New surveillance technologies are gaining a foothold in both social and private contexts. Not only do these technologies have the capacity to probe “more deeply, widely and softly” than traditional modes of surveillance, they can also break down natural (distance, time, skin) and synthetic (walls) barriers that, in the past, offered protection to personal information of individuals/groups (Marx 1997: 9). Surveillance technologies in schools can be seen to follow the same lines. While CCTV has gained much attention in the media and traction in schools as a deterrent for undesirable behaviours (Taylor 2010; Lauder 2013), its capacity to monitor and manage students pales in comparison to the surveillance might of online educational technologies. Used widely at Mountview Secondary College, Schoology is one example of the colonizing power of 21st century surveillance.
A market leader in Learning Management Systems (LMS), Schoology is a global company that has reached 12 million users in over 130 countries. The cloud-based platform is designed to cater to K-12 schools, higher education institutions, and corporations, allowing users to create, manage, and share content and/or resources. Celebrated as a “disruptive classroom technology”, Schoology has garnered significant attention in the mainstream media. The system is presented as an award winning platform for teaching and curriculum management that “offers teachers shortcuts to identifying the best way to teach their students” (Pofeldt 2014: para. 3).
PC Magazine’s (2015) Editors’ Choice Award Winner, the platform is said to have “the face of a social network and the foundation of an enterprise LMS, Schoology hits the sweet spot for K-12 learning management” (para. 2). A dashboard, for instance, helps teachers identify a student’s ‘learning style’ according to the student’s self-report. These dashboards also contain personal identifiers about the student such as full name, date of birth, email, mobile phone number, gender, and numerous other pieces of information about the user.
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PC Magazine. 2015. Editors’ Choice Awards. Retrieved: http://bit.ly/1RyZr7B
Pofeldt, Elaine. 2014. “Disruptive classroom technology lures VCs in new round.” Forbes. Retrieved: onforb.es/1RD5XR0.
Taylor, Emmeline. 2010. “‘I spy with my little eye’: The use of CCTV in schools and the impact of privacy.” Sociological Review, 58(3): 381–405.