Bill Gates wants to spend $5 billion to put cameras in every classroom.
I’m not swinging at the pitch. He’s throwing out some wicked curve balls:
“We would finally have a way to give [teachers] feedback as well as the means to act on it… all our students get a great education, find a career that is fulfilling and rewarding, and have a chance to live out their dreams. This wouldn’t just make us a more successful country, it would also make us a more fair and just one too.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of using technology to enhance teacher reflective practices, but is it worth $5 billion? I find it hard to believe that video recordings are more valuable than small group reflections and creating a culture of support and excellence within a school. And that is a much cheaper option.
Having a camera constantly recording could relieve some of the legal pressure associated with false claims of misconduct; however, since the majority of our teachers are good ones, most teachers will/should not be worried about it. What about Big Brother? Logistically speaking, given normal classroom activities, these videos will never be seen by anybody outside of the teachers’ community of practice.
The million dollar question: will the videos be used for assessment purposes? Will these videos be included in the value-added models? This is what should send chills down the spines of every classroom teacher. Will these recordings be graded against some untested universal rubric to determine the effectiveness/worthiness/salary of a teacher?
As a psychometrician(-in-training), I have serious doubts about the ethics, mechanics, and practicality of these cameras and recordings as anything other than informative tools for teachers, administrators, and researchers. Nothing good has ever come from high stakes – see the last decade or two of U.S. educational policy, Korean suicide rates, or the historical Chinese Civil Service Exam. Conveniently, at no time in the talk was the idea of assessment addressed. I applaud the PR individual responsible. Mr. Gates, you are all about teacher accountability. How does this proposal fit into your grand scheme?
…and are you hiring? I have some ideas about these universal assessments that I’m sure you’d love to hear.