Entry: CCTV in the classroom Friday, July 17, 2009

In the Ultraversity programme (BA (Hons) Learning Technology & Research and other work-based courses), students apply research techniques to their personal career development. Although designed as a generic course that can be adapted to many work settings, the course has drawn interest from school support staff. Teaching assistants and ICT staff often ask about using video to collect data on the effect of introducing small changes to their practice, and the main barrier is in the ethical issues. Undergraduates are developing their understanding of the principle of informed consent, as well as privacy and confidentiality. This has led to interesting discussions in the online learning communities where the courses are discussed.

  • What is the purpose of collecting video data?
  • What might be learned from the video data?
  • What permissions are required?
  • How will the data be analysed?

    Although none of the students has yet mentioned being in a school where video is used in classrooms, it is a technology that seems to be moving from outside (playground security) to inside the walls. There seem to be two main reasons for using video in the classroom: professional development or behaviour management. A company brought to my attention today is Classwatch. This is being marketed as a management system that provides an easy way to make use of CCTV technology in the classroom; CPD Teacher Training Support, Behaviour Management, Anti-bullying, Asset Protection & Management. The web site information includes the statement that "Classwatch® is fully approved by educational authorities..." and implies support for OFSTED inspections. My feeling is that the purpose of using video would need to be very clear in order to develop a robust ethical policy

    Naturally, alternative perspectives about the use of video are not mentioned but these are essential in considering the wider view. In a time when there are news articles about parents prevented from making a video (or even taking photos) of school events, a teacher suspended for taking secret footage of pupils for a TV programme and pupils reprimanded for using mobile phones to capture images, it may not be reasonable to assume that classroom CCTV is without potential pitfalls.

    A critical view may compare similar schemes, such as School Closed Circuit TV as well as the dimension suggested by NO CCTV- campaigning against camera surveillance in the UK. A BBC news item about teacher concerns over school CCTV could be compared to the Guardian article available from the Classwatch web site. An article in The Register reports from a legal perspective.

    Undergraduates on the course are advised that it is acceptable to collect video data for professional development if the camera is filming themselves, not the pupils, and all permissions are sought. Data analysis must be considered at the planning stage, and the focus on staff development rather than pupils must be maintained.

    An example that might help to clarify the position is that where the aim of an inquiry is to develop skills in managing pupils: video might be used to analyse whether a proposed change such as the increase of affirmative comments has been made, and what further changes to an individual's practice might be introduced. Pointing the camera at pupils would require full justification of the research ethics, and might be rejected on the grounds that the data collected would not inform the inquiry question in any meaningful way.

    Should any less consideration be given to the situation with CCTV in the classroom?


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