UK Schools Experiment With Police-Style Body Cameras To Tackle 'Low-level Background Disorder'

from the bringing-taser-technology-to-a-classroom-near-you dept

Techdirt has written dozens of stories about US police forces deploying body cameras, with all sorts of interesting consequences. Their use for school police means that body cameras are also turning up in US schools, but the next logical step of putting body cameras on the actual teachers has been taken not in the US, but in the UK, as the Guardian reports:

Teachers in two UK schools are trialling using body cameras in class because they are "fed up with low-level background disorder", a criminal justice academic has revealed.

The former Home Office researcher said the three-month pilot scheme, started within the last month, securely stores footage on a cloud platform like ones used by police forces.

Although only two UK schools are currently involved, a survey carried out by the Times Educational Supplement revealed that a third of the teachers who were asked said they would be willing to try wearing a body camera; two thirds said they would feel safer wearing it; and a tenth even thought it would eventually become compulsory for all UK teachers to use them. Another article in the Guardian responding to this news pointed out the many pitfalls of taking this approach, and noted:

as teachers we want children to be accountable for their behaviour. But increasing the spread of surveillance in schools isn't going to help us do that. Classrooms will be transformed from spaces cultivating inquiry, in all its forms, to centres wary of the threat of being caught out by an all-seeing eye. Ellis [the criminal justice academic who revealed the existence of the UK trial] is at pains to point out that the cameras will not be on all the time; only "where there is a perceived threat to a member of staff or pupils" will they be used. Quite how this will be decided, and how their use will not gradually become routine, is not clear.

One constraint on the routine use of body cameras by all teachers is the sheer quantity of footage that would be produced, and the near-impossibility of reviewing it all. However, that may not be a limiting factor for long if a move by Taser International, which controls around three-quarters of the body camera business in the US, bears fruit:

Taser International, the military hardware company that essentially owns the police body-worn camera market, believes the solution lies in artificial intelligence. It has acquired a startup called Dextro to build an AI research lab focused on developing tools that make it easier for police to search and analyze the massive video libraries hosted by Taser.

Once it gets easier and cheaper for the police to search through their vast video libraries, it will also become easier and cheaper for others to do the same. At that point, it might not be just schools that start deploying body cameras, but everyone interacting with the public in some way. What could possibly go wrong?

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  • icon
    anti-antidirt (profile), 21 Feb 2017 @ 10:33pm

    Keep 'em home then.

    Private schools? Let the parents decide by choosing where their children go.

    Government schools? Better start home-schooling.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    charliebrown (profile), 21 Feb 2017 @ 10:51pm

    MCMLXXXIV

    Isn't this the plot of "Metropolis"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 21 Feb 2017 @ 11:39pm

    I have to wonder how many of the teachers in favor of this would be okay if the students turned the tables and started recording them. Just set up simple stands so that their phones were constantly recording every move and word the teacher makes, 'just in case'.

    For some reason I can't imagine that going over very well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Feb 2017 @ 12:42am

    Pupils will adapt

    Pupils will adapt to the cameras, experiment which behaviour gets detected by the camera and teacher and which not.

    Then pupils will bully others as usual. But now it's even worse as 'Computer says no', nothing happened.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Censored, 22 Feb 2017 @ 12:51am

    I don't think the point of the cameras would be to review footage and try to find petty crimes or misdemeanors to chase down, but rather to provide a better perspective of what happens during the most intense student and teacher interactions. Rather than relying on the teachers statement versus the student's statement, they would have the unblinking eye of the camera to settle it.

    Considering how much Techdirt pushes for police to have such cameras, it seems reasonable to think they may be useful in other situations. You also have to understand that UK schools are often not the nicest places in the world, http://www.bbc.com/news/education-34268942

    Under the circumstances, it seems like a pretty reasonable way to protect the teachers from the students - and vis versa.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 23 Feb 2017 @ 12:40pm

      Re:

      I don't think the point of the cameras would be to review footage and try to find petty crimes or misdemeanors to chase down, but rather to provide a better perspective of what happens during the most intense student and teacher interactions

      True, that would be the point and certainly the justification of introducing them. Once they're there, mission creep is virtually guaranteed. Put it this way; who, other than the "wrongdoers" (which everyone thinks is "someone else") would object when someone suggests the next thing you could use the footage for? The UK is already the most massively surveilled country on the planet and I can't see more improving things in any respect.

      Considering how much Techdirt pushes for police to have such cameras, it seems reasonable to think they may be useful in other situations.

