Video Cameras in the Classroom: Is it Technology Gone Right, or Wrong?

This weekend I attended a conference for directors and administrators of early childhood learning programs. One of the vendors was from a new company that uses state-of-the-art technology to bring streaming video into child care centers. A huge flat screen TV demonstrated the concept,  showing us all that was going on in a classroom at a client’s school. The director of this particular school was also on hand to answer questions.

I enjoyed watching the classroom in action throughout the day, but what was especially fascinating was listening to the conversations of the directors and administrators attending the conference as they passed by this booth. Needless to say, some people loved the idea, others were horrified.

I was conflicted. As a parent, I love the idea of being able to see what my kids do during the day. Bug never gives me any details about her day at school, no matter how I ask. And Babe doesn’t talk yet, so I can’t get much from him either. I want to be that fly on the wall watching them play with their friends and work on projects. How do they behave with their teachers and peers? What do they choose to do with their time? No doubt my productivity at work would plummet!

As a former teacher though, I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with the idea that at any moment, who knows how many sets of eyes are on me. I can see that this video footage could be a great training and self evaluation tool. And I can see that it could help with parent communication. But I don’t think I could shake the feeling of constantly being judged.

What are your thoughts on the topic? If you have expereinced web cams or streaming videos in your school or child care environment, how do you feel about it? Is it the future of child care?

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24 Responses

  1. Cameras in the classroom are an excellent idea. I have frequently supported putting them in classrooms. Cameras are the only way parents can truly understand what is happening to their children during the school day, especially they are young.

    As for teachers in K-12 feeling uncomfortable, I believe that feeling will pass with time. College professors routinely hold lectures with about a hundred students in class. Furthermore, some college classes are also broadcast via closed circuit tv.

    My point is that teachers in K-12 should be willing to adapt to the new technologies and be open to the idea.

  2. I think there are some confidentiality issues at stake here. For instance, what if there were an incidence of biting in a toddler classroom? Confidentiality is at stake if the parent of the victim happens to be watching at the time of the incident. He/she now knows who bit her child. As an educator, I am not at liberty to tell the parent who the biter is nor am I at liberty to tell the parent of the biter who their child bit. Confidentiality rules and regulations are pretty strict. They are in place to protect children and families.

    I don’t agree with video cameras in the classroom. I believe if teachers are documenting children’s learning through photographs, written observation and work samplings and have an open door policy for there is no need for video cameras in the classroom.

  3. That time HAS come for video in K-12 classrooms, and in all classrooms of all schools for that matter.
    They’re already in many college classrooms, so it’s not like there’s any new ground being broken.

    While some may see this as a “privacy” issue, what happens in a classroom should NOT be private.
    Parent’s have every right to know what is being taught to their kids every day.

    Our public schools have been transformed during the last few decades from being centers of education to being centers of agenda driven propaganda. Much of the lunatic fringe behaviour comes from these kids who grow up being taught nonsense that their parents never new was part of the curriculum.

    Let’s at least allow parents to know what their kids are being taught, and allowing video in the classrooms will open up the dark secrets of indoctrination going on in our public schools today.

  4. I am all for cameras in the classroom. Open door policy is now a closed door policy unless you schedule a day or time to sit in on a class and have it signed off by the Principal. To say that anyone in a classroom has a right to privacy in a public building is a lot of crap. I would love to be able to sit in on my daughters’ high school classes and being able to view that class via online would also be less of a distraction to a class.

  5. thats creepish.

  6. This comment is to KSS…if some kid bit my child I would DEMAND to know who it was and then figure out why it happened. You’re not at liberty to tell me? Then I think a lawyer will open your mouth when I decide to sue!

  7. I still think that cameras in the classroom is an important idea. My child is also special needs, so it is important for me to have an accurate idea of what is taking place in the classroom. School visits are good, but they are too predictable, so the teacher knows that the parent will be present. I’ve written my local school and government officials about this idea, but unfortunately they have shown little interest in the idea of having cameras in special needs classrooms. I would gladly waive any confidentialiyt rights in order to allow a camera to be in the classroom. I’d imagine that other parents of special needs children would do the same. Regardless, I will keep writing my letters to the elected officials about this concern.

