Zoom, the mainstay in the COVID world, is a must for maintaining a learning environment in schools around the nation. However, Zoom would be nothing without the camera in which students can interact with others and maintain a sense of classroom normalcy.
The camera is a crucial instrument for teachers wishing to mirror the classroom environment that they would have had pre-COVID. Instead of talking to a group of blank screens and being unable to see if students understand or not, the teachers are able to see by their students’ faces if the material they are giving is actually helping the students learn.
Without the camera, students are not really present until they are able to answer a question. They can do this only by using the raise hand icon, which may be overlooked by a teacher deep in discussion. Also, in the time when the teacher is speaking, there is no way of knowing if the students are actually listening. They could be in another room and not paying attention to the lesson at all. Due to this, the teacher has no idea if they are actually talking to anyone; they could just be talking to themselves.
The teacher also needs to watch students’ facial expressions to see if they are understanding the material. If the students seem confused with what they are trying to learn, they will display it with a confused look or will not respond to the teacher’s questions. Without a camera, it is impossible to know if they are not paying attention, or if they are confused with the subject.
Additionally, the Zoom camera is critical for social interaction as it offers an opportunity to bond with classmates and maintain beneficial classroom discussion. The visual access to other students, especially in small groups such as breakout rooms, gives students the ability to retain a social network. In breakout rooms, students are able to work in smaller groups to do everything from coordinating a presentation to breaking down a passage of literature. However, without the cameras on, students would be unable to tell if their counterparts are all on the same page or if they do not understand what is going on.
Also, without the camera, Zoom becomes more like a group call service than a virtual classroom. Although Zoom comes equipped with the raise hand feature and the chat feature that are unrelated to the camera, it is far easier for teachers to notice who wants to speak when they can see individual video screens. Conference and group calls have similar issues when it comes to members talking over each other and not being able to replicate the actual workplace environment.
Opponents of the Zoom camera may bring up the window the Zoom camera opens to a prospective student’s living environment, and disadvantaged students could feel compelled to hide this. However, they should not turn off the camera. Instead, our district is beginning a movement to give out privacy screens in order to retain the students sense of dignity.
For disadvantaged students in particular, having the Zoom camera on is crucial. This act can help to build confidence as they can directly contribute to group discussions, and they can be better approached when they are in trouble. Instead, anyone who comments on their situation should be punished just as they would be in a normal classroom environment.
The Zoom camera may seem prying and unnecessary, however it effectively replicates the normal classroom environment in such a way that it does more good than harm. It is a tool, with which a student or students can capture some of the essence of their in-person instruction, from the comfort of their homes.