What Will You Do with 5 Billion US Dollars?

Five billion (5,000,000,000) dollars - this is surely a lot of money. Yes, it is still less than the budget of the Department of Education in the Philippines for 2013 (290 billion pesos). The annual budget of a country's basic education program of course includes not only reform measures but the day-to-day needs of schools like teachers' and other personnel salaries, classrooms, textbooks, maintenance, and others. To spend billions of dollars on a project that addresses one specific factor in education requires careful analysis even if the money is coming from a private source. With a large sum of money, the effects may be quite dramatic. Even with a philanthropic spirit, no one should donate a large sum of money for something that may in fact harm society.

Bill Gates has been paying close attention to the state of public school education in the United States and other countries. Gates' recent efforts center on identifying and developing effective teaching. Quite frankly, his efforts have been more focused on the "identifying" part at the moment. Tens of millions of dollars have already been spent in finding and testing ways to evaluate teaching. And the 5 billion number is apparently for installing cameras in classrooms.

Photo downloaded from Holmes Education Post's "Is it time to place cameras in the classroom?"
Takepart.com recently reports on "Bill Gates’ $5 Billion Plan: Let’s Put a Camera in Every Classroom":
As for the Gates Foundation, this idea has been brewing for quite some time. Thomas Kane, a professor of education and economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the director of the MET project, said in a 2011 interview with Education Next that there are a lot of advantages to having cameras in classrooms. He said:
One is it gives you a common piece of evidence to discuss with an instructional coach or supervisor. Second, it will prove to be economically much more viable because you’re not paying observers to drive around to various schools to do observations. If a teacher doesn’t think that their principal is giving them a fair evaluation because of some vendetta, they can have an external expert with no personal ax to grind watch and give feedback.
It seems that Bill Gates is ignoring that about two years ago, the state senate of Wyoming rejected a proposed bill that would install cameras in classrooms to evaluate teachers (Wyoming News):
The state Senate rejected a bill Wednesday to install cameras in classrooms to evaluate teachers. Senate File 114 failed 23-6 Wednesday, with one senator excused, after its first hearing on the floor.
Bill Gates' new plan does address some of the major objections heard inside the Wyoming senate. One of the strongest opposition is directed against having these recordings unannounced. 

Lisa Carey's "Cameras in Classrooms: Protection and Parenting Involvement or Invasion of Privacy?" cites the National Education Association:
"Monitoring and Observation of Teacher. . . All monitoring or observation of the work performance of a teacher shall be conducted openly and with full knowledge of the teacher. The use of eavesdropping, public address, audio systems, and similar surveillance devices shall be strictly prohibited. No mechanical or electronic device shall be installed in any classroom or brought in on a temporary basis which would allow a person to be able to listen or record the procedures in any class."
If the objective of recording lectures is to share effective teaching practices, there is already an organization in the US that does this. It is called the "TeachingChannel":
Teaching Channel is a video showcase—on the Internet and TV—of inspiring and effective teaching practices in America's schools. We have a rapidly growing community of registered members who trade ideas and share inspiration from each other...

...Our videos are produced by a unique team of professionals—a collaborative effort between video production experts, education advisors, and the classroom teachers themselves. We should point out that Teaching Channel does not determine or influence the content taught in our videos.

Our video library offers educators a wide range of subjects for grades K-12. The videos also include information on alignment with Common Core State Standards and ancillary material for teachers to use in their own classrooms. 
Teaching Channel Presents, a weekly one-hour program featuring Tch videos, airs on PBS stations in nearly 75 million homes across the United States.

A non-profit organization, Teaching Channel launched publicly in June 2011.
If the objective of recording lectures is to evaluate teachers, this is an entirely different action. First, one must distinguish between two approaches that at first, may look compatible, but are in fact may be working against each other.

Weeding bad teachers out of a school system
Attracting talent to the teaching profession

It is true that good and effective teachers do not want to be associated with bad and ineffective ones. It is true that the teaching profession can be improved by promoting good practices and discouraging those that do not work. However, one must be thoughtful in the means employed. Putting cameras inside a classroom will discourage further talented students from choosing a teaching career. Surveillance does not make the teaching profession attractive. 

The second equally important issue is whether capturing in video a lecture is really an effective method of evaluating teaching. The answer is "no". What happens inside a classroom for a particular day has a history. Teachers develop relationships with students as the school year runs. Teachers get to know the students. Thus, teaching is not a "dog and pony show". Effective teaching is alive. It is a conversation. If one suddenly eavesdrop on a conversation without the proper context and background, a lot of misunderstanding can occur. This is not proper evaluation. At Georgetown, we participate in peer review of teaching. Each faculty member attends a lecture of another. This is done in person. The review also goes through materials that are relevant in the course and some would even interview students. But we are all aware that this is a very incomplete snapshot of what is actually going on. 

Teaching is very dynamic and those who teach well normally do not go with a rehearsed plan. Instead, from a variety of experiences and student-specific knowledge, a teacher enters a classroom with a plan B, a plan C, a plan D, etc. How can one really capture all of these on an hour video viewed remotely? Depending on remote surveillance to evaluate teaching clearly does not understand what teaching is about. 

Clearly, there are better and more importantly, respectful ways of spending 5 billion dollars to help basic education.


  1. "The second equally important issue is whether capturing in video a lecture is really an effective method of evaluating teaching. The answer is "no". What happens inside a classroom for a particular day has a history. "

    i dont understand ur argument here. what is the relationship between "particular day has a history" and recording a lecture?

    what is the difference between peer evaluation and a camera that records (presumably to viewed by a peer later)?

