Sunday, August 09, 2009

Open Global Courseware

The U.K., long an adopter of surveillance technology, announced recently that high-definition CCTV cameras from Classwatch have been installed in 94 schools. The result has been improved classroom management and there are plans to install hundreds more cameras nationwide in primary and secondary schools.

Free global education resource
With minimal effort, this internal surveillance initiative could be expanded into a worldwide sousveillance victory. A global education resource could be generated by broadcasting and archiving the live feeds to the web for access by teachers and students worldwide in their own classrooms and via cell phones. This is essentially an extension of MIT’s open courseware concept.

Language imperialism and the return of the British Empire?
The U.K. might briefly enjoy the notion of re-establishing the British Empire by exporting English-language education, but

language is becoming more fungible over time
The issue of language imperialism could be avoided with the use of audio translation tools (Google Translate – audio version?) and by opting in CCTV broadcasts from schools in other countries. The pilot project phases could be U.K. transmissions targeted at India and Beijing, etc. transmissions targets at rural Chinese schools.

PenPal 2.0 flattens the world
Classroom broadcasts could quickly become interactive with commenting and messaging on the streams. Students worldwide could get to know each other and work on team projects together in virtual world classrooms like Second Life’s Teen Grid; a multi-dimensional PenPal 2.0. Students in India could come up with ideas to work on problems in the U.K. by interviewing British students and vice versa. Teacher and student exchange programs could arise. Students could vote on the curriculum.
The real way to raise test scores would be to have live head-to-head competitions between different schools in a district, country or around the world (“The class in Chennai did 5% better….”).

Local community engagement tool
Internet broadcast could also enable the local community. Parents could tune in to their children’s classrooms (“Mom, did you see what I did around 10:30?”…”What happened at school today?” “Mom, just watch the feed archive…”). The social networking dimension could deepen student, teacher and parent interaction as many are already managing homework assignments colaboratively on the web.

American Idol Teacher: injecting abundance
Classroom broadcast could bring more abundance to teaching by providing acknowledgement (whuffie) for good teachers. Innovative and engaging teachers could reach a global audience and become YouTube celebrities. There could be competitions for the Best Teacher of the Pythagorean theorem, Best Teacher in Swindon, etc. as nominated through video clips. Videos could be linked to teacher ranking websites. From a policy perspective, education could become easier to evaluate and standardize. Countrywide best practices could be culled to train new teachers.

Conclusion: inevitablility of full-life recording
It seems inevitable that video surveillance/sousveillance will increasingly penetrate public and private areas for a variety of reasons ranging from safety and crime control to life-logging. One classic opposition argument is that recording inhibits ‘natural’ behavior, however most people quickly forget and adjust and it could be likely that the ongoing recording of society will advance without much opposition as long as there is a balance between surveillance and sousveillance (e.g.; there is popular access to the technologies and streams).

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