Surveillance and Classrooms

In part one of Privacy Matters, Beck and Hutchinson Campos organize discussion on “Surveillance and Classrooms” around research that attempts “to integrat[e] discussions of surveillance and privacy into undergraduate courses and administrations of programs” (p. 10). Through this section, a larger importance emerges in that teachers at all stages of education need to…  

help students develop digital awareness to advocate for privacy rights, negotiate online power differentials, and resist cultures of educational accountability and ubiquitous surveillance.  

The chapters in this section engage a variety of composition course students across different studies through class units or activities designed to practice skills of digital literacy and better understand how surveillance operates in the classroom. Results of the study in chapter one found that “[h]elping students to be conscious of the mechanisms and ubiquity of surveillance and data mining through course projects ultimately prepares and potentially motivates them to engage in advocacy, find solutions to protect their privacy through evolving technologies, and alter their online behavior” (Reilly, p. 30-31). This conclusion highlights an educational strategy that is beneficial towards students understanding of digital surveillance; using course projects to consciously involve them in evaluating surveillance systems.  

Such a strategy is additionally advocated for in chapter two which discusses how “[r]ather than isolate students from these environments, we involve them directly to help them develop an awareness of the politics of their tool use, and in so doing, develop critical digital literacy” (Cohn et al., p. 40). Here, this section of Privacy Matters indicates a need for curriculum to require students to deeply analyze digital surveillance in order to effectively develop digital literacy that gives students the ability to stand up for their own rights and resist adverse power structures.  

More so than engaging students in activities based on developing digital literacy, chapter three largely evaluates the topic of grades as surveillance along the idea that “[g]rades are rhetorical texts that construct students not only for audiences in and outside the university but also for the students themselves (Carbone and Daisley 1998)” (Johnson, p. 54). Through this, Privacy Matters argues for educators desiring to teach digital literacy to additionally evaluate how they themselves are contributing to surveilling students by defining broad concepts of knowledge under single symbol letter grades that surveil and enforce labels upon student understanding. Altogether, it becomes clear how concepts of surveillance both act within and define aspects of modern education.

It is then integral for instructors who wish to best prepare their students for navigating systems of surveillance to adeptly consider such understandings in all aspects of the classroom.

Section Includes Chapters:

“Critical Digital Literacies and Online Surveillance” by Colleen A. Reilly

“Tinker, Teacher, Sharer, Spy: Negotiating Surveillance in Online Collaborative Writing Spaces” by Jenae Cohn, Norah Fahim, and John Peterson 

“Grades as a Technology of Surveillance: Normalization, Control, and Big Data in the Teaching of Writing” by Gavin P. Johnson