A photo of a student progress app some schools are using to interface with parents has this 5th grader's uncle worried about the future of education.
Now it's no secret that rapid advances in technology have ultimately affected our ability to collect, share, and generate knowledge.
Getting access to subjects, disciplines, and specialized practices has never been easier thanks to the internet.
What's even better is that access to that collective knowledge is available 24/7, right in the palm of our hands. All we need is a data connection, access to electricity, and we're good to go.
But, like any good thing, humanity has a tendency to ruin it. It's a story that's at least as ancient as the Old Testament itself. We get something great, and because we're the worst species ever, we go and we ruin it.
Sadly, some educational institutions, thanks to near-sighted policies created by administrators who probably don't have that much classroom experience themselves, are guilty of implementing these technological advances in a way that isn't all that salubrious to higher learning. I could go on and on about standardized testing being a prime example of this, but I'm going to shift my focus away from that, and instead, present you with this:
What you're looking at is a screenshot from a student behavior tracking app that's meant to report on the activity of Twitter user Josh Seim's niece inside the classroom. The reports on the app are shared immediately with parents, who can log in at any time to look at the progress of their children in school.
Before I get to what Josh's gripe is with this, I just want to point out another huge issue with this app.
Teachers are already given tons of different metrics to measure students by. Not only do they have to come up with thought-provoking assignments for their students, but they need to grade these assignments and log these grades, and come up with progress reports for each student. There are at least 20-32 children in each class. Imagine, on top of all that, having to log and record every aspect of a student's day using an app - it's going to take up a lot of your time.
While constantly logging data in an application throughout the day for some 20+ students, that doesn't leave students with much time to, you know, talk face to face with their teachers and enjoy uninterrupted human interaction. I can imagine VPs and administration getting on a teacher's case for not logging in as much data as the next teacher, which would be annoying to remember/do without having to break a conversation with a student.
The point that Josh makes about the application however, is something that I think is even more worrying: the concern people seem to have with disciplining students. There seems to be more stress on someone's behavior - and that this "good" behavior is measured in rather petty terms. In the case of his niece: going to the bathroom seemingly gets you points deducted. What?
Is having to stop to pee or poop because your tummy isn't agreeing with that Western omelette you had for breakfast considered "bad behavior"?
Other teachers who have used the program, which appears to be Class Dojo, say that it's a customizable tool. I've heard the name from other teachers before, and at least one person who worked in the SAT and after-school tutoring company I used to work for would utilize it themselves to help keep their students on track. So it's not like class Dojo is inherently bad or anything.
Like any tool, it depends on how you use it. In the hands of a carpenter who just wants to make nice shelves, a hammer is something pretty harmless. For Jason Voorhees, it's a wonderful promiscuous-teen-killing contraption. And this was acknowledged by a few people who responded to Josh's tweet.
But the real problem people were having were with the precedent being set by teachers and school administrators is that there's something "wrong" with having to break to go to the bathroom, especially when we're dealing with children. Sure, we all know there are people who want to "tap out" the second they want to get out of doing work, or they're faced with something that's difficult.
Heck, I see my 4-year-old son do the same thing - he wants to quit when he's attempting to get one of his toys to do something or learn how to hold a pencil or paintbrush the correct way. He'll tell me that he's tired or he'll try and weasel his way out of that situation and change the subject so he doesn't need to complete the task at hand - and he'll be charming as all heck while doing it.
However, I'd argue that if someone is telling you they have to pee-pee and they don't have the kind of personality or behavior that would lead you to believe they're just trying to get out of schoolwork, then why would you penalize them for using the restroom?
And why would you call it "Restroom during class" in Class Dojo, instead of "disrupting class - excessive bathroom breaks"?
What do you think? Is there more to this story? Or is this just another case of the "disciplinary society" rearing its ugly head, and this school's training kids to become abused Amazon warehouse employees (metaphorically speaking) instead of focusing more on educational concepts?