District 121: Give students the choice to have cameras on or off.

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District 121 and Warren Township High School have created a new policy on January 19, all students must have their cameras on at all times, on page 31 of this document. If they do not have their cameras on during class, they will be marked absent.

Here are some reasons why students should the have the choice:

Students don't feel comfortable.

The majority of students feel anxious or self-conscious about how they look, how their environment looks, and their home situation. If they have to deal with that feeling, they will likely pay less attention in class.

Students don't like to feel like they are being watched or monitored by other students and the teacher.

Students may not feel comfortable with showing their home environments to other students and teachers.

Some students could be facing a difficult home situation, such as dealing with helping siblings, parents, or other family members.

Privacy Reasons.

Forcing students to have their cameras on at all times is infringing their privacy. No one should be forced to have a live feed from their home broadcasted to anyone at the school. Students should have the choice if they choose. Although Google Meet has the "background blur" setting, technology isn't perfect. Everyone has a right to privacy, no matter what kind. One of the biggest issues is that students and teachers can easily record and share photos and videos of students without their permission.

Students' internet may not be strong enough to handle multiple cameras (and mics) on.

Given the area we live in, some students do not have great internet, simply due to household income. While budget internet exists, it's still simply not fast enough to handle multiple camera streams on Google Meet. The cheapest option with Comcast / Xfinity is 25 Megabits per second download, with 5-10 Megabits per second upload. This is simply not enough for Google Meet, especially if there are multiple students in the house who are remotely learning, or one or two parents remotely working. This also doesn't include how ISPs (Internet Service Providers, such as Comcast) limits internet to around 1 Terabyte per month. This is also not enough for remote learning / working, but that is beside the point I am trying to make.

The biggest distraction are the cameras themselves.

When everyone's cameras are on, most students will be distracted by other student's cameras and will not be paying attention to the lesson for the day. Also, students may be worrying about themselves, rather than the lesson. Even if student cameras are on, it will not stop students from being distracted by external things, such as phones, TVs, etc. Therefore, forcing students to have their cameras on will not help them focus.

Having cameras on serves no purpose for most classes.

While having cameras on would technically show attendance, it should not be put on the student to have to show their face in order to not be marked absent. It should be up to the teachers to add onto their course to encourage class participation and attendance. This can include things such as: Questions every few minutes / slides in a slideshow, Group Discussions with Google Meet's chat, Check-In Questions, and more. If the school and teachers want students to participate, then forcing camera usage is clearly not the right path to take. I am fully aware that not all teachers would be able to bend their material around this, but there is clearly a better option instead of forcing cameras on. Instead, try giving extra credit to those who have cameras on!

Potential solutions.

Some teachers have adapted well to eLearning, others have not. Here are some potential solutions or tools teachers can use to verify student attendance and encourage participation.

  • Interactive Activities
    • Kahoot
    • Quizlet Live
    • PearDeck
    • Gimkit
    • Jeopardy!
  • Have students use their microphones or chat to verify their attendance and participate during class.
  • Teachers utilize participation as a part of their lesson
    • Google Meet's built-in poll activities
    • Breakout rooms
    • Calling on students
    • Participation Points
    • Live or timed in-class assignments
      • Canvas Quiz that would lock after the end of class

Conclusion

Students should not be forced to have their cameras on, students should have the choice. Students have many reasons as to why they don't want their cameras on, such as privacy, distractions, internet, or they are not comfortable with it. There are many alternatives to having cameras on, such as the reasons that have been listed above. If you agree with this petition, please sign. Thank you for reading.