Guest Blog: Next Generation Classrooms

Guest Blog: Next Generation Classrooms

The traditional classroom model is ripe for a variety of new technology advancements and options. As technology expands to include projection equipment and smart boards, the traditional chalkboard classroom has disappeared just like the times of the one room school house. Classroom technology advancements are necessary to maintain the interactive and multi-tasking student’s attention in today’s world. New teachers are embracing the trends while those nearing the retirement age tend to use traditional methods familiar to them. This type of transition is typical in the workforce as well as in today’s classrooms. However, the new wave of classroom technology entering the market is focused on a variety of factors including safety and security.

I recently had an opportunity to review a new classroom technology product that is combining the requirements of enhanced audio and video with an ability to capture lectures and provide classroom emergency management capabilities. While some classroom technologies with electronic audio capabilities do have a lanyard with a microphone worn around the teacher’s neck, the Safe Security System from Panasonic and Audio Enhancement take classroom technology and emergency management a step further. The technology within the Safe Security System provides classroom teachers with a unique ability to video record classroom incidents, lectures or self-study for professional development.

The video is activated by the emergency alert panic button strategically placed on the microphone device worn around a teacher’s neck. The critical component in this equation offers a video camera controlled and managed solely by the classroom teacher. Once the emergency alert panic button is pressed, a live video feed can be streamed based on school directions. Notifications can be sent via email to designated school resources for response in a crisis or otherwise medical emergency. If school technology infrastructure permits and in emergency matters, a video stream can be fed to emergency responders to reduce response time and save lives.

These seemingly simple technology enhancements have a broad range of possibilities, yet today’s classroom teacher concerns and other student privacy matters remain. While these concerns are valid and will eventually be eased by proper deployment and care of this classroom technology, trust will need to be earned.

There are a number of states currently utilizing the Safe Security System. According to a recent article in Campus Safety ENews by Rodney Bosch, April 1, 2016, seventy two percent (72%) of adults in the United States favor using security cameras in schools and universities. These survey results by Eagle Eye Networks on March 31 indicated that only thirty six percent (36%) desire having cameras in classrooms.  Nearly eighty percent (80%) surveyed indicated it was important to have real time video access to school surveillance for emergency response agencies.

The states currently using the Safe Security System indicate a decrease in office disciplinary issues from previous years. Special needs departments may utilize video continuity to ensure proper compliance with student needs. Teachers are using the video availability for improving lesson plans and providing teacher assessments. This captured video shared by classroom teachers can lead to professional development and effective learning communities. In addition to professional development, these archived classroom instruction videos can be utilized for E-Learning. During a school closing for weather or other catastrophic circumstances, the business of learning may continue through E-Learning. Teachers can assign students various classroom video lectures. Again, all video content is managed by the classroom teacher and distributed accordingly.

The concern for student and staff safety has never been greater in our schools. The use of a remote panic button to activate video during a classroom crisis and managed at the fingertips of each teacher is new to classrooms. This raises the question “Are cameras in classrooms legal?” Leslie Phillips of the National Autism Association explains this in a paper called Behind Closed Doors: What’s Happening to Students With Autism in America’s Public Schools? The case for cameras in self-contained classrooms.

“According to the US Department of Justice, cameras may not be used in areas where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.” Phillips writes.

Phillips explains areas where cameras are generally not acceptable and areas of acceptability. Classrooms are an area where camera use may generally be an acceptable practice with no reasonable expectation to privacy. However, she explains the use of cameras in classrooms is often debated by teachers who want cameras for protection and teachers who do not. Phillips emphasis’s at this point in time, it is probably wise to use cameras in classrooms only when the teacher is given an option and notification that a camera is to be used.

Having shared this insight, technology will continue to knock at the classroom door and provide options to the many ways students and staff will continue to learn and safeguard their students. The availability of video within classrooms may not be acceptable everywhere today, but tomorrow is a new learning opportunity for us all.

Posted by Mike Seger on Apr 12, 2016

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