The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a magnifying glass, revealing all the ways our systems are broken. A crisis like a pandemic can throw those systems into further disarray, with fear and confusion providing fertile ground for various actors to sow the seeds of increased surveillance. If this crisis cannot serve as the wake-up call for those of us who have been privileged enough to not feel the direct effects and harms of this surveillance, what will?
Surveillance itself can be hard to define, because it can take different forms in different contexts. David Lyon (2007, 14) defines it as “the focused, systematic and routine attention to personal details for the purposes of influence, management, protection or direction,” and this accurately describes how technology is often used in education, for both mundane and explicitly harmful reasons—never simply as a neutral tool.
For this special issue of the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, we invite submissions from all who have been touched, harmed, and otherwise vexed by the alarming creep of surveillance into our already heavily surveilled educational systems. While we are a journal that publishes mainly journal articles, we recognize that scholarly work can take many forms, and so we encourage different types of submissions. In particular, we look for short-form contributions by students who have felt the impact of intensifying surveillance in educational spaces to reflect on their experiences (details below).
Remote proctoring services are a good example of the harms educational technology can promote. Companies like Proctorio, ProctorU, and Respondus, among others, have benefited from the current pandemic-induced uncertainty and fear, making lucrative deals with many educational institutions, and thus expanding a deeply concerning invasion of student privacy through surveillance. The potential harms of online proctoring are known: its combination of machine learning, AI, facial recognition, and other invasive biometric tools contribute to developing often-biased algorithms that then make automated and often punitive judgments about the students forced to use the software. This process, predictably, has reinforced existing inequalities based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, location, access to technology, and digital literacy, in all their intersections. While there has been some pushback because of student organizing, there is still much work to be done, and still a great deal to be undone—especially faced with the looming possibility of legal backlash from the companies, as in the case of Ian Linkletter.
Beyond more obvious and egregious recent developments, most educational institutions have long been employing learning management systems (LMS) equipped with more passive forms of surveillance. Popular LMSs like Blackboard, Microsoft Teams, Google for Education, Canvas, etc., have been tracking, collecting, and using student data for years with little or no attention or public regulation. These, along with popular anti-plagiarism software like Turnitin, have helped to normalize a panopticon of covert policing and student control, where teachers can know the precise moment a student has even downloaded a reading—if at all.
The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy
Surveillance in Education
sava saheli singh (University of Ottawa)
Chris Gilliard (Shorenstein Center, Harvard Kennedy School)
Chanta Palmer (Lehman College, CUNY)
Submissions to this issue that address the various forms of surveillance that have crept into our educational systems and pedagogy will be housed under two categories. The first will include peer-reviewed work, developed and revised with the editorial team and two peer-reviewing scholars. This section is open to publishing pieces that take multiple forms (traditional articles, zines, videos, web essays), but should have a similar level of scholarly engagement and ability to revise as a traditional research article manuscript of about 5000 words.
The second category, “Views from the Field,” will be developed in collaboration with the editorial team alone and without formal peer review, allowing for more exploratory formats of shorter submissions. These can include brief reflections, scholarly experiments, book reviews, interactive media, film, poetry, artwork, games, or other innovative approaches. We particularly encourage students subjected to surveillance in education technology to consider contributing reflections on their experiences, thoughts, and visions for a more liberatory future. Submissions to this section, if in prose, should be 1000–2000 words, or an equivalent length and conceptual depth if taking another format.
Possible topics can include:
- How has proctoring software affected teaching, learning, and education as a whole?
- How has the increased corporatization of education played a role in the increased role of surveillance in education?
- How have surveillance-rich LMSs (Learning Management Systems) like Blackboard, Canvas, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, etc. changed teacher-student relationships?
- How have pre-existing inequalities of access, literacies, autonomy, and vulnerability to discipline and policing been exacerbated by the turn to invasive instructional technology across racialized, regional, and national class inequalities in our education landscape?
- When have teachers found that privacy and autonomy trade-offs required by useful software and technology have not been worth it, and what strategies have we taken to move ahead?
- How have students and teachers responded to this increased surveillance?
- How has surveillance continued to erode the boundaries between home, work, and school?
- What possibilities have teachers and students found together for repurposing and democratizing technologies toward liberatory ends?
- How has the increasing consciousness of the carceral logics of surveillance in educational technology led to more calls for abolition rather than negotiation?
Brief Guidelines for Submissions
Research-based submissions should include discussions of approach, method, and analysis, so as to provide a teachable model for future researchers. When possible, research data should be made publicly available and accessible via the Web and/or other digital mechanisms, a process that JITP can and will support as necessary. Successes and interesting failures are equally welcome. Submissions that focus on pedagogy should balance theoretical frameworks with practical considerations of how new technologies play out in both formal and informal educational settings. Discipline-specific submissions should be written for non-specialists.
Submission and Review Process
Please indicate in your email whether this is a submission for peer-reviewed articles or for “Views from the Field.”
All work appearing in the Issues section of JITP (with the exception of work in our “Views from the Field”) is reviewed by the issue editors and independently by two scholars in the field who provide formative feedback to the author(s) during the review process. We practice signed, as opposed to anonymous or so-called “blind,” peer review. We intend that the journal itself—both in our process and in our digital product—serves as an opportunity to reveal, reflect on, and revise academic publication and classroom practices.
As a courtesy to our reviewers, we will not consider simultaneous submissions, but we will do our best to reply to you within three months of the submission deadline. The expected length for finished manuscripts is under 5000 words. All work should be original and previously unpublished. Essays or presentations posted on a personal blog may be accepted, provided they are substantially revised. Please contact us with any questions about this at email@example.com.
Submission deadline for full manuscripts is June 15th, 2021. Please view our submission guidelines for information about submitting to the Journal. The editorial team and the JITP editorial collective want to offer any support we can to those facing increased caregiving workloads. We seek to put our pedagogical and collaborative mandate into practice by inviting constructive communication with authors developing their work during this difficult period. If you are unable to meet the deadline, please email the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the possibility of an extension. This issue is slated for publication in December 2021.