October 14, 2014

War on education now includes data mining children for profit

Diane Ravitch - Benjamin Herold writes in Education Week:

“The National Science Foundation earlier this month awarded a $4.8 million grant to a coalition of prominent research universities aiming to build a massive repository for storing, sharing, and analyzing the information students generate when using digital learning tools.

“The project, dubbed “Learn Sphere,” highlights the continued optimism that “big” educational data might be used to dramatically transform K-12 schooling.

“It also raises new questions in the highly charged debate over student-data privacy.

“The federally funded initiative will be led by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, who propose to construct a new data-sharing infrastructure that is distributed across multiple institutions, include third-party and for-profit vendors. When complete, LearnSphere is likely to hold a massive amount of anonymous information, including:

“Clickstream” and other digital-interaction data generated by students using digital software provided to schools by LearnSphere participants;

“Chat-window dialogue sent by students participating in some online courses and tutoring programs;

“Potentially, “affect” and biometric data, including information generated from classroom observations, computerized analysis of students’ posture, and sensors placed on students’ skin.

“Proponents say that facilitating the sharing and analysis of such information for research purposes can lead to new insights about how humans learn, as well as rapid improvements to the digital learning software flooding now flooding schools.”

The Gates-funded “galvanic skin response monitors” are back! Two years ago, it seemed to be a joke but it’s no joke. Researchers are still trying to gauge biometric reactions with sensors placed on students’ skin.

This really is Brave New World stuff.

Just think: Your tax dollars will help to fund a project to mine your children’s data and turn that data over to for-profit vendors to sell things to the children and their schools.

What can we do about it? Refuse to use digital learning tools in school. Don’t give them the data. Use pencils and pens. Now we understand why the two federally-funded Common Core testing consortia must be tested online and online only. This is the means of producing the data that will be mined.

This is all very sick. It has nothing to do with education and everything to do with violating the rights of families and children. No child will be better educated by mining their data, observing their posture, and monitoring their skin responses. this not about learning. This is about money. Greed. Profits. And we are paying for it.


Anonymous said...

Now there's an overblown reaction.

Such anonymised data is actually quite useful, at least potentially.

People do have different learning styles. One factor, for example, is filtering vs non-filtering. Kids with even a sub- or peri-clinical case of Asperger's, for instance, have a helluva time filtering. (I was one of those kids and still have a terrible time getting focused)

The problem is that we're at the stage were we know things at a coarse granularity that's not useful for structuring learning.

But humans are great self-modifiers. We develop strategies for doing things we're not necessarily very good at. Einstein, for example, who's believed to have had a sub- or peri-clinical touch of Asperger's, remarked that he didn't see his success as being due to intelligence so much as that, once he was able to focus, it was extremely hard to deflect him.

So if we can collect enough data to watch how kids "flip their switch" and start filtering, we can perhaps devise tricks to teach kids who need help making that shift.

Ted Buila said...

Isn't it nice...all this education "information."

The on-line education world from pre-school to the university has made ALL your homework, assignments, course chat-room discussions/questions, instructor and classmate emails, social and political views, future plans ... 'open' for analysis by 'helper' people and institutions...friends/enemies, family...NSA, Microsoft, MIT, Exxon/Monsanto, Walmart...here and abroad.