Tuesday, November 21, 2006

School ID Badges: The future of student and teacher tracking

RFID = Radio Frequency Identification

Twenty years ago, if someone suggested that school administrators would be able to track student’s and teacher’s movements at all times while on school grounds, you would have thought that there cheese had slid off of their cracker (e.g. that they were crazy). Last year a pilot RFID system was established in California for attendance purposes only. The students in the school, grades kindergarten through 12, received an ID badge with a tiny tag carrying the RFID technology, which was activated to take attendance when students entered their classrooms.

Michael Dobson the co-founder of Incom conceptualized and helped develop the RFID system for the schools. Although, the system was established for attendance purposes only in Sutton California, many parents feared that it would be used to track their students and adamantly opposed the technology. Good or bad, the system was removed at the beginning of 2005 due to the overwhelming number of parental complaints and the involvment of the ACLU over the issue of individual privacy. Nevertheless, we haven’t seen the last of the RFID badges.

As a parent and aspiring administrator, I believe that the benefits of RFID badges in the school setting far out weigh the negative connotations proposed by privacy advocates. For example, with RFID badges in place in student safety concerns dramatically decrease. If we are able to track and locate our students at any given time we can prevent some discipline problems, track attendance, and locate children in times of crisis or otherwise.

Additionally, having all school buses equipped with RFID systems could drastically improve the safety of students with disabilities. I know of a case where a student with a mental disability got on the bus unnoticed by the bus driver. The mother could not find her child and was frantic. Fortunately, the student was located within a reasonable amount of time. However, had RFID been in place the student could have been located much faster. If the student had left the bus with other students unnoticed s/he could have got lost or injured. RFID could save a child’s life.

Are all RFID technologies good? Absolutely not! New passports are being equipped with RFID technology and this could be a bad thing. Vicki A Davis in a podcast interview with Patrick Crispen addresses the negatives of passports being equipped with RFID. To “almost” quote George Orwell, not 1984, but Animal Farm, RFID students badges GOOD! RFID passports BAD!

Links: The New York Times 2004, Fox News 2005, Wired News, Incom, Vicki A Davis, & Patrick Crispen

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Blogger Vicki A. Davis said...

Just remember that all technology has good and bad uses. If a stalker got the RFID signature for a particular student, they could literally use it to track the student's movements. I think all technology bears with it great responsibility and that RFID tags need to have some sort of authentication signature that would only allow them to respond to certain RFID sensors and not ALL of them. Otherwise, the same technology used by an administrator to track students for a good purpose could be used for ill as well.

10:47 AM  
Blogger WBishop said...

RFID does more to track students in relation to where they were last located, rather than actual GPS or locale tracking. What I mean is that if John goes through door A, we know that John should be in Room A. This is how RFID currently works for the most part. In contrast, something much more dangerous than RFID are cell phones. Most cell phones have built in GPS and are very easy to track. Most students have cell phones...

P.S. I like the idea of authentication signatures. You're a very smart individual. Thanks for the comment...

1:58 AM  

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