Classroom cameras

Some daycare centers are allowing parents to log in and watch what’s happening in their kid’s classroom via secure webcam. As sort of a follow-up to yesterday’s post, here are some questions a friend of mine and I recently had about extending this idea to K-12 teachers…

  1. How would most teachers feel about parents being able to watch and hear, via a secure password-protected webcam connection, what was occurring in class on a regular basis?
  2. Would teachers’ classroom instruction / pedagogy be better, worse, or the same if parents could watch and hear what was occurring in class on a regular basis?
  3. Would classroom management / discipline be better, worse, or the same if parents could watch and hear what was occurring in class on a regular basis?

There are some other issues too, such as the impact on school bandwidth, but I think discussion around these three questions might be pretty interesting…

24 Responses to “Classroom cameras”

  1. Scott, great questions!

    1) Teachers would feel invaded. There is much that goes on in a classroom that involves establishing a connection, building a dynamic with students. This might be even more true in classrooms in urban settings…but no less true in small towns, too. Since unknowledgeable strangers–even though they are stakeholders–are looking in, they might see something innocent and perceive it as dereliction of duty.

    For example, the possibility that someone might look in and see a teacher grading papers while the kids watch a movie that’s not related to a lesson. Sure, it’s not supposed to happen, but is allowed in education culture. How would parents react?

    What about a show-down between a teacher and a child, played out in front of cameras? A million opportunities to second-guess the teacher. This is also dangerous because of the “Big Brother is watching you phenomenon.” Are we sure we want to inculcate students with the idea that they are under constant surveillance?

    Of course, that’s less an obstacle now…we are all under surveillance, and this would just mean the illusion is gone.

    2 & 3) Classroom instruction/pedagogy would not be worse…discipline might improve in the short-run, but is this really the way we want to go with schools? Why not video-tape parts of the school day? Maybe when the teacher is doing high stakes test-prep? (smile)

    I need to reflect on this more and I’m out of time now. THanks again for the questions!

    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the

  2. Somehow the daycare center teachers seem to handle being observed.

    I don’t think we’d let unknowledgeable strangers observe the classroom, only parents via a secure, password-protected connection (too many legal issues otherwise).

    My friend thinks classroom instruction might improve substantially…

  3. Fun questions to make one think on a Tuesday morning… I posted a quick pass at some initial reactions on my blog:

    I deliberately avoided reading any comments here before writing mine, but I’m caught up now…

    I have worked in urban school settings and I am trying to think of anything I did in building a relationship that I wouldn’t want people to know about. Kids lie to their parents and misrepresent teacher behaviors all the time to their parents (I field the parent complaints all the time!). I think occasionally it would be nice to have some video “evidence” that I said X and not Y.

    Regarding a teacher-student faceoff, I think that would present a golden opportunity to counsel the teacher in some strategies to effectively de-escalate the situation without it coming to a head.

    In my position as an AP, I see too many discipline referrals for situations that would have been non-issues were it not for a teacher who escalated it.

    Certainly that is not always the case, but I would make a conservative guess that 8 out of 10 situations I deal with could have been effectively nipped in the bud by the teacher before coming to the point where I had to intervene.

    Just my $0.02.

    — Scott

  4. Scott,
    Great questions as always!
    I, too, think classroom instruction would improve dramatically as teachers would be held accountable for instruction.
    Does it have to be all or nothing in the K-5 classroom? Could it be this week observe our math instruction, next week observe our language arts instruction, etc? Parents would feel more connected and informed about what is happening in their kid’s classrooms.
    At the middle school/high school level the filming could be for the entire class period and the parents could click on their own student’s schedule and choose to watch what they wanted to.
    To be honest, if this type of service was available, I believe that parents would initially observe often and then infrequently “check in.”
    On another note, As a speaker/consultant/educator I welcome feedback as I’m constantly trying to improve my skills. Teachers don’t have that same opportunity to gain valuable feedback from consumers and taxpayers and this would be an opportunity for them to gain that feedback. We can always improve no matter what our skills.

