FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Unintended Consequences of Video Phones

The school district in Brick Township, NJ, has a PR mess on its hands thanks to a student who used his video phone to record a teacher going ballistic, berating students for not showing respect for the national anthem, and then pulling out a chair from one student who refused to stand. The student then posted the video on his personal website.

The school district's immediate response has been to crack down on cell phone usage during school hours. It also suspended the student who recorded the incident; the teacher was not disciplined, though he did offer to take a class on classroom management. Students and parents, meanwhile, appear to be rallying around the teacher. However, the nonpartisan site Political Gateway is taking the side of the videophoning student, and is urging its readers to come to his defense.

The incident illustrates that this age of personal electronics empowering individuals will usher in new levels of accountability. This can have a variety of consequences, testing the limits of free speech and protection for "whistleblowers." If the teacher had been caught in an unprovoked assault on a student, perhaps resulting in injury, the reaction from the community would surely have been very different. At any rate, we probably won't hear the end of this particular story for some time.

View a Windows Media version of the video here, or see still images here.

UPDATE: Apparently our student videographer isn't the brightest bulb in the box. On the same website where he posted his teacher's outburst, he also had posted video of himself and two buddies vandalizing outdoor Christmas decorations last December. The threesome were promptly arrested and charged with criminal mischief.

Sources: Asbury Park Press, Textually.org