  2. It is the difference between being part of a conversation and eavesdropping. A teacher in a classroom develops a relationship with the students. There is history which is already difficult to capture in a one-time observation inside a classroom. This is even more difficult to see in a video. A peer actually sitting inside a classroom observing how another teaches is so different from viewing a recorded lecture.

  3. " A peer actually sitting inside a classroom observing how another teaches is so different from viewing a recorded lecture."

    uhm, merely re-asserting what you said isnt an argument. i mean, we should attempt to articulate what the arguments are.

    "There is history which is already difficult to capture in a one-time observation inside a classroom." -- > isnt thats why you record more than 1 lecture? isnt that the logic of recording something, i.e. its more than "one-time"? you record a song so you can listen to it more than once?

  4. Maybe, this will help you see a big difference, the teacher sees the face of the peer who is reviewing.

  5. hhm.. i dont think you able to articulate your arguments, because you just defined the word "camera". yeah, i know what a camera is.

    let me try a different tack -- from your link, here is one con the author was able to come up with: "Some fear that a camera in the classroom would cause a negative effect to the teachers/student rapport and dynamic and may for some teachers cause them to alter their teaching style, thinking that they are being "judged.""

    is that it? a camera will make u feel/think u are judged? how is that different from a peer review.

    isnt the POINT of peer review, to JUDGE someone?

  6. It is not that I am unable to articulate, it simply seems difficult for you to put yourself in place of the teacher. When I am being observed by a peer who is inside a classroom is so different in so many levels. I know who is observing me. I could see who is observing me. I could see his face. This means I know my peer. I spend some time with my peer. In an elementary or high school, this peer could be a principal or a master teacher. We know each other much more than just an episode captured by a camera. An observation inside a classroom captures the actual atmosphere - an observer can see, hear and observe the students. Yes, you may have multiple cameras or even the capability to switch views on cameras, but it is still not the same as being really there.

  7. or, would it help if you had a person operate the camera? ayan, may mukha na. does it assuage your concerns?

  8. ah, so the issue is you need someone in the classroom also, to pick up some nuance that exists that is not captured by a camera? is that a succinct summary?

    are you then in favor of a mix of camera and personal visits? that should meet your concerns.

  9. Finally, you got the point.

    But then I am amazed, why do you still need cameras? why do you need a mix especially when cameras are deemed offensive by teachers?

  10. huh? "offensive"? thats new. why is it offensive?

    its "incomplete" -- that was your earlier argument. and there may be something to it. but no one said they would ban people sitting in, right? no one said that. so if that is your biggest argument, its weak tea.

    but offensive is an entirely different thing and is a strong word. whats offensive about it?

    PS: yes i finally got the point. thank you for fully articulating your argument earlier.

  11. why need cameras? presumably, people have to do other work, and evaluations are only one part of it.

    why not supplement live evaluations with recorded ones? nothing you said precludes that.

  12. If the state or any agency puts a camera inside someone's home to see if parents are doing a good job rearing their children, that is offensive. Teachers are the parents of children in school. Putting cameras inside their classrooms for the purpose of evaluation is disrespectful.

  13. ok. so this is your second argument. you do realize that "Teachers are the parents of children in school" is ONLY a metaphor right? they arent really the parent in school -- they are caretakers, but thats it.

    under your argument, you shouldnt put cameras in your home to record what a babysitter does, or that you shouldnt put cameras in a nursery.

    do you believe that, do you?

  14. There is a difference between using cameras for evaluation and using them for safety. Cameras are sometimes installed inside a nursery so that a parent who may be working in another room of the house can check what an infant or toddler is doing. There are closed circuit cameras in schools watching the entrances and hallways. These are for safety and security purposes only. Putting a camera to record what a babysitter does means there is no trust. The same holds for teachers. That is why putting cameras in a classroom to judge how a teacher does his or her job is offensive.

    This is my last response to this thread. I am getting tired of explaining. And to think, I have only covered so far the teacher's perspective. There is also the student's perspective. How does the possibility of permanently recording a mistake sound to a student? Students are shy enough to raise their hands in front of a class - how much more when it is recorded or viewed remotely by someone? The classroom is not a production line. And I wonder if at Microsoft, employees are under the watchful eye of a camera. Such an environment does not attract talented people. Respect and trust do.

  15. thats ok. i think you are getting tired because you are tying yourself in knots.

    you said "Teachers are the parents of children in school. Putting cameras inside their classrooms for the purpose of evaluation is disrespectful."

    note: purpose of evaluation. FINE.

    now you respond with "These are for safety and security purposes only. Putting a camera to record what a babysitter does means there is no trust. "

    really? cameras in nurseries and babysitters arent just about "will our kids die". its about determining whether or not the babysitter is doing a good job, INCLUDING but not limited to, whether they are homicidal.

    thats "evaluation" btw...

    and you say there is "no trust"? what does that have to do with evaluation? under your logic: if its about trust, why do peer review at all? after all, you TRUST them, right? why evaluate?

    the truth is, we trust teachers with our kids -- but this has NOTHING TO DO with the need to evaluate them.

    so, you are having a tough time, because you are coming up with all sorts of distinctions to limit the use of cameras in the classroom, even though cameras are used for a variety of reason, in a variety of setting, kids included.

    now, about microsoft employees -- are they being recorded? it depends! when they train for interacting with others; frontline workers, customer support -- they ARE being recorded.

    when you call BoA or apple, they ALWAYS say "this call may be recorded for training purposes" -- dont you ever hear that?

    so the UTILITY of recording depends on the job, and typically, if its a job that requires interacting with people, or performing in from of people, recording is a key part of prep and evaluation.


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