  8. As a former, lawyer, HS teacher and college lecturer , now in semi-retirement and substitute teaching K-12, I think parents would be shccked to see how their student behaves and applies himself or herself during the school day. Teachers today spend a a great percentage of their time engaged in class room management rather than teaching. If classroom teachers were given discretion over the turning on of a classroom camera I am certain 95% of the rude and distracting behavior typical of today’s public education would cease. Parents could watch little Johnny and Mary in action, and stingy legislators could witness first hand what the classroom culture is like when you cut school budgets and force a teacher to cram another half dozen students into a class. The age of entitlement is corrosive.

  9. This response is for Debra.

    Biting is a normal toddler behavior. It actually happens more often then you would think in a toddler classroom. Particularly classrooms that are not multi-age.

    Laws in the State of NH as stated in the Bureau of Child Care Licensing Rules and Regulations hold child care program to VERY strict standards on confidentiality.

    These confidentiality regulations are in place to protect both children against retaliation from the parents.

    We are bound by law to not divulge that type of information or any other personal information about a child that is not your own.

    I stand firm on my position on cameras in the classroom and the confidentiality issues that could arise.

  10. i need facts adout why close circite cameras in any school is bad ………..PLEASE!!!!!!!!!

  11. In my personal opinion I regard the use of cameras in classrooms as vital. Not only does it add to the security of your child but it also gives you a window into your child’s life that you so often miss because of work hours. If managed correctly, an always online camera can add value to the schooling environment/ Distant Learning will realize and these sessions could be broadcast-ed during emergency states and epidemics and so on. Some sessions would obviously be limited and not publicly streamed…but definitely I view this as a technology that will soon be a (Can’t live without!) and a must security requirement for all schools…

  12. In my kids’ school there are cameras everywhere except classrooms and washrooms. They should be in all classrooms and running whenever the school is unlocked. My concern is not the student’s behavior, it is the teachers. I have 5 kids ranging in age from 15 to 37. I think their experience is typical: each of them have had several very good teachers, many who were average and semi-motivated who did, at least, no harm, and several who were total nutbars. This last group are virtually untouchable and do real damage to their students. Filming every class is a good idea. Teachers and students alike will behave differently when they know they are on “candid camera.” There is no down-side. Education can only benefit from cameras. Some teachers oppose this because they will have to lift their game.

  13. Here in Wisconsin we also have very strict laws to follow regarding confideniality. For that reason, we are in the process of installing cameras for administration use only. As the director I will be able to view any classroom at any given time to make sure my staff is living up to the standards we have set. I’m not interested in teachers who are able to put on a good show while they know I am watching. I want them to be aware that I can see them anytime. I plan to use this as a tool for yearly reviews as well as making sure the children are in a safe enviorment.

  14. I agree w/ cameras in the classroom. My special needs 7 year old was spanked last year by the teacher. ENOUGH SAID…

  15. I am a 12 year inner-city public high school math teacher. I changed careers from corporate engineering in 1999, and have been helping to deal with the process of incorporating technology into the school’s curriculum and administration since then. I am very ready for cameras in the classroom. Whether it’s used as video grade book (teacher access only), or streamed to parents and staff.

    I remember being relieved when cameras were installed in the hallways and grounds of the high school. It cut down on the numbers of discipline issues that occurred in those areas drastically.

    As I said previously, this is an inner-city public high school, and I deal with students in a subject that frustrates most, Math. Needless to say, I deal with frustrated teens on a daily basis. There are times when I do not feel safe in my classroom. Most students are taller, and stronger than I am, so my physical presence does not intimidate them. Getting them to do something that frustrates them is not easy.

    Having a camera would provide the teacher with a leveraging tool in dealing with discipline issues. Students tend to behave better if they think they are being videotaped. It also would provide factual records of what actually occurs in the classroom vs. arbitrary comments on what someone else thought might have happened.

    I deal with my students the best way I know how, honestly and with caring. However, I realize I need all the help I can get. A video review of my class activity would a great tool! I would also get to actually see what goes on behind my back!

    Yes, I’m ready for it. As long as there are limits to its usage and dissemination, I see no problem.

  16. @KSS if you say that biting is normal, what if a kid actually thought that having a knife with them is normal too? To you, biting might be normal, but you have no idea of the strength they bite. Kids might think that it’s okay, when it’s not. If someone bit you so hard that you had to go to the hospital, and pay bunch of bills, you would probably get mad. But then, you can’t say anything because it’s “normal” for toddlers to bite.

