possible pupil iphone appPupils as young as 11 are given iPhones to spy on their teachers

Headlining the Daily Mail on Monday (5th April 2010), it was revealed that pupils as young as 11 are being given iPhones to give instant ratings on their teachers.

This move is an example of the latest Government ‘pupil power’ drive, claims the Daily Mail. But the use of modern technology in such a way is also a pre indication of the Governments latest plan for a digital Britain (You might want to read Henry’s previous post about Gordon Brown’s plan for a digital future) coming into play.

Is the Government justified in allowing pupils to decide educational policy?

The new plans revealed by the Government early this year mean that as of September 2010 all schools in England and Wales would be legally obliged to seek pupils’ opinions and views on major decisions and policy making.

The Government believes that including students will encourage them to behave and study hard if they feel they have a say in their own education.

The arguments for the move towards encouraging pupils to play this vital role in education decision and policy making is questioned by critics and the teaching community.

Children know nothing about what is right for them as they don’t have the years of experience or adult mentality development to make adequate objective decisions. Instead rating teachers’ ability according to ‘attractiveness’, ‘dress sense’ or perceived ‘coolness’.

What does this have to do with the iPhone?

Whilst the article in the Daily Mail was more about the long term viability of giving pupils such a democratic voice than about the iPhone itself, the points raised certainly showcase the capabilities of modern technology.

The clever headline certainly sparked my interest, but when reading into the story in full you will see that an unnamed school in Kent actually issued the phones to 20 students and asked them to send their comments to the head teacher during a quality assurance week. However the fact that this has happened suggests we could see more of this in the future across all sectors.

Could technology like the iPhone revolutionise the way schools are inspected?

It does not take a genius to work out that people will act in a pleasing way when they know they are being watched. If a teacher/school knows they are under inspection they will of course make efforts to behave according to what they feel is required to achieve good ratings. I certainly remember at my school all the teachers would go crazy when they knew the OFSTED inspectors were coming in.

Surely the best way to monitor and improve education and select the best teachers for our children is covertly, and what is most covert – yes a pupil reporting from the classroom. Natural covert participant observation – if I was now in a psychology lesson!!

I am not saying that this is the right approach to take but the capabilities of modern technology would certainly allow this to happen.

Rather than asking pupils to observe a class, and then later fill out a questionnaire or set of reports, modern technology such as the iPhone allows an almost instant exchange of information. Inspection bodies and school head teachers can instantly receive information from pupils about what is going on in classes without the need for CCTV or another teacher being present.

Could we see an OFSTED app for the iPhone developed – allowing pupils to instantly rate teachers and lessons against specific criteria at the click of a button.

Voice recording/Video Recording – allowing documented evidence of teachers’ ability to be sent to head teachers and inspection staff instantly via SMS, MMS or email.

What about other sectors?

Certainly technological advancements make it easier to invade on others privacy – the digital age is all seeing. Employers, service providers and employees could all see a shift in how their industries are audited and inspected.  Could we see the introduction of ‘ A digital mystery shopper‘, where company inspection audits are conducted by employees themselves acting on behalf of external bodies using technology like the iPhone or the iPad to document and send evidence instantly.

Traditionally if we receive bad customer service in a shop, we complain to the manager, or we write a letter. We then wait for a reply, and our complaint might be challenged. It can be a long process. But what about if I have this complaint documented on video or voice recorded on my smart phone? Well the proof becomes instant. If this company has a website I can download my complaint to…then bingo.

Conclusions

I am in complete agreement that elements of this pupil power movement are absurd. Students should not be involved in policy making and decision making directly, but allowing them to have a voice would certainly allow them to value their education more than perhaps they would if they felt they were always ‘told what is best for them’.

Rather what I have taken from this is that I believe in the next few years we will definitely see a big shift into this semantic age and school inspections, teacher selection and evaluation will take place using modern technology as a catalyst. I also believe this will expand through into other industries and sectors – and whilst elements of this are already occurring now they are not in the public eye. I believe technology will remove and challenge many ethical values.

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