Editorial: Students should leave their cameras on during remote learning

This editorial was written by Jazmin Amaro, a student in Hancock's journalism class.


CPS students started off the school year online, and there are still no answers to how long high-school students will be online.  Although many elementary students return to school this month by choice, high-school students will continue to learn remotely.  When there are no cameras on, we are not forced to participate or stay focused the entire class period. With cameras off, no one knows exactly what we're doing or if we are really paying attention.  Therefore, high-school students should leave their cameras on during remote-learning classes.


With cameras not on during school, there is a lack of participation and communication between the teacher and the students. Speaking from experience because cameras are not mandatory, I see many students who prefer not to have them on.


When the year started, it was very encouraging to have cameras on and many did do so. It helped create a connection between everyone. I felt like I was more motivated and I focused the entire time. A few months have gone by; less and less students have their cameras on and there is very little to no engagement in some classes.


According to Larry Ferlazzo, a teacher and education writer, in an Ed Week post I read,  students at his school, Luther Burbank High School in California.  Students said remote learning is very stressful and difficult to adapt to. Evelynn Vang, a junior at Luther Burbank High School says, “I sometimes find myself not interested in doing my assignments and I feel like I’m lazy. At home, I feel like it's very hard to be prepared because I'm always getting distracted. Whenever I need help, my teachers or classmates are there for me. When I have a question at home, I have to wait for a response.”  


With cameras off, students are not receiving the proper attention or creating a work space. Being in a school learning environment helps students stay focused and engage during class.  Now when students have the option of not being seen during class, teachers have no clue whether students are participating or not.  


In the same post, Na Lee Her, a junior at Burbank High School said, “Not being able to be face to face with friends and teachers gives me no motivation and makes me unhappy about this. It makes me lose hope because I don't know what I will do to be able to complete the assignment and meet its requirement. It just makes me very worried and anxious to know that I may have done things wrong or to not know what to do.”


Having cameras off doesn’t help this type of situation that many students are facing. Many may think it allows a level of comfort but in reality, students are less likely to speak up and pay attention. Just like in normal school, everyone as well as the teachers can see students, which almost forces students to pay attention. Enforcing cameras on during school is the same concept.


When we think about the future and what is important, online learning isn’t working very well. From another article, Dana Goldstein, a New York Times writer, talks about how fewer students are participating in online learning as the days go by across the country. Titilayo Aluko, a student at Landmark High School says, "I actually need my teachers, who know me and understand me, to help me and I don't have that. I just keep thinking, Oh my God, I might not pass." Which I find very true because it almost seems as if we are focused on mainly passin rather than learning.  This will take a toll on our future careers.


Many students feel disconnected from their classes and what is going on half the time. I myself can relate because, of course, it doesn’t feel the same but it almost feels like many—especially seniors--have given up on actually learning and, instead, just want to finish the school year.


It is a very controversial topic when it comes to enforcing cameras during remote learning

because many students feel as if their privacy at home is being invaded, or it makes students uncomfortable. Tabitha Moses, a mental health writer, wrote an article called "5 reasons to let students keep their cameras off during Zoom classes" where she includes, “At school, students are not required to disclose details about their personal lives to their peers, but some of this privacy is lost in video-based classrooms. To turn on video means allowing others into their home.” 


Many explain having anxiety because on Zoom or Google Meets, they don't know who is looking at them. In an actual class, everyone is facing the teacher typically. Of course, we take these things into consideration, but when it comes down to what is most important as a whole, for all students, it’s making sure students are receiving proper education.


No one is standing out in this situation.  There is a global pandemic and everyone is doing school from home. In order for students to get comfortable with cameras on, this practice needs to be encouraged by schools so we see a difference in student engagement. It starts with encouragement to build up students’ confidence so we create a norm of leaving cameras on.