  17. Thank god some bloggers can write. My thanks for this read.

  18. @Debater, you obviously have not ever worked in a toddler classroom. Biting is a normal reaction of frustration for toddlers, just as hitting, kicking and yelling is, particularly in children who may not have the words to express their feelings or needs or because they are teething (generally, children between 12 and 24 months). To be honest they don’t really know what they are doing is wrong.
    No, I would not think a child having a knife is normal. You are comparing apples to oranges. You are comparing unacceptable violence to a developmental stage that many toddlers go through. In regard to a child who bites hard enough to send someone to the hospital, that to me would be a supervisory issue with the staff. To be honest in my almost 20 years of teaching young children I have never seen a toddler who could bite that hard.
    This is not to say that biting is not taken seriously in my classroom. I have sent children home for excessive biting (more than 4 times in a day) and I have asked a child to leave our program until he got through this stage because he was biting 6 or 7 times a day even with direct supervision. He is now a wonderful, kind-hearted early elementary school child. He was just going through a phase of toddlerhood.
    I have been bit by a toddler, and yes, it hurt, however, I did not get angry with the child. No good would come of that because as I said the child didn’t know that biting is wrong. She was frustrated by her peers and teething. I have also been slapped hard enough in the face to leave a hand print and I have had violent bodily harm threatened upon me. The latter two by children under the age of 5 and the biting was inflicted by an under 2 year old.
    I hold my ground in saying that I believe camera’s in the classroom could create some confidentiality issues in incidences such as biting. I do however welcome anyone of our parents into the classroom to hang out, play and observe.
    Please @Debater, do some research on infant and toddler development.

  19. Where is the confidentiality issue if the video is not seen by anyone but the teacher?

  20. @DAC,
    If the only one seeing the video is the teacher and/or director then there isn’t a confidentiality issue. However, many times in early childhood settings the goal is for parents to see their children during the day. This for me is where the confidentiality issue comes in.

  21. Eyes on you? Your in front of a room full of eyes, the students.

    As a parent, I’m more concerned securing the well being of children. Teachers should always assume they are being watched… They are.

  22. @Robert,
    I would not be concerned about eyes being on me ever. I always conduct myself as if I am being watched. As I have said, my concern particularly in a toddler classroom is the confidentiality for the children in the classroom. By law I am not allowed to talk about a child with anyone other than their parent or guardian unless I have written permission from said parent or guardian. My fear would be a parent seeing an incident of biting or aggression of any kind and then retaliating against the child who committed the offense. The incidences happen in a toddler classroom often and are developmentally age appropriate. As teachers of this age group we do work with them to gain more language but sometimes frustration comes out in aggression. My worry is for the children and nothing more.

  23. @ John Sullivan
    I like the idea of turning the camera on or off at the teachers discretion (like a panic button) to record an incident with a child who “plays the system,” however I would fear that in some cases teachers could be accused of “baiting” students.
    As a middle school teacher my desire for cameras would be to assist teachers with classroom management and do away with the “he said she said” arguments that erupt over student behavior, as well as the “I didn’t do that” battle coupled with “my child would never do that and she / he doesn’t lie argument.” In a classroom with cameras we could just roll the tape. I also believe cameras could be used to allow parents to observe without disrupting the classroom environment. I’m mixed on whether they should be used as a teacher evaluation tool my concern is if an administrator just checks occasionally they may get a distorted view of what is going on, however educated professionals should be trusted to do their job without “big brother” constantly watching I mean are doctors, lawyers and engineers held to this much scrutiny?
    I understand privacy concerns my classroom is my office and I have had to change for before or after school events in my room so that would make that aspect difficult. I would never put the recordings online as I do believe that would lead to people being filmed “baiting” each other. I would consider a monitor in the front office where parents would be allowed to view what was going on, however there needs to be a balance between what a non-educator believes should be done in the classroom and what a licensed professional believe should be done in the classroom.

  24. As a Speech and Theatre Teacher I am all in. 100%. I often have to focus on the student who is presenting their work: discipline distractions take away from that. Students are also aware that collectively they can manipulate perception and therefore get the teacher fired for things that never happened. The truth of the camera is a much better preservation of the truth than a teacher who will not be believed because now they have a purpose to lie to save there jobs. Lets keep it real so perception does not create a false reality.

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