The ability of students and teachers to affordably and relatively easily create digital recordings of teacher lectures as well as other conversations which take place in the classroom represents a potentially “disruptive technology” for many reasons. Yesterday’s ABC report “Teacher Caught On Tape: Kindergartner ‘Ignorant, Pathetic, Self-Absorbed'” reveals that the potential for disruptive technologies and their effects to even influence kindergarten classrooms is real. Essentially this situation sounds like a whistleblower scenario for the five year old involved and his parents in New Albany, New York. According to the report:
Five-year-old Gabriel Ross complained over the school year that his teacher, Kristen Woodward, was being mean to him, said his mother Tabitha McMahan and stepfather J.R. Edwards. Gabriel told them other kids didn’t like him because he was “bad and stupid.” When he began acting out at home, they decided to take action and try to find out what was going on in the classroom. So in mid-April, McMahan and Edwards sent Gabriel to school with a tape recorder in the pocket of his cargo pants.
This article and video is titled (on the webpage version) “Rant Recorded: Teacher Calls Boy ‘Pathetic.'” While I do think the common trend of many U.S. parents to automatically side with their child and assume the teacher or principal at school is wrong in a given conflict is real and troubling, the apparent facts of this case seem to suggest the teacher was WAY out of line. Personally, I think it is great this five year old and his parents were able to highlight and draw attention to the inappropriate behavior of this teacher. It is unfortunate, however, it took a five year old bringing a concealed digital recorder (NOT a “tape recorder” as the article asserts) to class to bring this situation to the attention of school officials have get some action taken. The building principal should have been intimately aware of the interactions taking place in Gabriel’s classroom, and have taken corrective action to remedy the situation either by convincing Mrs. Woodward to take a more professional, caring, and appropriate tone when interacting with her 5 and 6 year old students, or to have her replaced as the classroom teacher of record.
Disruptive technologies. They are coming to a kindergarten classroom near you. Are we ready for the effects of transparency on our teaching practices and school cultures? It’s time to get ready.
Are digital audio recorders going to be declared “illegal weapons” in New Albany schools now, or will school officials embrace the appropriate uses of these potentially disruptive technology tools to facilitate learning and growth?
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