One of my first responsibilities as an educational technologist was to help students install Proctorio on their laptops. At the request of a faculty member, my colleague and I visited three courses last fall, delivered a quick how-to slide show, and then walked the room to troubleshoot any installation problems experienced by the students. Our job done, my colleague and I packed our bags and quietly closed the classroom door.
Proctorio sells itself as a “Comprehensive Learning Integrity Platform.” I’ve come to see Proctorio as an invasive surveillance technology that destroys the feelings of belonging and trust I believe are foundational for all learning. I can’t say I didn’t know better last September, not really. I was at least passingly familiar with the work of Chris Gilliard and Safiya Umoja Noble and, appropriate given she’s a co-leader for this networks week of DigPINS, Autumm Caines. But had I read their work closely and considered how it applied to my work as a just-hired educational technologist? No, I had not. And I should have. I should’ve also understood the faculty member’s insistence that we frame the use of Proctorio to her students as a university-wide initiative as her recognition that it was easier to blame the institution for the harmful technology rather than accept personal responsibility. Them’s the rules, as they say.
Of course, I was responsible too. My sense of responsibility only grew over the course of last fall. I have my Twitter network and its resulting complex contagion to thank for that. I returned to the work of Chris, Safiya, and Autumm. Of Jesse Stommel, Sean Michael Morris, and Audrey Watters. I observed conversations unfurling on Twitter as people criticized Proctorio, Turnitin, and other unethical ed tech. Yet I didn’t participate other than the occasional “like” or maybe a retweet.
The truth is, I felt like a fraud, a hypocrite. I agreed with what others had to say about the awful ed tech, but I was implicated in the same technology’s spread. Spring semester arrived. The same faculty member asked my colleague and I to visit her classes. My gut a knot, I agreed. I didn’t want to abandon my colleague. I didn’t want to upset the faculty member. I was new still, and I didn’t want to be a problem.
I tried to solve my own problem with Proctorio by emphasizing that students did not have to use Proctorio when taking an exam. The technology wasn’t mandatory, I explained every other breath, and they could go to the testing center to complete the exam.
I read more. I observed my network. The contagion spread; its microbes gnawed away at the knot in my gut until it disintegrated.
Then this happened:
I entered into a public confrontation with Proctorio. My network gave me the knowledge and courage to fight back. And to keep fighting. This fall, I won’t be visiting any classrooms to help students install Proctorio. I prefer not to.