Almost daily, another video like this one of a teacher berating students goes viral:
Increasingly, technology is being used to spy on teachers, and there’s little chance of this trend diminishing. With a video like the one above, one has to wonder if the student(s) behind the taping didn’t deliberately provoke such a response. On the other hand, some see this as another way of creating transparency in education so that the public has a better idea of what is going on in classrooms around the nation and abuses can be documented and responded to appropriately.
Although there may be some good in the use of technology to spy on teachers, there are clearly at least an equal amount of negatives. Therefore, faculty everywhere should take steps to protect themselves from invasive technology.
One of the positive ways technology has been used to spy on teachers is for preventing abuse. Recently, for example, the Associated Press carried a story about some parents in Cherry Hill, New Jersey who were concerned about educators verbally abusing their special needs children; therefore, a few parents slipped small digital recorders into the pockets of their kids and captured the abuse (26 April, 2012). The educators who perpetrated the mistreatment of these children faced immediate disciplinary action that probably would not have happened if not for the tapings because these were students who were unable to speak up for themselves.
As inarguably good as catching these abusers truly is, there are some concerns that perhaps the hidden use of technology to tape teachers and classrooms is further abuse:
• The videos often go viral; in less than three days, one of the tapings from the New Jersey case received 1.2 million hits. Does anyone have the right to publicize another person’s work record globally like this? What about the other students and individuals on the recording? Is this fair to them, or does it violate their right to privacy?
• Stuart Chaifetz, the father who made the popular viral recording is quoted as saying: “For the tiny percentage of teachers that do it, I hope that they live in fear every day that a kid’s going to walk in with a recorder,” (AP, 26 April, 2012). Do the nine cases in the United States since 2003 in which educators were found guilty of verbal abuse out of tens of thousands of students and educators who are not abusers justify the means? Should anyone go to work each day or even live any part of a day “living in fear”?
• Should teachers have to worry that every word or action will be taped (AP, 26 April, 2012)? Should students have to live under this fear? Is this conducive to a positive, comfortable learning environment?
• With this technology also comes the ability to edit recordings (AP, 26 April, 2012). This opens up quite the proverbial can of worms when it comes time to prove/disprove that a recording has/has not been tampered with. Is this a good use of time, energy, and resources and does it further the cause of providing a good education for our children at any age or level?
• There are additional legalities as well. Although the AP article stresses that in most of the U.S., recordings are legal if one party gives consent (AP, 26 April, 2012), but who is that one party here? The educator? The special needs student who can not express him or herself?
Clearly we want to do all we can to prevent the abuse of innocents in any context; however, secret taping and recording are definitely not the methods that should be used. It’s one thing to catch an abuser; it’s quite another to publish the evidence to the world with a one-sided spin and a stance that one is guilty until proven innocent. This reversal of an American ideal of justice, the interference in the teaching and learning process, and the potential violations to privacy and other legal rights all make this a practice that must stop.
Tomorrow, Part II will look at the issue of privacy in more depth and offer some solutions to educators on how to protect themselves from invasive technology.
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