I do not understand it, I find it unethical. I have looked around to find an argue for it. Why should that be necessary? I can not see why Moodle with a special tool should encourage teachers to keep recorded secrets about others, nor students or anybody else. How come???
I've been teaching since 1985 and I've always kept notes on students during a class and sometimes after class ends for my records. I do this because I don't have a perfect memory (nearly perfect, but not quite )
For example, I have about 70 students this term and one of them just contacted me today about a very serious health problem that will impact his/her class performance. I need to make note of that. What's the difference between me doing that in Moodle or via some other method? How is this unethical? I make several written notes concerning my students every term...I have to since I don't have that "perfect" memory...it's part of my job as a teacher/professor to keep up with things. How is that unethical?
Now if other teachers or students can see these notes, then I agree there is a problem, but if the teacher making the note (and admin of course) is the only one who can see them, I don't see the problem.
Yes, I agree. If the notes follow students to other classes and are available to other teachers, then there is a huge opportunity for misuse. Private notes that only I (the teacher) can see would be an improvement--a rare thing in Moodle over the past couple of versions.
Notes that can be created by one teacher and viewed by other teachers...I see much more opportunity for abuse/misuse than I see benefit. Now that I look at it a teacher seems to be able to make site notes, course notes, and private notes. I can see the benefit of private notes, but I don't see the benefit of site and course notes--sort of "big brother-ish" is seems.
There are lots of laws and policies in the US regarding this. Teachers are allowed to keep personal notes, but once you create an official record, then students are allowed access to those records. When those notes are created on the School/University provided system, then I think there is a very good argument that they are official records....when they are made available to others via that system, then there is no doubt that they are official records.
And concerning the point the "other poster" made: "Every student information system I've seen also contains this kind of functionality."
I didn't know Moodle was an SIS. And, yes, most student information systems do provide note functionality, but that information is not made available to every teacher in the institution. For example, even if a student has an ADA accommodation, unless it specifically applies to my class and that student is a student in my class, then I have no right to know about it just because I'm a teacher at that institution. Giving teachers the ability to post site-wide notes about students is just asking for problems...in my opinion, of course.
No. It seems,
1. Site notes are viewable by all teachers on the site
2. Course notes are viewable by the teacher in the course
3. Personal notes are viewable by the person who created it.
4. Non-editing teachers can also create notes.
When students are unenrolled from a course all note are are maintained.
This is with no changes to role permissions...who knows what could happen if the admin starts fiddling with roles.
This kind of mocking can result in lawsuits as well. The "education expert" who in the article claims: "...mercilessly mocking students behind their backs may seem unprofessional, but is a vital part of teaching" is wrong on two counts:
1. It doesn't simply "seem" unprofessional. It is unprofessional.
2. claiming mercilessly mocking students in a vital part of teaching is just plain idiotic.
I would be interested in hearing if other educators here actually agree with this "education expert". Is mocking students a vital part of your profession?
You're no fun John...I was sure someone would chime in and agree with the expert
There is a flip side to that Onion article, which happened to me when I was an eleventh grader. In compliance with an assignment, I wrote a short paper on relativism which I was planning to use as the starting point of what I was hoping to be my life's work, which I was going to call The Absolutist Manifesto. When all the other students in the class got their papers back, I got nothing. When I asked why after class, I was told that the teaching assistant thought it was so good (I'm not trying to brag here but I don't know any other way to explain what happened) that she took it upon herself, without my knowledge or permission, to post it on a bulletin board in her college. Nothing like this had ever happened to me in my life, so I didn't make a copy of it. I kept hoping that someday, her college would be done with it, or at least let me have a copy of my own #@$%& paper, which I requested, but I never got it.
That was over 40 years ago. In case you haven't noticed, I'm still mad about it. And so I never wrote my manifesto. And that's why relativism is so rampant today. Who knows whether 9/11 ...
It's an optional feature, you don't need to use it at all. And if you do use it, *you* decide how you want to use it and who sees the notes. You can make everything public if you want to (using capabilities).