      VERY different situations. Part of the point of putting body cameras on police is that you want both parties to modify their behaviour because it may be observed and evidenced. In a classroom, you want (within limits) free expression and exploration. You put teachers and students in the same situation of constant surveillance, you're going to negatively affect learning.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    horkus (profile), 22 Feb 2017 @ 5:29am

    "fed up with low-level background disorder" is a chilling phrase that could only be produced by a tone deaf autocrat.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 22 Feb 2017 @ 6:20am

    Low Level Background Disorder

    Whatever this phrase is supposed to mean, I can't parse it. It sounds like a mental illness that renders someone catatonic (or otherwise sparks episodes) when not given enough stimulus.

    Are UK schools boring their students to death?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 24 Feb 2017 @ 2:44am

      Re: Low Level Background Disorder

      Are UK schools boring their students to death?

      Actually... yes. Increasingly, UK curricula seem to focus on rote-learning of methods of dubious validity and/or politically-correct-skewed drivel that often has little to do with the subject at hand (e.g. "Physics" that focuses about the importance of speed enforcement on roads without any of the maths behind it, or chemistry that talks about the need for recycling without discussing the chemistry or even amounts of energy involved).

      If I were at school now, I'd be bored to death by it and as a parent it's hard to keep telling my child how important it is to go to school and get an "education".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Feb 2017 @ 6:42am

    How about automatic recording...

    triggered by facial recognition? Say, those with darker complexions? Completely justified by statistics, of course.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    timmaguire42 (profile), 22 Feb 2017 @ 6:56am

    How come getting educational results back to the way they were when we liked them never involves returning to the methods that achieved those results?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 22 Feb 2017 @ 7:13am

      Re:

      Search me, Tim.

      Back in the day kids would be beaten with canes or paddles; after that we got detention (is that still a thing?).

      If silent, staring obedience is what teachers want, they may find that the lack of enquiry (for fear of getting into trouble for speaking out of turn) results in dozy drones who only know what they're told, and that's it.

      I'm seeing the results of unthinking compliance here at work; one of the reasons I stand out is because I ask questions — and insist on getting answers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 22 Feb 2017 @ 7:55am

        Re: Re:

        If silent, staring obedience is what teachers want, they may find that the lack of enquiry (for fear of getting into trouble for speaking out of turn) results in dozy drones who only know what they're told, and that's it.

        Unfortunately, I can't help but suspect that more than a few of those involved would see this as a feature, not a bug. 'Students should be seen, not heard', that sort of thing.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Uriel-238 (profile), 22 Feb 2017 @ 12:06pm

          This is not the first place I've seen this suggested.

          The game No Pineapple Left Behind is a satirical take on this very premise, that the measures we use to determine the success of our schools are better geared to pump out servile test-taking machines rather than functional adults.

          Whether or not this is meant to undermine the public education system or shape our children as we imagine we want them to be, some of our officials do like it this way.

          (Curiously and alarmingly, Logic and Critical Thinking curricula are shunned by some Republican parties -- Texas for one -- on the premise that it leads to students who might challenge authority and be driven to disobey. They seem to have no awareness that those kids will someday need to function as adults, for whom critical thought is essential.)

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 22 Feb 2017 @ 5:09pm

            Re: This is not the first place I've seen this suggested.

            Nonsense, the peons don't need to think, so long as they can obey the orders from their betters that's more than enough. Why, if they start thinking, they might start having dangerous thoughts, and we can't have that now can we? No no, much better to leave the thinking to those better suited to it, it's better for everyone that way.

            /poe

            Anyone arguing that 'logic and critical thinking' are threats to their position(s) is essentially admitting that those positions are beyond weak and without justification and support.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 22 Feb 2017 @ 5:10pm

            Re: This is not the first place I've seen this suggested.

            They seem to have no awareness that those kids will someday need to function as adults, for whom critical thought is essential.)

            The authorities will do all the thinking. The rest should just blindly obey.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 23 Feb 2017 @ 2:17am

          Re: Re: Re:

          It causes problems in a working environment. Case in point: engineer attends a hand dryer not working in the gents. Site FM is female and in meetings all day. Engineer can't fix the machine, we need a new one; he types up his report on his PDA and hits the send button: "New dryer needed" and closes the job. Two weeks later I pick it up on the WIP (work in progress report). I'm the one who went to the engineer to ask why he didn't quote to replace the dryer. That's when I found out he'd put in a hand towel dispenser and the FM didn't mention it to us because nobody had told her the dryer wasn't fixed; they were happy with the paper towels. I told the FM what the engineer had done and asked if she wants a new dryer. Yes she does. I've asked the engineer to quote to replace the thing.

