Last year I attended the MAP18 launch. Map is highly regarded accelerator program in Melbourne that is hard to get into. Startups go through a rigorous selection process and the 10 teams chosen get some equity free investment and lots of mentoring and stuff. It was at this event that I got my first look at LoopLearn. It is no secret that my blood froze. Both as a mother and a teacher the idea of having students tracked by facial recognition software was horrifying to me. Turns out it was pretty horrifying for the parents I spoke to as well. To put that in context, it came not long after the news of several stunning breaches in data security.
I will admit that I didn’t hear the details of the pitch because my receptors had been fried by the concept. A few things have happened since then. Firstly I became aware that there were similar types of software being developed in other countries who may not care as much about data privacy and security as LoopLearn does. I was still super suspicious of the product and I have to confess that I ignored my own rules about not making judgements until you had all the data. It also meant that we shut down the conversation which was stupid.
The second thing to happen was that at the recent EduTECH conference in Sydney in June, LoopLearning won the pitch competition. They deserved it. It was a really good pitch and I heard more of the details. I discovered that they had made data privacy a central principle. Having since read more I now know that their ‘computer vision technology’ includes a really transparent and simple process from capture to deletion. Like many of us I am suspicious of any data collection, I still haven’t signed up for that health thingy,
Marking the roll
The data storage issue aside, my main problem with the technology is something else. In all my years of teaching, in lots of places, marking the roll has never been one of the problems that teachers complained about. I can understand that school administration teams would love it. It would be significantly quicker to discover absenteeism. But I fail to see the benefit for teachers.
Again at the aforementioned conference, during an entertaining ‘Ed Poets Society’ (#EDpoetsSociety) evening, a respected and passionate colleague referred to the pain of marking the roll. Seriously, has that been a thing and I had missed it. Then only a week ago another excellent educator wrote a satirical post during which he railed at the time wasted marking the roll at the beginning of every lesson. Please, how else are we going to remember all those names.
You will appreciate my delight last Friday when I came across the wonderful Judy Larson on twitter. My heart lifted as I read her bio, in which she states ‘I believe relationships are the key. I believe students need to hear their names said with love, every day.’ This woman gets me. This is what it is all about.
Hearing their name
The roll marking routine can help students settle and get ready for the lesson. The sound of your voice helps them remember which class they are in. This is more relevant to secondary school. But most importantly, it allows every student to hear their name, pronounced correctly and with respect in every lesson at least once. We must never underestimate the power of that. It is important for the shy student who won’t raise their hand to be called to speak. It is important for the reluctant student who doesn’t think anyone cares. It is absolutely important for the student who has clashed with other teachers and needs to decompress.
For some students it may be the only time they hear an adult speak their name without rancour.
The value of marking the roll as a human
For me, marking the roll was a significant activity in each lesson. It allowed me to get a feel for the mood of the students individually and the class as a whole. Ask any parent of teenagers and they will tell you that the shades of meaning a child can convey in the tone of one word is remarkable. Marking the roll can also be fun and assist in building the relationship. I fondly remember one class I had in the Middle East. As was common in the region, I had five students named Muhammad. Each required a different inflection and they would respond at the appropriate number. It was a moment of levity that helped to build relationships and get everyone in the mood for learning.
Probably electronic roll marking will become de rigueur, but let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let us find other ways to ensure that every student hears their name spoken by an adult with respect, at least once in every lesson.
I promise I will get back to talking about English and literature very soon. But this tech stuff is here to stay and we need to be making sure we understand it, and that teachers get to be involved in the conversations.
Everyone tells me that we are supposed to have a call to action. So here are two
Check out our shop for some useful resources: We Teach Well
Have a look at LoopLearn, they are doing interesting work and they are a home grown enterprise. Mention them to your admin team if they are looking for attendance software.