Teachers have always kept notes about their students (it's a normal part of assessment) - this ability was requested many times by teachers as a way to keep their information online in Moodle rather than in paper pads or private word processor documents or as banter in the staffroom (loved that Onion article, John ). Every student information system I've seen also contains this kind of functionality.
It could also be useful to share relevant information between teachers about particular students. For example: "This student is having a difficult time at home so don't be too hard on them if they hand in assignments late". That's why those options are there. But you don't have to use them (or as admin, let your teachers use them) if you don't like that.
You can prohibit users to use that facility but you can not deactivate it. And you can not let teachers modify capabilities if you want to make sure that nobody can use the hidden archive tool. And you can not ensure that these notes will not be kept forever, they will only be deleted if someone takes care of that.
This is NOT to be compared to mails or messages. Everybody knows that we have got mails and messages and that is a tool we all use for communicating together. But students do not know that teachers can keep hidden archives in their profiles or those who might know, they do not know if they use them. Of cause they know that teachers talk about them in the phone, in messages, in mails and so on and maybe take notes about them on paper too, but hidden archives shared with other teachers, no.
You do not have the same facility for the students so they can share hidden notes about their teachers. Students have always used notes and they have always shared opinions about their teachers, but it has never been common that they keep secret archives about them. But of cause I could decide to use the tool for that instead. But I can not have both hidden archives for students and teachers.
How would you feel about participating in a course and after a while, or even after you have left, discover that the teachers are having an archive where they share comments about you? Or imagine misuse of this kind of archives. I feel very, very badly about it. This is not what open source should be used for in my opinion, we at least need some transparency here.
In my experience to build confidence is a vital part of successful education and of course I would never betray their trust.
Thinking of teachers posting unethical comments about their students gives me the creeps online ore on notes the same.
We are very much in favor of this feature as we are not using moodle for educational purposes only. Thank you and please do not remove this feature.
Thanks for raising an important point here! And I think I agree with your solution. If the design is such that a "note" is available to anyone other than the originator, then it should be designed to also be visible to the student. The only qualification I would have on this is that there should be a clear notice to the teacher that the student can see such notes.
The truth is that most schools and colleges (I suspect) do maintain confidential files on students. And the student (or parents in the case of minors) have only limited access to these files. In those files are grades, test scores, and perhaps such things as applications for admissions (with or without letters of recommendation), disciplinary notes, and other commentary.
While these files do exist, there are usually pretty strict rules as to what goes into the files and who has access. The problem with the current Moodle implementation is that any teacher can add a note by default and any other teacher can read it (if written at the site level). And the design seems to deliberately exclude the student from viewing the content on themselves -- a big shift from their other default access rights relating to their own information. And I suspect that most people would consider, especially site-wide notes (as opposed to a teacher's private notes to themselves), as being part of a student's educational records.
I think that the student file is a better analogy than emails between teachers. Careful thought should be given to this and I appreciate you raising the issue.
You can say administrators can configure Moodle to override defaults anytime they want until your face turns blue. The fact is, most people are lazy enough to do as little configuration (and learning how to configure) of whatever software they have, so they go with whatever defaults they can live with (and maybe even some they can't live with, but don't realize that), at least at first. My point is, determining what the defaults are is a software issue, and it most emphatically is the responsibility of the software development team, whoever you consider that team to be (the actual programmers, the entire Moodle community, etc.).
I agree 100% that it is not a software issue.
Not once in this discussion has anyone mentioned "Acceptable Use Policies" (AUP). In the school where I taught, the AUP was a board-approved policy that had a section for students and a section for teachers. As its name implies, it outlines acceptable uses of all the school's computer and network resources, and gives the disciplinary action that can be taken for each type of violation. Every student and every teacher must read and formally agree to the AUP as a precondition of using the facilities (we used a Moodle Choice activity to record the agreement).
The AUP is sometimes very broad, and sometimes very specific, about things that students and teachers can and cannot do. For example, no one is allowed to view pornography on a school computer. A student can be suspended or even expelled, and a teacher can be terminated. Does that mean that the computer must prevent teachers and students from viewing pornography? No, our own sense of right and wrong, reinforced by the fear of punishment, prevents us.