          That doesn't happen again on my watch: if a thing needs replacing we quote for it on the spot and advise the client, who then has a choice as to whether or not to leave the paper towels regime in place or get a new dryer fitted. This happens whether the FM is available to talk to or not, there are these things called "Emails."

          Why did this happen? It never occurred to anyone to question the status quo. I do it all the time; it results in getting things done.

          So... what exactly is the value of having an obedient drone mentality? As far as I can see it causes more problems than it solves. That's the trouble with authoritarianism; it ultimately does more harm than good. If resolving maintenance issues requires the ability to think outside of the box and being willing to challenge the status quo, how much more does innovation require it?

          These twerps are shooting themselves in the foot in the long term, unless they like the idea of dragging the nation backwards.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      The Wanderer (profile), 23 Feb 2017 @ 5:05am

      Re:

      At a guess: because the circumstances today are different from the circumstances back when those results were achieved, and different circumstances require different methods.

      Or I imagine that's what the reasoning would be, anyway. I'm not convinced that it necessarily holds true.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Feb 2017 @ 7:54am

    Schools are really getting BAD if you now have teachers wearing camera's. Is that really the solution?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 22 Feb 2017 @ 12:11pm

      Cameras in classrooms

      I'm not so sure of that. One of the YouTube phenomena of recent years is teachers behaving badly captured on camera phone. Much like many other places where there's been authority without limited accountability, teacher-to-student abuse is a problem within US and UK schools.

      We can probably infer this to be the case most places schools exist, and we can probably infer this to have been a problem throughout the 20th century and before.

      While bodycams are not necessarily the solution to the problem, I think it could be a step forward, especially if neither faculty nor administrators nor someone closely allied with administrators have control of the footage.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 22 Feb 2017 @ 12:14pm

        Kids videoing enraged teachers

        Heh. While this started as merely a way for kids to entertain each other, the article that discussed the presence of these videos pointed out these kids may have war- or hazard-correspondent careers in their futures.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Feb 2017 @ 8:05am

    "Low-level background disorder" a disease also known as "childhood."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Feb 2017 @ 11:17am

      Re:

      I am actually in support of a limited deployment scheme for cameras in the classroom. Seeing cameras on the school bus was a normal thing for me to see. The camera box was installed but not always was a camera placed in it. The threat of recording was enough to keep kids and driver safe if an altercation occurred.

      If the students in a classroom start causing major issues, the teacher (legitimately) feels their life is threatened, or an officer is called to the room then it would be helpful to have a stationary camera record the incident after the teacher activates it.

      The camera shouldn't be left on. Also tight controls must be in place to prevent misuse of the video footage.

      Course, knowing how well government and others deploy and (ab)use video evidence I would say don't ever put cameras in the classroom.

      The key issue will be how transparent, secure, and controlled the deployment and use of cameras are in the hands of normal clear minded teachers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    AricTheRed (profile), 22 Feb 2017 @ 8:41am

    A "Yuge!" new investment opportunity!

    For a while now I've been predicting a surge in plague mask sales.

    Looks like the expected sales surge will be in the UK, one of the earliest adopters, having used them extensively a few hundred years ago.


    Everything olde is new again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Feb 2017 @ 9:59am

    I'm not saying they should, but wouldn't it be more practical and cost-effective to just put stationary cameras in the classroom? Am I missing something? What is the advantage of having body-worn cameras in this instance?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Feb 2017 @ 11:04am

    where it goes from here

    You go to buy a soda at your local convenience store. As you go to the counter to pay, the attendant informs you that your face came up on the insurance company's health alert system because your face was recognized. He denies you the purchase of he soda.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chuck, 22 Feb 2017 @ 12:19pm

    AI Reviewing Surveilance Footage

    The real story here is the AI that'll be reviewing the surveillance footage. Has nobody in the UK seen Eagle Eye?

    Be wary, Jerry Shaw, of the voice on the phone...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2017 @ 12:23pm

    This is a classic example of "think of the children".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 25 Feb 2017 @ 1:37pm

    Chilling the children

    One constraint on the routine use of body cameras by all teachers is the sheer quantity of footage that would be produced, and the near-impossibility of reviewing it all.

    That shouldn't actually be a problem. The local police can simply run it through their criminal analysis AI software. That will be quick and will let them know if there's anything criminal.

    ...what do you mean, "chilling effect"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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