Cell phone cameras in the K-12 classroom: Punishable offenses or student-citizen journalism?

[cross-posted at LeaderTalk]

Take a look at the seven YouTube videos below, all taken by student cell phone cameras in classrooms. Do we want students bringing to public attention these types of classroom incidents? Should students be punished or applauded for filming and posting these?

121 Responses to “Cell phone cameras in the K-12 classroom: Punishable offenses or student-citizen journalism?”

  1. I agree with Lindsay and Scarlett. Teachers need to show some respect for their students before they can expect to be listened to and respected. I think these videos are a good thing. It doesn’t matter whether they are filmed with an element of pranking or mischief. They are still fine citizen journalism.

  2. There is a crisis in the classrooms of the US & if it takes the students themselves use their cameraphones as a source of manipulation, I think the that only result is a negative comment on their own wildness and, yes, lack of respect and inability to concentrate. I see educated people here at the head of classrooms at their wits end, losing their patience. The irony is that if the children win at this classroom game, they will lose at the game of modern life in the 21st century – which perhaps demands more order & intelligence that ever. How can one explain that to the mob? Reality only hits them out there in the world – at the job. Maybe we should re-instate more real life vocation experiences in place of sitting in classrooms to show the kids what can be expected of them. Want to be a jerk and scoff school? Then condemn yourself to minimum wage slavery…or perhaps a life of crime? If we spent the resources on schools that we currently do o PRISONS we would be making a good start.

  3. In video number two, I feel this is very clearly a racial thing, as well as a power trip they are trying pull over on this teacher. It’s not her fault, she doesn’t have a chance.

  4. Teachers need the support of administration. Some students are just going to cause as much trouble as they can, seek attention at any cost, and care nothing about anyone else in the class.

    I’m speaking from the standpoint of a parent. My oldest son was in a class in middle school where a group of disruptive students not only tormented the teacher, they also tormented any student that actually wanted tao learn. Administration would not back up the teacher. It was a miserable year for us all.

    Perhaps he should have filmed those other kids tormenting the teacher and the other students.

  5. You can advocate teaching teachers how to deal with this behavior, but it will not work the US.

    I think everyone agrees that both the teachers and the students here are out of line. I cannot imagine swearing at students. Clearly, that is out of line. I do not excuse it, but understand it. They have been pushed to their limit day after day and not paid. However, I teach college and encounter students with these behavioral problems.

    This is really the chicken and the egg question. Are the kids acting this way because of poor teaching or has their conduct dragged the teaching down?

    Many “educator” types on this site advocate training the teachers to deal with this kind of behavior. Do you really want to spend your tax dollars to educate teachers on how to deal with grossly undisciplined kids? Music teachers may not make good policeman or psychologists. Considering that the United States is competing in a world economy and not competing very well, would it not make more sense to train teachers in their fields and and leave discipline to parents and administration where it belongs. Most teachers have no trouble dealing with minor every day discipline problems, but this is pretty major, right?

    Most teachers have into their profession because they love to teach. Most have wanted to make a positive impact on students. Most have had a great teacher and imagined themselves being like that teacher.

    However, most good teachers leave the professions in a few years. They don’t get paid and they don’t get supported. The good ones leave quickly. You can criticize teachers all you want, but it is you children and the nation who loses when the good ones leave. Criticism will not stop that.

    You don’t understand that a chemist or physicist or any teacher thinks his subject is beautiful. He wants to show students how beautiful it is and to share it with them. A music teacher thinks certain music is complex and beautiful and teaches to tell his students about it. However, now you want to train him to deal behavioral problems (real problems like teacher baiting and blatant disrespect). You also do not pay him/her.

    Teachers are not stupid. They know there will be behavioral problems in the classroom. They have been there to see them many times themselves. What they do not anticipate is how unsupportive the administration will be. They, the teachers, will be blamed for the student conduct in these videos no matter how they react.

    On TV the other night, the politician says roughly, ” if there are two classes reading at the 4th grade level and at the end of the year one is reading at the 6th grade level and the other at the 7th grade, the principal should be able to fire one teacher for poor performance.

    According to time magazine a few issues ago, starting teachers in Denmark (I think that was the country) make more than starting doctors. That is pretty extreme. However, if you want these videos to change you will have to pay teachers and support them too.

  6. Doctor T is right. In my high school where I work, these students would have been kicked out of the classroom for insubordination.

