PRO: Should students be required to show their faces during distance learning?

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Illustration by Ariel Davila-Sanchez

Jasmine Castillo, Feature Editor, Copy Editor

(See the CON side here.)

With the start of distance learning, students have been eager to complain about the inconveniences and problems they face, while not realizing that they contribute to one of the biggest issues: the refusal to show their faces.  

Students should not be allowed to have their cameras off during class simply because they may not feel like showing their faces.  Everyone is required to show their face during in-person school while facing hundreds of students in their classes, so why should they suddenly feel the urge to hide themselves behind technology?

The answer is that students know they can easily take advantage of the situation by simply not being mentally or even physically present during class.  There is nothing stopping a student from stating they are present at the beginning of class, shutting off their camera, and watching Netflix for the whole hour rather than listening to an important lecture or hearing how to do an assignment.  

“I know that the kids aren’t really there,” economics and psychology teacher Lana Gentry said. “When a kid never shows up—or [when] a student who came to my first period class late is still there by the end [of the period]—they aren’t really there.”  

Slacking off is one issue, but another big concern that teachers worry about is cheating.  Lodi Unified Superintendent Dr. Cathy Nichols-Washer released protocols and procedures regarding digital learning, and specifically stated, “Engaging in any activity that would be considered cheating [includes] but [is] not limited to, using technology to find answers if not authorized by a teacher to do so, sharing exam questions or answers in any format . . .having another person complete student work, and plagiarism.” 

When teachers do not require students to turn on their cameras, cheating is a probable outcome even though it is against protocol and a violation of the school’s honor code.  Although computer programs such as Blocksi exist, these programs work most efficiently on a student’s chromebook, making it removable on the student’s personal technology they may be using for class.  With connections such as Photomath and Quizlet, which nearly give direct test answers, the probability of students whipping out their phone or other device and searching a quick answer is likely high.

The difficulties for teachers during this time have been overlooked as well. Teachers must come up with lesson plans, grade countless assignments, understand technology, and—with students refusing to show their faces—find the willingness to teach to a bunch of blank screens of faceless students.  Body language and facial expressions from students play a key component to successful teaching.  When teachers can view expressions from students, they have a higher chance of understanding when a student may feel lost, frustrated, or comfortable with the new concepts. 

“I read the expressions on my kids’ faces, especially when they have this look of question,” art teacher Shan Swoverland said.  “I am able to make note of that and I call on them or email them right after class.”

Another issue is that many students believe there are no real consequences for not showing their faces, but this is simply not true. If a teacher has instructed a student to show their face, and they wish to ignore it, there could be serious consequences. 

“If the teacher has established practice [of being on camera] and you violate that, that could potentially be considered a violation of Education Code 48900k: the defiance of the valid authority code,” Principal Hillary Harrell said. “You may get a phone call, you may get a referral.”

Digital learning platforms allow students to take advantage of the situation that everyone is facing.  Unless there is an urgent or serious situation that the student has conveyed to the teacher ahead of time, students should not be allowed to turn off their cameras during class.