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Education Privacy

All Your Child's Data Are Belong To InBloom 211

Posted by timothy
from the hello-mother-hello-father-I-am-unit-34908-23-N dept.
theodp writes "Q. What do you get when Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch put their heads together? A. inBloom (aka SLC), the Gates Foundation-bankrolled and News Corp. subsidiary-implemented collaboration whose stated mission is to 'inform and involve each student and teacher with data and tools designed to personalize learning.' It's noble enough sounding, but as the NY Times reports, the devil is in the details when it comes to deciding who sees students' academic and behavioral data. inBloom execs maintain their service has been unfairly maligned, saying it is entirely up to school districts or states to decide which details about students to store in the system and with whom to share them. However, a video on inBloom's Web site suggesting what this techno-utopia might look like may give readers of 1984 some pause. In one scene, a teacher with a tablet crouches next to a second-grader evaluating how many words per minute he can read: 55 words read; 43 correctly. Later, she moves to a student named Tyler and selects an e-book 'for at-risk students' for his further reading. The video follows Tyler home, where his mom logs into a parent portal for an update on his status — attendance, 86%; performance, 72% — and taps a button to send the e-book to play on the family TV. And another scene shows a geometry teacher reassigning students' seating assignments based on their 'character strengths', moving a green-coded female student ('actively participates: 98%') next to a red-and-yellow coded boy ('shows enthusiasm: 67%'). The NYT also mentions a parent's concern that school officials hoping to receive hefty Gates Foundation Grants may not think an agreement with the Gates-backed inBloom completely through."
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All Your Child's Data Are Belong To InBloom

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  • by RevDisk (740008) on Monday October 07, 2013 @08:12AM (#45057341) Journal
    And all of that collected data can end up on a torrent. I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of all those lawsuits.
  • by vlpronj (1345627) on Monday October 07, 2013 @08:13AM (#45057355)
    Sounds a little like Brave New World, too
    • by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Monday October 07, 2013 @08:57AM (#45057621) Homepage Journal

      Sounds to me like those people think the essentials of education can be quantized. Sure some measurements are important, but that's not all there is to learning. And those students probably will start valuing themselves by their ranking, and only have those numbers in their heads.
      I can see how HR departmants will be fans. Another method, like the IQ statistic, to assign numbers to people. What a dumb idea to get yourself ranked.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07, 2013 @09:11AM (#45057703)
        Sounds like we got ourselves a salty Beta Minus right here.
      • by Reapy (688651)

        I mean I mostly agree, but if you think about it we're already ranked on an arbitrary stat, charasima. I mean, I hate the thought of weird stats getting put into a machine and ranking you based on that, and having your teacher and parent's perceptions of you altered by a 'bad' stat. But, in some cases, it might be nice to have another avenue to excel at rather than base genetics, clothing, fitness, voice tone, body language and number of 'smiles per minute' you can put out, that we use now.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That's basically how US public education has always been, since the time of Horace Mann, who modeled the system on Prussian regimentation, which relied heavily on absurdly precise measurements and uniformity. Hold your pen at a 51 degree angle, sit in rows and columns spaced exactly three feet apart, write out paradigms and submit your answers to be graded as percentages. The 19th and 20th century educational movements were largely about quantifying the student. Sometimes that data gathering gets dehumanizi

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Everything can be quantized, the only question is whether doing so is better than not doing so. You've offered no evidence either way.

        • by jd2112 (1535857) on Monday October 07, 2013 @10:10AM (#45058311)
          Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.
          This however is mostly forgotten I'm the corporate, and apparently academic world.
          • Clever quips are not an argument. Please provide some reasoning why educational performance or intelligence cannot be meaningfully quantised in some way or another. Or why doing so is always completely useless.

            For instance- I could rate your English proficiency as "need improvement" based on use of wrong words and comma splices. Comparing this to others I could probably come up with a numerical relation with you to your peers. With that data I could recommend you spending more time on grammar / writing

            • by zooblethorpe (686757) on Monday October 07, 2013 @01:38PM (#45061155)

              Quantizable and meaningfully quantizable are both beside the points of usefully quantizable, and useful to whom.

              Case in point: one of my wife's middle school students in humanities (basically English + history) was getting quite competitive and was obsessing over her grades in specific, narrow areas, to the point that her overall performance in class was deteriorating -- her scores on individual tests and assignments were good, but her actual comprehension was lacking. After talking with the parents, my wife floated the notion of not providing the child with a grade, i.e. not quantizing her performance, in an effort to get the child to stop obsessing over the number. The student calmed down, stopped obsessing, and her understanding of the material increased. And, in not being so competitive about the number she was assigned, she became friendlier and socialized more.