The proper and ethical use of student data by teachers should be covered by an AUP. Teachers should read the AUP and use Moodle's features accordingly, or suffer the consequences.
I see that ratings are already being used to provide a wealth of useful information in this thread...simply amazing
I have posted a bug report on this with MDL-13539 and am testing a patch I have written.
While I understand both sides of the issue on this, I think that it is a matter that should be decided intentionally and deliberatively.
Thank you very much for catching the ball and take snappy action on this. And yes, it is a critical issue. About the hack I think we should start to giving the profiles back to the students, not only by default, but as not changeable, they have to have full access. We also have to create a help file that describes the feature and what could be pitfalls to the users, students as well as teachers. You can not expect a high common awareness on issues like this among all moodlers.
To implement other changes I think we have to discuss it very carefully first.
For example you also have to be aware that if such records exists authorities might want access to them.
I can see the potential benefits of Moodle notes. Not simply for teachers to record, share student-related academic & behavioural information. We're considering notes to disseminate pastoral & medical data, too. However, student privacy for more confidential matters has to be protected, so notes won't be appropriate in every instance.
I don't disagree with you. I think that the notes feature can be useful. I think what is being suggested is simply that those notes which are published at the site and course level also (at least by default) be visible to the student (or the subject of the note -- who might be you or another colleague). It seems to me that this would be the best way to avoid abuse.
Tim suggested that perhaps one of the capability settings be made to determine if a user can see notes about themselves. I would be fine with this, if the default was that they could. Then an institution would need to go through the process of considering their value system in determining who has access to such information. In that case, I would still think that users should still be able to see their notes page, it is just that they would be given the notice that they don't have access to that data.
Then we would have transparency.
If teachers were forced to record private and potentially damaging information about students, there would be an issue here. As it stands, no one is forced to use the notes section. If a school or administrator is concerned that their teachers may be abusing the system, then it is the responsibility of that school or administrator to police their teachers.
To make the changes suggested would be the equivalent of altering word processor code so that a school or facility must approve the use of controversial words before those words could be typed using the software. Whether or not the words are appropriate should be of no concern to the software development team; the issue is whether the software is stable and functional.
Once efforts begin to police the software to guard against moral or ethical indiscretions, the development focus is easily lost.
Yea...how dumb it would be to let little things like moral and ethical issues impact the development focus
If teachers were forced to record private and potentially damaging information about students, there would be an issue here.
True...but there is also an issue when "the institution" provides a means for its employees to create those official secret records that contain potentially damaging information about students and pass it along to others via that institutionally provided system.
If a school or administrator is concerned that their teachers may be abusing the system, then it is the responsibility of that school or administrator to police their teachers.
You are partially correct here, but I would also add that it's the responsibility of school administration to decide whether they are going to provide a system for faculty use that could result in significant legal liability for the institution.
Your word processor analogy is so flawed it doesn't even warrant comment.
As was already suggested, I think that if this is considered a vital feature in Moodle, then at least it should be completely disabled in a default install and should require the site admin to enable it. At least that way, someone at the institution would have to take action to make this available and would hopefully do so knowing the potential impact.
This is just my opinion....it really doesn't impact me one way or the other. If I ever use that version for anything, then first thing I'll do is hack it out of the code and I would recommend everyone else (particularly in the US just as a safeguard against potential legal liability) do the same thing at least to the site-wide and course notes part.
My patch for this is fairly simple (and it is not a hack -- it is a proposed patch). It involves just a few instances where a check is made alongside permissions, and displays notes if the user's ID matches the subject of the note. The only reason it is taking longer is that I want to implement the role/capability to have institutions select whether students can see notes about themselves as Tim suggested may be needed. My own view is that this should default to yes, and that if no is selected, that students are shown that they don't have access to the information.
This should meet most people's needs, I think. And I think gives the right set of values which in my view is essential in developing software and systems that are used in society.
If this purpose is mixed up with general terms that say it should be stable and functional, the development focus on Moodle is easily lost.
Anyway in the Moodle learning environment you have a domain where equal is present and a domain where some are more equal than others so to speak. In Moodle every authenticated user is equal and in courses some users are more equal than others, teachers have more permissions than students.
