Chromebook control invades student privacy

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By Melody Young

With privilege comes responsibility. The school holds students to high standards, if not through extensive behavioral rules then definitely through the school’s monitoring of student Chromebook usage. When the school kicked off its 1:1 Chromebook program, it implemented new methods to keep students in check, but some of these methods seem a little over the top.

On the first day of the school year, murmurings about teachers’ ability to monitor Chromebook activity spread like wildfire throughout the student body.  A website called Hapara allows teachers to see interact with students on their Chromebooks. Teachers can view students’ screens, close and open tabs, and send messages to students.  These tools makes sense in the classroom since they allow teachers to keep students on task and focused on their work. But teachers can also use this tool to monitor students’ Chromebook use at home. This seems like a big possibility for an invasion of student privacy.

There are even som teachers who question the necessity for such tools. While these Hapara features may facilitate teaching, some teachers wonder about the necessity of full use of the features.

English teacher Maureen Grandchamp said, “I like the idea of being able to see what my students are working on to [ensure] they are directed in their learning, but at the same time, students need to take ownership of their own learning and make decisions without being policed.”

In terms of teachers’ use of Hapara features in the classroom, I agree with Grandchamp.  Of course, it is justifiable for teachers to close games on students’ Chromebooks during class, but they do not need to micromanage everything students have open on their Chromebooks.  For example, closing other windows that students have open but are not using causes students to lose what they are working on.  Students may have tabs open that remind them of important websites or things they need to do later. Teachers shouldn’t have the power to clos all of our tabs without consulting us first.

Students should have the freedom to use their Chromebooks appropriately in class.  I think the extent of teachers’ ability to monitor and manipulate things on the Chromebook encroaches on students’ privacy, particularly if students are in another class period.

Students who inappropriately use their Chromebooks in class are responsible for their own participation and test grades. They need to be able to own that responsibility and  suffer the consequences if necessary.

As for teachers’ ability to use these features even when students are at home, I think this extent of control is nerve-wracking and creepy.  Teachers’ screenshot view of our screens, opening and closing of tabs, or sending messages creates an uncomfortable feeling because teachers can watch our Chromebook activity at any time.  The extension of teacher presence into home territory blurs the definition of teacher as a school authority.

The school gave us these Chromebooks to help us learn, but it also needs to trust us enough to actually use the Chromebooks without constant monitoring.

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