Classroom Technology

Does ‘Webcamgate’ Illustrate Organizational Problem?

By Ian Quillen — August 18, 2010 1 min read

Despite a second civil lawsuit recently filed against the Lower Merion School District in Philadelphia’s suburbs, no federal criminal charges will be filed after a much-publicized incident where webcams on school-issued laptops photographed students inside their homes, the Associated Press reports.

And the most relieved person may be the one who first foresaw trouble.

The remote photographs were taken because of a malfunction of an anti-theft feature, and in the wake of the incident, the two technology staffers with the power to activate the feature have been placed on leave. District technology coordinator Carol Cafiero, who was one of them, said through her lawyer that she hopes the dropping of federal charges will help facilitate a return to work.

“She’s one of the few people that said we needed to establish a policy,” Charles Mandracchia, Cafiero’s lawyer, told the AP Tuesday. “And it kind of fell on deaf ears.”

If that’s true, Cafiero’s plight is one many technology coordinators can relate to. While it’s great to be forward-thinking and innovative—to use a buzz word I’m not crazy about—if something goes wrong with a school initiative, it’s going to be the technology director’s head. As a result, a district’s potential best advocate for one-to-one computing, cloud applications, mobile learning, and other technology integration might be (and rightly so) the most cautious.

The question is whether that’s a necessary arrangement to prevent reckless technology policy, or a major roadblock to progress.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.