When it comes to maintain a users profile we are outside the educational domain. And it is here the code (Moodle 1.9) compromises the idea about equal users by giving others writing rights to your profile and share the changes with others behind your back.
Thanks to Douglas for initializing these thoughts. Maybe it should effect the MDL-13539 solution?
I like the feature. Especially where there is load sharing and multiple teachers teach the same class. If I happen to know why Johnny is away for three weeks or why he has to bring X to class, I can pass that information along. It's also a handy way for notes on special-ed students who have specific needs to be available rather than logging in to yet another system.
Of course, where the notes are personal opinions is a matter for each institution. Our notes that I already take are not allowed to contain personal opinion eg, this kid did the stupidest thing in class.....; and more like Johnny's behaviour was inappropriate - he ...... . So if you have a problem of teachers entering inappropriate information, that's when you need to start teaching the teachers about what is appropriate and inappropriate, and then trust them. They'll make notes and pass them on regardless of whether moodle helps or not. Moodle will just facilitate an important function of a teacher's job.
It's also a handy way for notes on special-ed students who have specific needs to be available rather than logging in to yet another system.
Exactly why this is a potential huge legal problem for institutions. You start writing special ed information in the notes area of a student's profile and share that with other teachers on the site and it won't be long before you and your institution find yourselves in some major legal trouble.
So if you have a problem of teachers entering inappropriate information, that's when you need to start teaching the teachers about what is appropriate and inappropriate, and then trust them.
If you think this is a "handy way" to make notes on special ed students to pass along then, either you are not a teacher in the US and have very different laws in this area or the "education" needs to start with you and the person who rated your post 7 stars .
I can see that you're passionate about this. No, I don't teach in the US; I teach in a in Australia and all teachers notes are already official record and must be kept for a minimum of 25 years (email and everything). I can't see how that this module is any different than what happens now in real life as teachers make notes all the time, except moodle making it more secure (diaries/notebooks could be left behind; filing cabinets could be left unlocked etc). I'm certain, that no matter where you go, teachers need access to information about special needs kids in their class - even in the US. How is putting it securely in moodle more of a security risk that putting it in your teacher diary or filing cabinet? If the info is stored on another system, we just have to access that system too. Same info but harder to get - and teachers are less likely to access it if it means more work.
Of course, if you teach at a school were teachers aren't allowed access to that sort of info, then yeah, it would be a legal problem. But I've never heard of a school that won't let you know that you've got an ASD student and their particular characteristics. On the other hand, if you don't trust that your teachers are professional enough to put appropriate information (for your institution), then hopefully this module can be disabled and you can sleep easy at night knowing that your teachers diaries can be left behind, filing cabinets left open etc and now you have no more legal problems.
I see it as a good thing, it makes teachers more accountable and professional in what they make notes of and how they write, because it's official record. You have no control of what is in your teachers' diaries. Treat it with the same policy as teachers' emails about students.
If you've got multiple teachers teaching the same class - don't you think that teachers share notes anyway? Don't you think it is important about behaviour management of the student to have consistency? It also helps me know if the student is acting up in my class or whether it is more general. But notes must be kept professionally. If I wouldn't say it to his mother and father, then I don't write it. Period (on paper or electronically).
It has nothing to do with passion. My purpose is simple...to post information here to possibly help keep a US teacher and/or school out of trouble.
Let me make this real simple....
1. In the US, students (and parents of students who are minors) have a right to access any official education record that is created on the student...and they have a right to know the record exist...neither of which is provided in this secret note system.
2. In the US, all students, even special ed students have a right to privacy including a right to have any disability, or accommodation for a disability, kept private and only released to people who have a "need to know". What this means is that even if a student in my class has a disability, but that student doesn't have a need for an accommodation for that disability in my class, then I have no right to know about that disability...period. If I can look in that student's profile and see a note that his previous teacher put there about his/her ADHD, when it has nothing to do with my class, then there is a problem.
This isn't about multiple teachers teaching the same class....surely you recognize that if a teacher creates a site note, then it's available to "every teacher on the site"....not just multiple teachers of a single class. And, if that weren't bad enough, as someone pointed out in another thread, many institutions make students, graduate assistants, etc., teachers in a Moodle class....which gives them access to these same site notes for every students in the system.