  5. I’ve taught for so many years that all I could think of were all the legal issues. In our district you cannot post student work with a grade on it on a hallway bulletin board. Our parent volunteers cannot grade papers with student names on them. As a special ed teacher I cannot mention my students by name in the newsletter. Could you see the ramifications if all parents could “see” into the classroom? They may “see” a students grades being discussed; they may “see” a special ed student getting extra help, they may “see” Jonnie leave for his gifted class!! Heaven forbid. haha!

  6. I’m trying to balance Miguel’s good sense that a policy of constant surveillance could create a very uneasy environment against my desire to become completely transparent to my colleagues and, particularly, to the taxpayers who sign my checks. I’m planning on posting complete daily lesson plans — handouts, slide deck, the works — to my blog within the month. Darren is podcasting everything. Aren’t things trending towards that sort of “surveillance”? If not, where is the line between podcasting and vidcasting we won’t cross?

  7. I am researching this topic for my children, what happens when your child is the victim of teacher abuse or negletic. I see all sides, but really… these are OUR children at age 2 or age 18 we have every right to see how they are doing and What they are doing. Weither my child is the bully or the one being bullied I have the right to know. and the “he said, she said” is not good enough anymore. Teachers and administors alike are abusing the fact that they have a certin amount of control over these children. The accountability is lost. too many sigle parent families and dual income families have made up our parenting groups along with granparents and foster families in much there are larger numbers than even 20 yrs ago. The need to have more and make more money has come between the care and education of our children. I once had a teacher tell my husband that “They don’t give out homework anymore, because the parents stoped caring and the children werent getting it done”. So… the teacher stoped caring too. And what about the teacher who has no time to teach. Parents get homework that they themselves may have forgotten how to do or have never done. The world has changed, I helped my son so a Social Studies assignment, there were continents on it I didn’t know existied and my daughter corrected my husband the other day about there only being 8 planets. Now Pluto doesn’t count. If we can watch what is going in the classroom and hear is too then we can see and hear what then are doing so we can hold them and the teachers accountable and can help or teachers teach. I don’t see any reason not to put cameras in the classroom.

  8. I am the mother of a very petite down syndrome girl. she is currently in a self-contained classroom. For the last two years I have had speculations that neglect has been going on in her classroom. She wets her clothes everyday at school and yet she wears a diaper. I feel that they are not changing her till it is too late, but I can’t prove it. I do know that this rarely happens at home. I also feel she is left in a stroller for hours at a time, because when I come to visit, she is in one although they always have an excuse. By the way, she is completely mobile, yet again, I can’t prove it is happening repeatedly. I can say without any doubt that cameras should be in special education settings to protect these defenseless children from neglect and abuse. My daughter has no verbal skills and cannot tell me what is going on and I can never know exactly what is going on…It is all the words of the teacher and aides. Please encourage your school district to get cameras in the special ed classrooms!

  9. I taught inner city 5th graders for four years. And i always wished there was a camera in my class so that parents could see their kids behaviour. Even the most challenging students that i ever had were extemely different whenever their parents were in the room. So while it is hard to explain to a parent that his/her angelic kid threw a tantrum yesterday, it is definetely worth a while for a parent to be able to see playback of their kid’s behaviour. As a teacher, i’d gladly welcome a video camera in my class. As an administrator, i’d ask my teachers if they’d be comfortable with it. As far as the benefits are concerned, it is a plus to have a camera in the class.

  10. I think that this idea would be great. Not only will it give the parents a relief on KNOWING that their child is being taught properly but also that he isn’t in any danger. There are alot of teachers out there that are great teachers and would never hurt a child but all you hear in the news nowaday is how these teachers take advantage of these children. Its awful to even think of something like that happening to my child. You obviously cannot trust anyone and this would be really great. IF not I’m still going to try to put a hidden camera on my childs backpack so that i can moniter what is going on. This is just what I think.

