hear what you think. Should a teacher who teaches a state-required core course be allowed to require his/her students to present themselves on camera?