I don't really care what you or others do.......when people read this thread in the future, they will see all the views posted here and then they can make up their own minds as to what they want to do.
You might want to check it out: http://docs.moodle.org/en/Roles
Thanks for the tip...I wasn't aware of that...I'll have to read-up on those excellent roles
ie. Tim is an excellent spatial learned, need to come up with a potential lab to help him learn...
The word "secret" is being thrown around this forum like the Gestapo is using Moodle. I don't advertise any notes I might have, but I do think my observations might be helpful to other teachers with Tim.
If a parent asks for notes on their student, they should obviously be shared. If a teacher is keeping notes that say "Tim is a moron and not worth my time" then they should be asked to find a new profession, they have lost their calling.
I think the fact that all teachers can see the notes actually should make everyone use it in a professional manner. If it isn't, most professional will police it internally.
If you let every teacher know that these notes will be shared with parents, they will only keep relavent, professional content on it.
Finally, I think it is great (as I am a ADHD teacher that looses my notes by the next year anyway.) I would love a better way to access and store them. This is all moot since I won't be upgrading to 1.9 since I think the gradebook is too complicated for 90% of my staff to navigate and I have already customized 1.8 out the wazzo for our school anyway.
The issue arises when the note is shared with others who aren't involved in the class. In the paper note scenario, the blame would (rightly) accrue to the teacher who sent the note to someone who doesn't have the right to know. As I understand the proposed system, the teacher notes will automatically be shared with all teachers, whether or not they have the right to the information.
That's completely different from a teacher making a note on a piece of paper because pieces of paper don't magically duplicate themselves and send the copies to every other teacher in the school.
It's a little disturbing that people who are raising legitimate issues are getting ranked as "not useful" in this thread. Personally, I think that almost all of the comments here, for and against, are useful. "Not useful" shouldn't be used as a synonym for "I disagree".
I agree with your assessment of the problem. I have had some conversations with people who are knowledgeable in both school law in Texas and special ed law in the US. We concluded that the issue is with access. All students have a right to privacy, and school employees (notice, I did not say faculty--ALL school employees) should be granted access to information about students only on a need to know basis. Special Education students have additional privacy laws that protect their academic records.
I think this is a similar discussion to the one we had some time ago regarding FERPA. Some relevant links:
Moodle Docs on FERPA
Some Tracker progress on FERPA compliant setup (profile info)
Discussion on FERPA and moodle
This is yet another aspect of privacy and records! While I think the idea of student notes might have some useful applications, I would want to add my support for thinking through the possible ramifications and adjusting default settings accordingly. At this time, given that the notes are described as easily shared far past the confines of a single course, I think I would personally be more comfortable with the student notes feature being turned off by default. However, there are a great many different types of moodle applications! Not all of them are schools. So I accept that the judgment might be to leave the default to "on".
In the end, whether the default is on or off, I would consider it to be the Moodle administrator's responsibility to ensure that institutional policy is followed.
I would ask that someone knowledgeable about student notes and roles please add this to the FERPA pages in moodle docs. I think it would be an important addition to the information contained therein.
You know, using the Teacher Forum - which has been in Moodle for a long time, teachers could discuss students without the student's knowledge. (since Moodle 1.5, teachers could have whole conversations about students using the IM tool).
In a face to face setting, teachers often discuss students 'behind their back', and most other LMS sytems also provide a means for teachers to talk about students without students knowing about it.
Overall, it seems to me it's just another tool - institutions can disable it and individual teachers can ignore it.
You know, using the Teacher Forum - which has been in Moodle for a long time, teachers could discuss students without the student's knowledge. (since Moodle 1.5, teachers could have whole conversations about students using the IM tool).
The teacher forum was a forum "in a specific class" only available to "teachers in that class" and nothing in that forum is available to any teacher "outside of that class". If a teacher mentions Johnny in a teacher forum, 3-years from now, another teacher is not going to be able to click on Johnny's profile and see that comment...that is not attached to "Johnny's record" in anyway. Same thing applies to IM, email, other forums, and face-to-face conversations. There is a significant difference between all these methods and creating a secret record in Johnny's profile for any other teacher on the site to view at anytime. It's pretty amazing that some don't seem to understand this fundamental difference and insist on comparing this to things that aren't comparable.
