Video: Changing the way Teachers and Adminstrators Act

Cnet and This Week in Tech reported on the story where a teacher was recorded yelling at a student. The recording later ended up on YouTube. Two thirteen year-old girls worked together. One provoked the teacher while the other secretly recorded the teacher’s response. The Canadian school suspended the two girls and the teacher took a stress leave of absence.

It seems the suspensions were imposed because of the provocation and the coordinated nature of the event. I wonder if the school had a policy concerning the use of video and audio devises. If they don’t, I’m sure they are drafting one now.

The Cnet article quoted Abdu Mansouri, a spokesman for the region’s teachers’ union, saying: “The teacher will be the master of his class–a closed class and confidential.” I’m not sure a classroom should be completely closed and confidential, but this incident raises a question of whether technology was disrupting the educator’s ability to teach. It seems reasonable for teachers to restrict the use of video equipment in their classes when it is used to disrupt education. It is not hard to imagine a scenario where a particular student attempts to provoke a teacher on a regular basis in order to catch the reaction on tape. Students have attempted to gain attention from disruption for years. The difference is that before the ability to easily record the incident, the student’s audience was only their classmates at the given time, whereas if the event is recorded the student’s audience is unlimited and the incident can be played over and over. In short the incentive to disrupt class is greater because the attention generated is greater. But if there is a policy against recording, the possible punishment may offset the incentive.

A student should not be disciplined where the school did not have a video policy and, unlike here, the student doing the recording had no involvement in the incident. The more interesting issue is whether an uninvolved student doing the recording should be disciplined where the recording exposes truly reprehensible conduct, but the school had a policy prohibiting unauthorized video recording. Arguably, in that case, the student’s act of recording was good, although against school policy. Yet, maybe the accountability benefits are outweighed by the need for a consistently applied policy and an undisrupted educational environment.

Today, my search of Youtube for “Teacher Yelling” returned 83 results. I am sure that number will rise. Regardless of whether a school has a policy, the fact that secret recording is possible will likely change the way teachers and administrators act. What type of change and whether the change has a positive, negative, or mixed impact is open for debate. Even if a school has a policy that prohibits a student from unauthorized recording in school, there is no guarantee that a student is not violating the rule. Once the video is put on the Internet, there’s no getting it back simply because it was recorded in violation of school policy.