A truly disruptive technology for education

I wonder if the technologies that will truly disrupt education are the ones most talked about (Khan Academy, online courses in their many forms), the subtle, yet game-changing shifts (digital texts) or the quiet ones we have yet to consider?

While discussions focus on online courses, student assessment, and gaming, a very disruptive technology is being carried in the pockets of students from pre-school to graduate school. The potential for the mobile phone has been discussed in terms of its access, production, communication, and sharing capabilities, but its most potentially disruptive function has gotten little play: recording anywhere, any time, virtually unnoticed. There was the incident that received much press regarding the kids who were bullying their bus driver, which resulted in positive actions, raising awareness of bullying, consequences for the kids, and recognition of the bus driver’s suffering. When considering the potential for kids to record in after-school scenarios, we should be aware that students now have the ability to record in school, too, at any time of the day, any day, and post these recordings on the website of their choice. There is the potential to shame, penalize, or potentially do professional harm to their teachers by taking statements out of context. The latest incident with presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s statements at a fundraiser show how easy it is to record and share with a broad audience. What happens once the same scenario occurs with a teacher?

While there’s potential for serious professional harm, there is also a risk that knowing recording is possible might change the dynamics of the teaching environment. If you’ve ever been recorded while presenting or struggled while recording your voicemail greeting, you have a sense of what teachers will face. This knowledge of surveillence may cause educators to be more cautious, more scripted (limiting teachers even more so than the current curricula guidelines), less likely to innovate, to speak extemporaneously, be imaginative. Pocket surveillence has the potential to slowly erode the independence of teachers and the serendipity of the classroom.

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