  11. I am a 9th grade teacher at a city school. We are on block schedule — classes are 1.5 hours long. Day after day I find it hard to teach because students will not stay in their seats, they talk, they throw things, etc. I have had days that for 20 minutes I could not teach because the students would not be quiet. I have been teaching 16 years and have never had discipline problems. I want a camera in my classroom even if I have to bring my own but I don’t know if it is legal. I don’t want to post anything in a public place, I just want to be able to show parents and administrators that we teachers are not inadequate teachers. It is that our children refuse to cooperate, close their mouths, and let us teach. Question is: Are cameras in the classroom legal?

  12. As a parent of a 15 yr old boy who has had a past of stretching the truth about things that happen in the class, I would WELCOME a service that allowed me to subscribe to my son’s schedule and log in whenever I wanted to observe. I would pay money for it! I suspect I am not alone. I have had this idea for a few years and found this thread through a bored afternoon google search.

  13. Q

    My initial thoughts in response to Scott McLeod’s questions regarding cameras in the classroom… How would most teachers feel about parents being able to watch and hear, via a secure password-protected webcam connection, what was occurring in class on a

  14. The majority of parents would approve however teachers are hostile to this concept. Classroom cameras show evidence of indoctrinization and ineptitude.

  15. The National Education Association website “Legal Issues Concerning Academic Freedom” tells us how they and probably most teachers feel about classroom cameras. In the section ” Academic Freedom Model Contract Language” it says; …”No mechanical or electronic device shall be installed in any classroom or brought in on a temporary basis which would allow a person to be able to listen or record the procedures in any class. Why do the NEA and teachers fear classroom cameras so much?

  16. William Chamberlain has been doing this for a few years already.

  17. Question A: As a parent, such technology sounds ideal for accessible monitor of my student in their classroom environment. But as an teacher, I frown up the ability to watch and hear classroom activities on a regular basis via classroom cameras. Intrusive and untrusting, classroom cameras undermines teachers trusted ability to teach. If used for regular monitoring purposes, for both students and teachers, classroom cameras could ideally replace parent/teacher conferences and classroom evaluations physically conducted by school administrators. As well, it must be realize that a teacher’s classroom is their “work space”, the same as one who works in such environments as “corporate America” (i.e. offices and cubical). Would one who works in non-classroom environments feel comfortable working in a micro-managed setting?

    Question B: If I was proponent of classroom camera monitoring I would believe teachers’ classroom instruction/pedagogy would become better because teachers/classroom are constantly subjected to observations from both parents and school administrators.

    Quesrion C: As a classroom management/discipline tool, classroom camera monitor could promote positive student/classroom behavior and discipline. For teachers, the tool offers parents and administrative a visual of reported negative and disruptive behavior displayed by students.

  18. 1. How would most teachers feel about parents being able to watch and hear, via a secure password-protected webcam connection, what was occurring in class on a regular basis?

    I don’t think that we would care very much. In fact it may help during parent/teachers conferences if there were vid clips to reference. I can understand the idea that this is invasion of privacy and that natural behavior may be altered because the cameras are present. This being the case I would agree to cameras until a specific age, maybe 10th grade.

    2. Would teachers’ classroom instruction / pedagogy be better, worse, or the same if parents could watch and hear what was occurring in class on a regular basis?

    This is a very good question. I feel that teachers often feel attacked when explaining occurrences in the classroom to parents of problematic students. Parents often excuse behavior as something that the teacher may be doing wrong that needs to be changed. If there are cameras in the class students behavior would not be so easily dismissed as a communication problem. At the same time, this might enable the more controlling parents to try to micro-manage what happens in the classroom. There needs to be clear guidelines as to how and why the class in managed the way it is, in order to allow methods to be put in context.

    3. Would classroom management / discipline be better, worse, or the same if parents could watch and hear what was occurring in class on a regular basis?

    I do think that behavior would be better. I am not sure that this wouldn’t defeat the purpose for some. I think that most parents would want cameras in classrooms to see what there child is doing when they are not around.

