Bueller?….Bueller?….Thoughts on Classroom Attendance

If you don’t get the Bueller reference it’s because you’re young and I’m old. The line is from the 1986 movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,  and there’s a great scene that highlights the monotonous process of taking classroom attendance.



After years of calling out names, I started to feel like the economics teacher from Ferris Bueller, a tired-looking teacher who makes a futile attempt to determine Ferris’ attendance status by repeatedly calling his name.


I can attest to the fact that there is no faster way to put forty students to sleep than reading the same forty names, with repeats, every day for fifteen straight weeks. I might as well just pass out Dixie cups of Benadryl before I start teaching.  Of course there’s always the sign-in sheet option. If you’ve never seen one, you’d be amazed at how many students have the same handwriting. It’s almost statistically impossible!


Recently, I wondered if I couldn’t just take a picture on my phone as opposed to slogging through the attendance list.  This way, I wouldn’t have to argue with students who insist they were present but didn’t hear their name called. I blame this phenomenon on earbuds (see my earbud post 11/4/14.)


I ran through the photo attendance scenario in my head a few times, but I figured I would need a gazillion campus administrators to approve my plan, and I don’t have that much energy. Most importantly, students would have to agree to be photographed on my personal phone and frankly, we’re just not that close.


Well, it’s a good thing I’m lazy.  As it turns out, Harvard University has recently come under fire for violating students’ and professors’ privacy rights by conducting an attendance study by secretly photographing students in classrooms.


Boy, that word secret is volatile.





So I pose the question to you – how would you feel if attendance was recorded by photograph? Would you need to know you were being photographed for attendance purposes, and would you agree?




  • Tammie Bailey

    Attendance by photography is unnecessary. Students have photo identification to confirm there identity.I once took a philosophy class in a lecture hall that seated hundreds of students. My professor address all of his students by first name and last name. If a professor knows who his or her students are, there would not be identity issues.

  • mbz1421

    Being photographed for attendance would not bother me if I was aware of it and if there is a complete guarantee that the photo will be used to document attendance ONLY. However, this can have many grey areas. One area as oblivious as it may seem is religion. In some strict Islamic cultures, they believe that being photographed is a sin and are only allowed to take pictures when they are taking ID or passport pictures. So what if a person of that culture ended up in a classroom that photographed attendance…would they be allowed to skip the picture? Or can they put a paper bag with a happy face on it and count it? Another issue with this is the misuse of these pictures that can occur. Sure everyone wants to believe that we live in a world where ones word will always be as they say but sadly it’s not. Therese no guarantee that those pictures will be used solely for attendance purposes and in the wrong hands it would cause me discomfort to find out they are being tampered with. If these photographs had maybe a face detection that was linked to the school system and could recognize faces and self-destruct the photo within a certain amount of time (10 minutes in case any tardy people stroll in, if later, the student should be written up) then I would be at peace. This process of roll call has been working for years and there isn’t much wrong with it, I can see the beginning of a semester being an issue maybe, but as the semester moved along, it shouldn’t be much of an issue. Maybe a thumb print recognizer would be more efficient?.

  • MacaiahGross

    First off, this photography attendance idea seems like a great deal of work for the teacher and/or whoever is in charge of the attendance process. First, this requires the photographer to make sure they take a picture far enough to include the whole class. Students have to be aware of this photo being taken in order for them to be identified or else the photo will show a whole bunch of side of the head, fidgeting, preparing for class students. Second, what about late students? Would the photographer have to take a whole new picture? Or would those students have an alternative way to mark themselves present. Lastly, the teacher has to know each student to identify their face to their name with NO MISTAKES. Otherwise it would be a lot of drama for unintentionally marked absent students at the end of the semester. This also seems like an unnecessary extra task for the teacher on top of their grading and teaching. This means they have to make time after class to mark each student. It would have to be after class to defeat the whole purpose of boring students right? If he/she checks attendance with the photograph right after it is taken, you might as well just have bored the students by calling out their name because it would take the same amount of time, if not longer. The only way I see this working without causing any aggravation for teachers and students, the task of taking attendance would have to be taken out of the teachers hand completely. What I mean is the school would have to create a college system where each classroom is recorded by photograph let’s say every 15-20 min after the first photograph at the start of class. Then the system would match the students face to their college ID marking them present, late, or tardy for each class. This system would have to go through many law passing processes to work if such a thing were to be created. I went completely out of the box with this idea, but I feel this is the only way to make this photography attendance idea reliable, not annoying, and legal. If I had a teacher who wanted to try this idea of photography attendance, I wouldn’t mind being photographed in consent this is the only use of it. But for it to be the “new trend on attendance” I think it’s a bit unreasonable.

  • MarkUmbro

    While I do think class attendance can be very important in certain cases, I would not be a fan of getting my picture taken every single day of class. I would not feel too comfortable with all my teachers having tons of pictures of me from class because, as stated in previous comments, I think there is a possible grey zone for this. There is no sure-fired way to guarantee that those pictures aren’t messed with and stay in the hands of the right people. I also think this would be very hard to do because some students can’t always make it to class on time. For example, one student in my economics class consistently comes to class 5-10 minutes late and can’t do anything about it because of the way their schedule is set up.

    While students should regularly attend class, I feel like there are plenty of other places that they can learn as well. The library or at home are perfect examples of places where students can learn outside of the classroom. There are also specific situations where students may not need to be in class everyday. Personally, I know a few students who took the same course as me, did just as well as me, but only ended up going to roughly 1/2 the classes I did. The reasoning behind this was that they learned all the class material very quickly, so instead of spending an hour or two in class learning something they already knew, they used that time to be productive and work on other schoolwork. I think that college should be used to educate students and help them prepare for the real world. The situation I just gave is a great example of students learning and using real world skills (time-management).

  • Joanne Scutero

    I don’t have any objection to being photographed for attendance reasons, but it seems to me that in order to get something like that to work (so that the faces in the picture are recognizable), the students would all have to be looking at the camera,, and the room would have to be fairly small so the people in the back of the room would be in focus (unless each student had an assigned seat for the semester, which, I suspect, most students would hate even more than being photographed).

  • Kristine Pulaski

    Photo attendance sounds like a great idea to me. No longer
    would students and teachers have to argue over their presence in class that
    day. Along with listening and waiting for your name to be called or making sure
    you get the attendance sheet. I definitely
    think these photos should be for attendance purpose only and should be deleted
    at the end of the semester.

    On the down side I think about, what if i had a really
    creepy teacher. I might feel violated. Maybe crazy but thinking about it one
    only knows there professor on a professional level. We do not know their
    friends their family; therefore we do not know who has access to these photos
    and what will really be done with them. This is where the idea starts to creep
    me out.

    In my opinion I’ve never had a creepy professor so I am all
    for photo attendance.