I found this mornings discussion on BBC with regards the use of body cameras by teachers in 2 pilot schools an unexpected turn of events in the use of technology in schools. This story was also reported in The Guardian
Within the pilot teachers within the schools concerned will apparently make use of the cameras when there is a “perceived threat”. I find this statement interesting when it is reported that the purpose of the cameras is related to teachers who are “fed up with low-level background disorder”. I am not sure how low level behaviour issues are likely to amount to a perceived threat?
I am also thinking back to my own teaching career and quite often the incidents I might have wanted to capture on video as evidence are those which came unexpectedly. I can’t really see it working where the teacher has to ask the pupils to “stop for a minute while I turn my camera on”.
I can understand why body camera might work for the police and other services where the role involves a significant amount of control and potential conflict however this is not something I would expect of our classrooms. Within our classrooms our focus is on teaching and learning which is a social endeavour and therefore conflict should not be a regular expectation although I will acknowledge that as with any interactions between people with different views, etc. the occasional conflict is always possible.
I also wonder about what the inclusion of body cameras in schools might come to symbolize. For some it might be seen as a symbol for safety and security however for others, and I would speculate for the majority within schools, it would be seen to indicate a lack of trust, openness and care. Teachers have to carry body cameras to capture evidence of misbehaviour so by extension this means that teachers expect misbehaviour and teachers don’t trust students to behave correctly. What impact would a culture a mistrust have on a school and is it worth the cost when weighed against the limited benefits of body cameras which have to be turned on to record specific incidents.
My overall feeling on this is not positive however I welcome any pilot as a way to test a potential new approach. I do hope that the pilot includes a control group of schools and that the review of its impact is done using an appropriately scientific approach. If I was looking to use technology I would be more positive towards CCTV in classrooms with a clear statement as to what the footage can be used for. The reason my preference is towards this is that it captures what all, including teachers and other staff are doing, plus it serves as an excellent tool for teachers to review their lessons, work in peer groups, etc. and therefore serves as an excellent CPD tool. CCTV can therefore be seen as something with a focus on improvement and working for the good whereas body cameras are purely for evidence collection and as a deterrent, a force for what I would consider the bad.