“Student claims school spied on him via computer webcam” is a headline today at the Philadephia Inquirer. Click on the image above for the local news video report. From the same video, in the smaller image below, a student from the high school is pointing to the webcam on her school-issued laptop. The school security set-up made it possible for the webcam to grab a shot of what she was doing or what her screen was displaying — wherever she was with the laptop.
It is interesting to listen to the interviews of high students and parents on the video. It does not seem to occur to them that students should or could be be trusted to own, take care of, and control their own mobile device. The mentality remains stuck in the notion that the laptops belong to the school and the school should control them.
Why? Let’s look at own, take care of, and control.
Own? It is intellectually better for a student to own his/her own laptop — like, long ago, I owned a 3-ring notebook in which I organized my high school life. How would you feel if you knew that in a few months you would have to return the computer you use for writing and browsing to someone else who owns it? How much would it curtail your creativity if you knew that at any time the real owner of your computer could look at what is in it? Over years of education, a student’s cumulative drafts and projects become rich resources — and having someone from the outside peek at them is embarrassing. A student’s learning is enriched when it can extend freely into a personal mobile. Where else can a sophomore in love keep his emerging poetry?
Take care of? Laptop mobiles cost less than $500 now, and the price is dropping. This is a far cry from the “wire the schools” times in the 1990s when shared computers costs thousands. I would also bet my iPod that high school students will take far better care of mobiles that they own, than the school-issued sort.
Control? Ah, and it is here that the education phoenix must set its nest afire and let the flames consume the old control freak bird. The generation now in school is already connected online — and every generation that follows will be too. The new schooling for connecting is about teaching the young explorers how to travel the open networks of knowledge in the online commons. Controlling and curtailing brief sorties is very 20th century.