Cameras On or Off? – Important Questions Answered by the POSH helpline.
The POSH helpline discuss educator’s key considerations around keeping cameras on or off during remote learning. Find out some key points to consider in this article.
At the start of the initial lockdown period in March 2020, making a decision to keep students’ cameras off while delivering remote lessons probably felt like the safest and least risky option. However, some students, parents, and teachers are looking to revise this.
When deciding about camera use during lessons there is no hard and fast rule, and ultimately this is a decision that needs to be made as a school or setting, with both staff and students interest at the forefront. If you are leaning towards having cameras on, here are some reasons why this could be a good thing;
- Interaction: Both for students and teachers it is important to be able to see each other’s faces. I think we have all learnt this year just how social we are as human beings. Online does not match offline interaction, but it is something!
- Engagement: If the cameras are off, how can you ensure students are engaged in your lesson?
- Wellbeing: I can be a challenge for professionals to deliver lessons to a black screen. Second to that, students will want to see their teachers faces. Bonds are made and teachers can be extremely important adults in children’s lives
If cameras are on, there are some points to consider that you may wish to add to your AUP (acceptable use policy) or ‘online safety policy’. When updating a policy of this kind where things are being asked of students/ teachers, it is best to ensure it is read and agreed to (by way of signature) by students as well. Points you may need to add are;
- Dress code – important that students are appropriately dressed. Some schools even ask they wear school uniform to ensure this.
- Location – ideally students will have somewhere in their home away from others so they can concentrate so that siblings or other household members will not inadvertently broadcast to the class. This obviously won’t be possible for all students so exceptions can be made where needed.
- Mics – regardless of cameras, what you don’t want is pupils talking over each other and in particular, over the teacher. Teachers much have control over mics to allow people to talk when wanted and to turn people off when needed.
- Appropriate sanctions – It’s all very well having a new set of rules but what happens if they are broken. I heard from a school that if a child does behave inappropriately they are put into a separate “time out” room. This again, could be an option.
It is important to note that some teachers will not feel comfortable being filmed or broadcast online, and that must be respected. If teachers do not wish to have their cameras off, they may hopefully be happy to facilitate students having theirs on.
To record or not to record?
Initially it felt again that recording lessons would ensure a level of safety, however this also opens up questions about GDPR and storage. There is absolutely no reason to record every single lesson, but there may be times when recording is necessary, for example during 1-1 sessions. The alternative to recording is having more than one staff member or adult on the call, which in some instances just won’t be appropriate and could take away from the needed privacy of a 1-1. Here’s some points to consider when recording;
- Consent – if the child is under 13, you will need their parents’ consent to record and store that recording
- If you are recording a lesson that is not 1-1 but recording for other students to digest later- try recording only the teacher’s screen/presentation rather than the whole class.
- Check with your data protection officer at school or local authority about where and how long you will store recordings.
Lots of children will unfortunately not have devices at hand to attend online learning. The DFE launched a scheme to get devices in the hands of those that need them last year, and there appear to be more to give out. Please check here for more information; https://www.gov.uk/guidance/get-laptops-and-tablets-for-children-who-cannot-attend-school-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19
The devices will come with a filtering software pre-loaded. If dongles are required and distributed there is also network level filtering pre-loaded onto those. What schools cannot do is ensure there is a network level filtering on home wifi connections. This would be an unreasonable expectation, but there are things schools can do to help educate and support parents to make sure there are some safeguards. For example:
- Info on parental controls; https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/advice-centre/parents-and-carers/parental-controls-offered-your-home-internet-provider
- Step -by-step guides on device level filtering; https://www.internetmatters.org/parental-controls/smartphones-and-other-devices/
- Screentime resource with useful tips; https://swgfl.org.uk/resources/young-people-and-screentime-a-good-start/
What to teach?!
It is ok to maybe feel a bit behind on your online preparation. I am also hearing from schools that with so many children’s parents being classed as a “critical worker”, classrooms are fuller than last year and so provisions for the students online, may sometimes be lacking. Luckily there are now online lessons and plans coming out of every nook and cranny on the internet. Here are some recommended sources for instant help;
- For more specific lessons around online learning, please check out Project Evolve; https://projectevolve.co.uk/toolkit/
If you have other questions about which platforms to use or other remote leaning curiosities, please check out our partner’s suite of resources here; https://swgfl.org.uk/resources/safe-remote-learning/
And of course, the helpline is here Monday to Friday to talk through any thoughts, queries or issues you may have, 0344 381 4772, Helpline@saferinternet.org.uk. This too shall pass, but let’s make it as good as we can while it lasts!