• Cypress Bay High School - Weston, FL
  • January 26, 2021
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BY AGAVNI MEHRABI

Print News Editor

Several weeks have passed since the Bay first received news on Dec. 1 of a modification of the attendance and camera policy by Broward County Public Schools requiring students’ use of cameras for attendance and instruction. Algebra 1 and Honors Calculus and AP Calculus AB teacher Arleen Lewis said she finds this is a significant shift in virtual schooling guidelines because of its ability to improve both the teaching experience for teachers and the learning experience for students.

“This policy helps teachers see their students’ expressions, and we rely on students’ facial expressions to help us determine if students are comprehending the lesson,” Lewis said. “It also makes students who would just sign in and go about their day sit and watch the lesson.”

Similarly, senior Joaquin Amigorena said the new policy not only assists teachers by motivating them but also encourages students to stay on task rather than prepare a meal or study for another class. He said although there are benefits on both sides of the education process, the reason the new policy was implemented in the first place was to ensure student participation.

It was put into place because of general fears that students were not engaging with their classes and instead were engaging in other activities,” Amigorena said. “It was a policy which is supposed to force students to pay attention in class.”

Meanwhile, junior Joseph Protko said he has gauged the general opinion among his peers towards the new policy to be negative. He said reasons for his own disapproval include its disregard for student privacy, its potential to raise shyness among those with webcam anxiety and its ineffectiveness in changing his academic performance. 

“I think part of being at home is having privacy, and twenty other people shouldn’t be able to see you at home, where you should feel the most comfort,” Protko said. “There’s also the fact that teachers still require the camera to be on for the entire class, even though it goes against the policy since the policy only requires the camera to be on during discussions.”

Protko said the drawbacks and limits that exist within the current virtual learning system outweigh many of the benefits of the new camera policy. Instead, he said he recommends a return to the previous self-paced system without any live meetings until a return to physical learning.

“Virtual learning has failed us for the most part,” Protko said. “I think we should gradually begin opening schools as soon as possible again, and if we had to continue virtual learning, I think it should be done without meetings, similar to how it was done at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.”

Amigorena said he acknowledges the disdain held by many students towards the policy, as well as the way that some of them will deal with the restrictions by finding ways around them such as opening new tabs on their computers. However, he said his own opinion has not changed since the policy was first announced.

“The reality that students will pay attention or refuse to do so regardless of this policy is inevitable; they’ve made their minds up and decided whether to participate,” Amigorena said. “There is some frustration among students, and I get that, but at the end of the day, I’m sure most students understand that it may be a necessary evil of sorts.”

Lewis said her least favorite part of the change has been getting used to asking students to turn their cameras on and the challenges posed to the infrastructure by the wifi bandwidth required in the Microsoft Teams meetings. However, she said her favorite part has been seeing her students instead of their initials. 

“Although I got used to not having them on, I enjoy seeing my students’ faces,” Lewis said. “I am, like most teachers and most students, completely slammed with work, so I am just grateful to teach at Cypress Bay where students at every level want to learn.

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