Students Adapting to Webcam Spying at School


It wasn’t too long ago that we learned of a lawsuit being brought against a school for the use of webcams for spying on students’ behavior on and off campus. Now Gizmodo notes another school teacher that brags about spying on his students at a school in the Bronx, as seen in a Frontline segment that aired earlier this month.

The aim of Frontline’s coverage was to highlight the use of technology in schools, and how laptops and Google Docs were turning the Bronx school around. Great things to see how education is finally being implemented on a universal scale for this particular school. It was even a little funny to see how excited the students and teachers were about having accessible technology in the classroom.

The teachers and students were excited for different reasons, though. On the one hand, the teachers were thrilled to see how well the students flourished in a technologically advanced classroom setting, as it enabled them to have real-time interaction with the teacher and go over answers with the entire class. The students, on the other hand, later admitted to using the accessible laptops to look at their MySpace pages and chat with their friends, though the school blocks access to sites such as MySpace and YouTube.

The happy medium? Monitor the students’ activity, at least while they’re in the classrooms and supposed to be doing their work. Fair enough, by most standards. But maybe not so much when those teachers admit to spying on their kids. One teacher noted that a lot of the students keep their PhotoBooth application open on their laptops, and use it as a mirror to check their hair or makeup. To mess with his students, one teacher even took a photo of a female student that was doing just that.

Creepy, yes. Even more disturbing was the lack of attention Frontline gave to this aspect of its coverage regarding the school’s use of technology,as Gizmodo points out. Perhaps this Bronx school is looking for a lawsuit as well?

In all fairness, the Bronx school appears to be more transparent with its use of programs for monitoring the student’s activity. Many times they will gently nudge a student to get back to work if they see a student has too many distracting programs open on their laptop. The main objective is for the student to learn and get their work done, not to monitor each and everything they do.

From the Frontline coverage, it actually appears that the students of this Bronx school are well aware of what their teachers are doing with their monitoring tactics, and defend themselves accordingly or admit defeat and simply get back to work. And maybe that’s just the way things are going to be in educational environments so tightly linked to technology.

As we’ve been reminded with the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, it’s not always the spying cameras and surveillance that prevents the crime. Many of us have simply learned to live with a camera or program that is tracking our actions in the real and virtual realms. The real debate for this particular Bronx school and others like it will be whether or not students should be learning how to deal with such monitoring as part of their early education of technology within our society.

Preparing students for the real world takes on an entirely new meaning when you look at it from this perspective, especially as the matter of privacy continues to become a topic of discussion regarding the regular use of social media outlets and the Internet at large. Adapting to the heightened level of real-time accountability is something the next generation will begin developing at a relatively early age, and that may be the consequence of our very permeating technology within our current culture.

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