Monday, February 22, 2010

Perhaps Someone Should Write Down Some Rules for this Stuff

Remotely turning on cameras on student laptops is taking things too far, although as a former tech coordinator, I must admit I'd regard it as a pretty clever hack for finding missing laptops. But what this highlights to me is that there just doesn't seem to be a clear set of professional standards for any of this stuff. Or if there are, nobody seems to know about them. This is the crux of the problem.

1 comment:

Tom Hinkle said...

I have certainly found that the ability to look at student screens is enormously helpful in policing use of laptops at school (I can see any screen of any computer in the school at any time). Given the number of software solutions providing this functionality, presumably most people think this falls within reason.

But what about doing the same thing on laptops that students were allowed to bring home? Weirder, I think, but still reasonable if the express purpose of the laptops is supposed to be limited to academics (I'm not sure if that's expected at schools that give kids laptops to bring home).

I've also certainly looked at screens and found that students were filming themselves -- so in effect, I was looking at them through cameras.

Of course, that's different from activating the camera intentionally to see students, in their homes, unbeknownst to the students.

Nonetheless, I think it illustrates the point that, however clear it is that this particular district crossed the line, it's not at all clear where the lines are with regard to monitoring student computer and internet use.

In point of actual practice, I find that often my behaviors are more guided by the peculiarities of the technology I'm using than by a clear ethical standard. VNC and Remote Desktop make it easy to observe screens, so we do that. We don't have an easy software solution to take pictures with built-in cameras, so we don't. When it comes to student email, I can only access emails by changing their passwords (which means telling them I've done it), so that is reserved for extreme cases. In all of these cases, it's a little unnerving how much technology (rather than ethics) drives practice.