  7. I wish I could say that any of this was shocking to me, but unfortunately it is not. I had an incident which occured this year where students in a classroom were behaving very inappropriately and the teacher did nothing to stop it. A student from our video production class was filming it in a high quality digital format. (Atleast we have good equipment, despite our poor judgement)It ended up on YouTube and the teacher, who is going through a very difficult time in his life, was publically ridiculed. Yes it was a lack of classroom supervision, but then we are all human and there is not an individual out there that does not have a day they wish they could do over. It was inappropriate behavior by students, but as always the teacher and I were the ones held responsible for our lack of supervision and our less adequate expectations for students. I convinced the students involved to immediately pull the video from YouTube once it was brought to my attention, yet I was still reprimanded by several board members.
    This is just an example of the larger social-societal issue of holding schools accountable for student behavior. Students are responsible for student behavior and schools should only be judged by their response to such behavior. I did not drop the hammer on these students, but rather elected to use this as a teachable momment for not only those involved but the entire student body and staff. We had a discussion in homeroom on responsible use of technology. Thus the reprimand from the board. In their opinion this was not good enough as only by making an example of these students did they feel it would never happen again. The truth is that we have very little control over what students place on the web. I am comfortable with this as I am a big proponent of the first ammendment. Just because we do not agree with speech does not mean we should have the right to suppress it. Time and time again I am amazed by how we take away a student’s rights instead of teaching them to exercise them responsibly. As adults we limit student access to technology like cell phones and then are amazed when adults don’t shut them off when they attend conferences, plays or concerts. We need to teach students to use technology responsibly if we ever want them to do so as adults. Instead the common trend is to prohibit its use.

  8. lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol yes schools schould have cameras

  9. This is horrible. It makes my stomach uneasy. These students are as out of control as the teachers yelling at them. As a mother, I would be horribly ashamed if my child were provoking a teacher like some of those students in the videos. On the other hand as an educator, I would be mortified to see myself in my weakest moment loosing a battle with self control as my students egged me on. I have been on both sides of the spectrum… The disrespectful, self-righteous/centered teenager, as well as the furious, ridiculous,ranting teacher. Both of which now make me feel ashamed. The students should most definitely not be applauded for their recordings, but the teachers need to be dealt with accordingly as well. Classroom management has gone out the window here. When you are in a position of leadership, be it a classroom or not, you cannot take low blows personally. You must keep your ego under wrap and let the students know that you’re there to teach, not argue. These disgraceful power struggles, illuminated by youtube, are no-win situations.

    • I agree with Diana Brown, that the videos are horrible and sickening. I also agree that I would be ashamed of my children for behaving that way in any setting. However, I would like to think that I would be aware enough of my child’s daily life that they would not be in a classroom where the teacher relies heavily on lectures, rote memory and ritualized adherence to nationalism. I hope I am able to steer my boys into classrooms where the teacher at least clarifies the reasons for them to learn they way they’re being taught, not including “that’s the way it’s done.”

      As for the existence of these videos: they are useful to teachers, if only to show us how pitiful we look when we stoop to the level of name-calling and insults too many of our students wallow in themselves. If we cannot consistently model decorum and civility for our students we have no right to expect them to outperform us in a situation where we are, ourselves, failing. I also hope that, should any of these teachers deliver a stimulating and enlightening lesson, their students will be just as quick to give them props online as they are to humiliate them.


  10. This is a sad indictment of our society. Brainless maniacs come to our classrooms every day with no sense of discipline and no accountability. Teachers are constantly burdened to “do more” with less and realize, at the end of the day, whatever occurs in their classroom is their fault. Who’s to blame? Parents? Society? We feed various stereotypes that make kids aspire to all the wrong things and many read two or more years below grade level.

    What is the solution? Accountability…

    Make a parent PAY for a failing grade by requiring payment for a re-do. Then, let’s see how many kids “act a fool” in the classroom.

    I taught in public schools for four years. It is a nightmare developing on a run away train…

    • @Steven (Stephen?) King Your teaching experience is clearly different from mine. I hope that I would have the fortitude to leave such atrocious conditions. I might even write a few horror novels about the trials of adolescence in a world so obviously overrun by evil and darkness.


  11. In the videos depicted above I think it is evident that BOTH students AND teachers behaved poorly. That said, with the exception of the first video most of these teachers appear to be unaware of the fact that they are being video-taped and I think that’s shameful for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious reason is the violation of privacy I feel this behavior constitutes. Also, I can’t help wondering how students would feel if their classroom behaviors were videotaped by teachers and then uploaded to youtube without their informed consent.

    Perhaps part of the controversy here is the changing notion of privacy in a digital age. The evolution of privacy’s definition has not kept pace with the ubiquitous nature of public technology and social media. A great paper on this topic was written by Ramon Barquin and Clayton Northouse of the “Computer Ethics Institute” take a look if you want to learn more, section three is particularly compelling and relevant to this discussion:


    • To me this video shows the disconnect between older generational thinking and a new paradigm. Children have more rights today than adults. Adults work in an environment in which they are held accountable for outcomes and not given supports and resources to work effectively.

      The real issue is not what happened it is what was to do to assure this kind of interaction does not happen. In schools today, teachers (substitutes in this case) are expected to manage participants with diverse learning needs while at the same time, having no knowledge of what the needs are of the participants, no training to manage bad outcomes and no staff support.


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