To me, this is the key statement here, and I think this is something that Moodle needs to accommodate with roles. The ability to keep notes on students at the course level is a much needed improvement to Moodle, IMO, and one that can be turned off it you don't want it.
But what if you want the ability to have teachers keep course notes - but you don't want them to keep site notes? The only way I see to do that right now is to tell them not to - because as it stands right now, if teacher A wants to see what site notes there may be on another teacher B's student, all teacher A needs to do is add that student into a course and take a look. (It should be noted, that if that the student isn't in any of teacher A's courses, teacher A can't see the site notes.)
On this, I agree with Steve - teachers should not, by default, be able to see site notes on a student. But I think the answer is to add some structure to the notes - site, course, and maybe even personal, so you can define just what roles have the ability to see those notes at each level.
As an example - maybe I want to let a student make a personal note of their own in a course - should the teacher be able to see it?
Well, the Moodle disciples have started to descend in mass on this thread with wisdom and ratings--no reason to continue the debate. Signing off this thread....I think there is enough here for people to understand how this new feature works and to understand the potential benefits and potential liabilities.
Wow...7 stars from Eloy...that's a first . Thanks Eloy for continuing to follow me around and keep me in-check...I've gained so much from your ratings throughout this thread...I can certainly see why you're a PHM
1. Capability added to view notes written on one's self. Set to true by default.
2. If the user does not have that capability, it is transparent to them that they are not allowed to see notes about themselves.
3. Sets the risk mask for manage and view of notes to RISK_PERSONAL so that those assigning roles know of the risks of this feature in terms of possibly compromising information that should be private. It was not previously so indicated.
Also, this does not mean that site administrators should not review their policies on the notes features -- they should. But they now have more flexibility to implement a policy that is consistent with their principles and values. And, yes, with the right role settings, this implementation allows notes be be selectively available at either the course or site level, etc.
PS: This was a messy discussion, but I think this is how democratic and community principles of open source work where people speak forcefully and passionately about things that are important to them. I doubt that a tamer dialog would have led to the number of perspectives and insights that we are seeing here, and I only hope that it leads to a better outcome. Thank you to those on all sides of this issue for your thoughts. And thanks to Brente for bringing this matter to our collective attention for discussion.
Can't find a student view personal notes type role setting in 1.9.9
Why do we want it?
For academic feedback, so the student can see unit/module and assignment feedback and so other tutors can see it too in one place so they can see if a student has made progress for instance in academic writing, research, referencing etc, and then offer further help and advice where required if previous feedback has not been affective. This will also help the student and /or course leader identify common areas that need work across a number of disparate units where the unit tutors may other not have opportunity to communicate with each other.
Eventually the student would be able to use a selection of the collective feedback as evidence in their e-portfolio.
Agree that ethical issues need to be closely monitored and advised to ensure there is no abuse of such a system.
Oh dear.. while everyone seems to be "worried" about ethical issues of student privacy, has anyone considered the question whether students are actually entitled to an expectation of privacy? The manner in which students are quick to abuse other's rights and demand protection of their own is apalling and should not be condoned by this sort of nonsense. It is not a matter of loss of respect or indifference or any of that, on my part, it is simply put by me that children abuse others by hiding behind a framework of rules that require an adult's perception to understand and subscribe to.
I make this point as in the last few weeks, I have seen videos of myself, in class, on Facebook. I have seen videos of students not just from my school, but others as well, fighting. These are taken on their mobile phones, so if they are not going to respect my right to privacy, or promote violence via the Internet, then why should we afford students any consideration of privacy. (The video of me btw shows me in an incredibly positive manner but this is not the point, I do not want my privacy abused in such a manner.) This entire topic is a complete waste of time, it does not demonstrate anything like any consideration or debate of morals or ethics, simply seeks to impose a level of political correctness that is neither warranted or necessary.
Edit:Even an older discussion like this should not be dropped off...