The Surveilled Student

Here are but two paragraph from one installment of Audrey Watters’s year-end review of the top education technology stories.

“Helicopter parenting” – or at least parental anxiety – might not be a new phenomenon, but it is now increasingly able to enlist new technologies to monitor children’s activities. A story this summer in The New York Magazine is, no doubt, an extreme example of this: “Armed with Nest Cams and 24/7 surveillance, one company promises to fix even the most dysfunctional child – for a price.” But many, many technology products boast features that allow parents to check up on what their kids are doing – what they’re reading, what they’re watching, what they’re clicking onwhat they’re saying, who they’re talking tohow many steps they’re taking, where they’re at at any given money, and so on. It’s all under the auspices, of course, of keeping kids safe.

This all dovetails quite neatly, as I noted in the article on education data, with the ways in which schools too are quite willing to surveil students. The New York Times family section cautioned in August about “The Downside of Checking Kids’ Grades Constantly.” But the expectation of many ed-tech products (and increasingly school policy) is that parents will do just this – participate in the constant monitoring of student data.

I pass it along to you for a couple of reasons. First, this paragraph, and the links it contains, touch on an important dimension of what it means to be a parent in the digital age, a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about over the last few months.

I also pass it along to you in the event that you’ve not yet come across Audrey Watters’s work. She is a terrific guide to all things related to education and technology. If you are at all interested in how technology is brought to bear on the task of educating our children, and really all of us should be at least somewhat interested, then you would do well to keep up with Watters. You should definitely read the Education Technology and the New Behaviorism.

4 thoughts on “The Surveilled Student

  1. I woud also recommend Common Sense Media as a great resource for parents and teachers on managing vrious media today…though it’s sad we live in a time when these devices built for consumption eat at childhood—makes me think of the story from The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander where the witches wanted a perfect day from the main character’s childhood in exchange for their help…something the character regetted after cutting the deal…

  2. Thanks for the heads up. You’d asked before about what kinds of posts readers like; getting acquainted with things like this that haven’t otherwise made it into my info diet is one of the things I appreciate about this blog. Beyond that, I admire the keen eye you take in bringing the perspectives and values of figures like Arendt, Illich, Ong to bear on current phenomena.

    Ten years ago, there seemed to me to be very little interest in tech criticism or media studies from publications or thinkers who didn’t specialize in them, and those were relatively few. Now, it’s a crowded field with commentary from wide range of perspectives. It’s a lot to try to keep up with, much less to really chew on. Introspective, critical, transparent curators are in short supply.

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