Brenna Clark Gray said, “Our institution is in the middle of a discussion about adopting a new technology, and it’s very clear that the folks in charge thought they were just purchasing a logistical solution to a problem.” This is also the main idea as to what Hugo’s piece entitled, Students Are Pushing Back Against Proctoring Surveillance Apps, is really all about as well. Jason Kelley spoke about in great detail how one university and institution after another is petitioning to stop the intrusive use of various educational software. The problem lies in that the software is collecting information or intruding upon the privacy of students. When education becomes intrusive by any means it is no longer education. Many school districts and university are purchasing new technology with the hopes that it will give faculty and students a leg up in the new digital learning environment.
Many schools like the one I worked within had copious amounts of technology yet lacked the faculty willing to learn how to use it. COVID forced school districts and universities to learn how to use technology – in a hurry. To help faculty and staff with the adjustment to a more techno-savvy world, administrators purchased additional technology that was sure to make up for any short-comings the faculty and staff may have in working within the digital world. Turns out administrators, “who, you may have noticed, my natural state is to be in a deep state of antagonism towards,” let in a Trojan Horse. Many of the administrators I worked with allowed this software I because it helped the administration cover up flaws in the pedagogy they were forcing on students when the curriculum was forced into remote learning. As Hugo’s piece pointed out, as students started to rebel against their privacy rights being taken away and having their lives infringed upon, many school districts turned a blind eye to the complaints. Mine did. Administrators like to claim equity for all, but the fact is that in every battle for equity there will always be casualties.
“But it’s not just privacy that’s at stake … proctoring apps also raise concerns about security, equity and accessibility, cost, increased stress, and bias in the technology.” Security is the number one thing people need to lead happy and healthy lives. Going to places of learning has become somewhat of a risk. Now that risk can follow a student home in the form of a digital predator. As a reminder, this started when administrators attempted to either take a shortcut or were too naïve to see that there were potential security risks for both students and faculty. I am certain that the justification for apply the new technology were based on good faith and the ideal that everyone deserves equity in education. As both of this week’s readings show, this just isn’t the case. Many who go in search of equitable education find themselves at odds with the very programs that are put in place to help. “Honorlock requires a webcam and microphone, ‘students with limited access to technology or a quiet testing location’ are placed at a disadvantage, and that the required use of such technology ‘does not account for students with difficult living situations.’” Florida International University did not go out of its way to make sure students with difficult living situations would be placed at a disadvantage. The administrators of Florida International University seem to have put in place a system that they only perceived as being helpful. The worst part is when administrators cannot admit that something isn’t working or is wrong. As history has shown us, suffering by those impacting by the shortcomings must be had on a wide level before the right thing can be done by administrators. It’s like talking about gun violence only after gun violence has occurred. “Schools must take note of this level of organized activism. Working together, we can make the very real concerns about privacy, equity, and bias in technology important components of school policy, instead of afterthoughts.” “It’s the role of critical digital pedagogy to intercede in these conversations, to ask difficult questions and to hold folks accountable. And yet, how many people with expertise in digital pedagogy — let alone critical voices! — get to be in the room for the procurement discussion.” This is yet another area where many administrators fall short. “it’s very clear that the folks in charge thought they were just purchasing a logistical solution to a problem. They seem surprised that faculty have opinions about it.” From the unending amount of petitions that seem to be enduring, many administrators were apparently surprised that so many students would have issues with technology that does more invasion than it does in providing equity within education.
In closing, “If there’s one thing I hope comes next, it’s institutional restructuring that recognizes the integral function of our digital services in how we teach and learn. The fact is we’re probably never going back to the way we used to do things: every new variant, every delay in the vaccine plan, should make it clear that we live in a world of ifs and buts. The choices about the tools we use to conduct our teaching and our learning should be in the hands of academic governance, and the people who use the tools every day.”