  19. 1. Yes parents would view common behaviors as dereliction of duty, yes an argument with a student may play out on camera. However there are many new changes to consider.

    Teachers can now teach to our contract without fear of reprisal!
    – An unruly student fails to respond to procedures set by parents and the school results in a video where the teacher does all that is asked and the often ridiculous mandates are shown to be flawed instead.
    – A teacher seen grading papers during the film may now inquire as to whether immediate feedback is useful to students and parents…or better….ask the parent/admin to point to the schedule and identify WHEN grading should be done.

    Teachers would finally be able to show the world the VAST amounts of work we invest each day both in school for pay and at home for free! Teacher accountability would become parent, student, and district accountability! A student with poor grades can be correlated with poor behavior (not always true). Statistics would now include behaviors, attendance, AND grades.

    Bottom line, teachers would have to stop working so hard for a time. Let the world see what we do and point to our contracted hours to show us where to squeeze in the work asked of us. I know that I havn’t taken a full lunch in years and the bathroom is often but a dream. I BEG to have my class on camera. I will do everything to the letter, no more. I will also have PROOF for MYSELF that the system is ALSO accountable thereby preventing termination.

  20. My wife teaches 3rd grade and at her school they have recently installed cameras in the classrooms. Her concern is that the cameras will be used against teachers by the superintendant of the school district as this has recently happened when a medical situation occured with a student that was out of the teachers control. The teacher left the room for 2 minutes to see if she could get help and was threatened with disciplinary action by the superintendant for being out of the class room for 2 minutes.This is a dedicated teacher and my thinking is for the well being of the child which didn’t seem to be the superintendants concern.

  21. Here’s the deal.
    1. We are all on camera throughout the day. ATMs, traffic lights, stores, etc.
    2. Yes cameras could be used against teachers. Consider however, that cameras would also require teachers to limit themselves only to the scope of their jobs! A teacher can’t step out for two minutes, if there is a problem in the hall, then there is proof that schools need more personnel. Teachers would simply stick to their jobs and all of the problems would flush themselves out into the open.

    People would initially blame teacher for not doing xyz, but then they would be forced to admit that teachers hold the failing components of the educational machine together. Let bad teachers be caught and fired, bad students be held accountable, and poor practices be shown in the light. What are we afraid of? The truth?

    • unfortunately , It doesn’t always happen that way. My wife doesn’t mind the cameras because she loves teaching and she invites anyone who wants to sit in her class and at any time. It is the perception of what others see in a video that may not always be the case because there is no audio. Parents and or administrators will come to there own conclusions whether right or wrong and the teachers seem to get the bad end of it no matter what.

  22. I hear you, I do. But parents and administrators come to their own conclusions anyway. Currently they are often based on uninformed casual opinions. I would rather they be based on SOMETHING tangible. Also, nothing is perfect, I wouldn’t suggest anything would be. However, having transparent and observable materials to demonstrate to an “impartial” third party is light-years ahead of our current situation.
    I can’t see how cameras in classrooms would make anything worse. Some things may get worse but the whole would improve dramatically. I must add, that there would certainly be a dip at first as bad teachers and bad practices are seen in the public eye, and students are FINALLY FINALLY held accountable for THEIR side of things. Regarding students, “well, why didn’t you….” or “You should have ….” and other out of context comments would have a frame of reference.

    I am asking, NOT for a leg up, charity, or even the upper hand. I am simply asking for a deck of cards that isn’t marked and a game with rules that apply to everyone. The only way I can see this happening must be easily installed and affordable. Transparency is the key. Nothing extra nothing lost…we simply CANNOT solve a problem until we can define it.

  23. I am totally for cameras in the classroom, with all the bullying, drugs, and bad influences that exist in schools I am all for it. i have a three year old and I would love to see cameras in classrooms, hallways, anywhere that kids are. I myself was the victim of bullying, and sexual harassment when I was in school and do not want my daughter to suffer the same. Teachers should have no fear if the are doing there jobs on the contrary I think this wil benefit teachers.

Leave a Reply