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Dear Teacher using remote proctoring software

It seems that you’re using remote proctoring software with the intent of learning integrity. Let’s talk a moment about that.

Learning is a thing gained by experience, the acquisition of knowledge.

You can get, purchase, acquire, and cheat an education. But you can do none of those to learning.

Education is an approach to learning—systematic instruction.

What’s it for?

Is it about oration, enforcing compliance, and accreditation for putting up with the prior?

Is it about being here because you want to be, learning from what we do, and peer-to-peer because we know it works?

“Proctor” is the duty to enforce obedience to the laws of the institution. One of my professors explained Proctorio as the following.

Proctorio will be used as a replacement for how I would observe you, if we were together in the classroom.

Is that what this is for?

Let’s go back around 60 years ago. A time where we saw the first commercial computer, Color Television broadcast system, polio vaccine, commercial microwave oven, transatlantic telephone cable, three-point seatbelt, satellite television, computer mouse, push button telephone, measles vaccine, and handheld electronic calculator all coming into life.

It would be at least a decade before we would see the personal computer, E-mail, cell phones, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Google.

In his mid-fifties, a man published his work on the practical application of Dr. Abraham Maslow’s work applied to scientific management. He sought to encourage others to investigate beliefs, invent others, test out the assumptions underlying them, and develop strategies that made sense in context.

His two beliefs were titled Theory X and Theory Y.

Theory X assumes workers have little ambition, avoid responsibility, are less intelligent, lazy, and work solely for a sustainable income—based on their own self-interest. Theory X managers tend to use rewards or punishments as motivation and believe that all actions should be traceable to the individual responsible so they can be rewarded or punished.

Theory Y assumes workers enjoy their job, work to better themselves without a direct reward in return, take responsibility for their work, and don’t need close supervision to work. Theory Y Managers view workers as one of the company’s most valuable assets and allow them to design, construct, and publish their work on time in co-ordinance to their workload and projects.

Around the same time, Peter Drucker coined the term Knowledge Worker to differentiate people whose job is to think for a living.

the most valuable asset of a 21st-century institution, whether business or non-business, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity. (Management Challenges for the 21st Century)

You can see this idea of skillful vs. unskillful, thoughtful vs. unthoughtful, repeated time and time again in different ways.

So, I’ll ask again.

What is it for?

You can’t deny the industrial history of education—a history of systemic instruction to manufacture Theory X workers designed for compliance instead of thinking.

I’m not going to go into legal, privacy, or accessibility concerns on remote proctoring software here—and those are real concerns with real consequences. But, those are secondary to the heart of the conversation we need to have.

What change are you seeking to make?

Is your role to help students have little ambition, avoid responsibility, be less intelligent, and lazy?

Or do you seek to be someone who helps people enjoy their job, work to better themselves, and take responsibility for their work? Someone who makes things better.

Choices today are the natural result of optimizing for the ability to enforce obedience. You are a choice architect, and your choices influence the culture.

Before opting in, before you decide to go with the flow of culture, it’s worth asking.

What is this for? What change are you seeking to make?

It’s time. Time to let go of the proctor. Time to stop seeking ways to enforce obedience. Time to insist on seeking a viable long-term path forward.

Enrollment instead of enforcement. Activity because people want to be here and find a better way forward instead of forcing people to pretend they want to be here. Experiences because we learn what we do instead of tests that enforce compliance. Peer-to-peer because it scales and builds a scenius instead of accreditation that divides and devalues. Trust instead of mistrust. Because the price of mistrust is too high and when we can’t trust each other, nothing works.

It’s time to make things better by making better things.

As long as we see enforcing obedience as an educational prerogative, we will be shackled from seeing the fruits of learning.

There is more to learning than education. And there’s more to education than obedience. We can and should seek it without the shackles of enforcing obedience.

And we need your help to make it happen. Because if we’re not going to make things better, who will?

Make a ruckus.