              Part of the dynamic in this case is something that gets lost by any test-centric approach. Specifically, there's more to school than just the subject matter, particularly at the younger grades. How does one quantize a student's sociability? Friendliness? Cooperativeness? Etc. Many of these different aspects certainly can be quantized, but without any objective measure for doing so, these numbers are meaningless outside of the subjective context of whomever is assigning them. Sure, 1 + 1 = 2. But how does one objectively work out the math for "my pet hamster died and I feel sad and don't know how to talk about it, and don't want to"? Or, "I don't get along well with this teacher because our communication styles are too different, and she reminds me of that horrible Aunt Edith who spits when she talks and always gives me scratchy wool for Christmas, and I'm allergic to wool"?

              Humans are deeply contextual. Math isn't. Trying to apply math to human contexts doesn't always work very well, and often has unintended consequences. One of the biggest issues is when a number score ostensibly represents a particular metric, but a deeper inspection of the scoring algorithm reveals that the metric doesn't actually measure what it's supposedly measuring. Quantization represents a gross kind of summarization, and in extreme cases, the baby does get thrown out with the bathwater (that is, all of the detail that's been summarized away). Sometimes the numbers do effectively lie.

            • Please provide some reasoning why educational performance or intelligence cannot be meaningfully quantised in some way or another.

              What exactly are you measuring? If the underlying model that you're using to map performance to performance metrics is wrong, then the resulting metrics are worthless at best.

              This question hasn't been settled in the field of education. We can't even agree on what IQ is, or if there is any such thing.

            • by sjames (1099)

              Actually, the burden of proof is on those who maintain that it CAN be. Until that evidence is presented, we work under the assumption that it cannot be.

              For your example, what makes you so sure jd2112 wasn't just in a hurry or unmotivated to proof read carefully for a quick /. post? Meanwhile, where is the SCORE? Where have you quantified the grammar in such a way that it may be meaningfully compared against other /. members?

              Where would James Joyce fall on your spectrum? How would he stack up against the edi

      • by mjr167 (2477430) on Monday October 07, 2013 @10:02AM (#45058183)
        It will prepare them for having a real job where their value to the company will be quantized using whatever metrics make management feel warm and fuzzy today.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07, 2013 @08:15AM (#45057369)

    See this link [educationnews.org] where the Gates Foundation project is described as a database which tracks "student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school", and other factors, and makes that data available to private companies without the parents' consent.

    Furthermore, InBloom says: While inBloom pledges to guard the data tightly, its own privacy policy states that it “cannot guarantee the security of the information stored or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.”

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MitchDev (2526834)

      Corporations (which control the government effectively anyway) are worse than any government at this point.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07, 2013 @08:50AM (#45057583)

        Corporations do not have SWAT teams, and cannot generally imprison you or kill you for "resisting arrest" ("stop resisting!" shouted over and over to the dying man unable to breathe whose chest is compressed by the weight of 5 officers). Corporations do not generally shell thousands of innocents to death. So no, they are not "worse than any government". It is far more dangerous for the government to have this data. Marketing is bad, and annoying, but it is nowhere close to what governments do to people they don't like.

        • You're right that corporations don't have SWAT or the power to kill or imprison you, but not for the reasons you think. It's not that they're incapable of killing you outright or imprisoning you, it's because it's much more efficient to let the government do it where necessary. Why assume the cost or liability of their own SWAT teams? Fear of bankrupcy or lawsuits is more than sufficient to get what they want out of pretty much everyone. If they make themselves appear too much of a menace, arming themsel
        • by Lithdren (605362) on Monday October 07, 2013 @10:00AM (#45058169)

          Random Corp cant hold a gun to my head. Great, I feel so much better.

          They can however, prevent me from obtaining employment (and being self-employed is not always an option folks), obtaining credit (That's an awfully nice credit score you have there...be a shame if something...happened...to it.), track my every movement through various means, take me to court on bogus charges then drop them forcing me to miss days of work to defend myself (if I am already employed), or bill me for services they did not provide and force me to spend more time and money fighting them in court.

          They might not be able to kill me, but they sure as heck can make me want to kill myself. Is that really any better?

          • by stdarg (456557)

            They can however, prevent me from obtaining employment (and being self-employed is not always an option folks), obtaining credit (That's an awfully nice credit score you have there...be a shame if something...happened...to it.), track my every movement through various means, take me to court on bogus charges then drop them forcing me to miss days of work to defend myself (if I am already employed), or bill me for services they did not provide and force me to spend more time and money fighting them in court.

            All of that stuff is much easier for the government, and far more likely to happen by the hand of the government.

            You know what power a disgruntled phone representative from Some Big Corp Inc. has? None! What can they do, fraudulently sign you up for a service? Have you never disputed a charge with your credit company? It takes 30 seconds.

            Unless you manage to seriously piss off the CEO of a Fortune 500 company none of the stuff you said could happen to you.

            On the other hand, a corrupt cop, a building inspect

        • Corporations do not have SWAT teams

          Tell that to Jason Chen [geekosystem.com].

      • by schwit1 (797399)

        If you wish not to do business with a corporation that is your right. Try doing that with governments(local, state or federal).

        • If you wish not to do business with a corporation that is your right. Try doing that with governments(local, state or federal).

          Last I checked, it's quite easy to move to Somalia.

          • by stdarg (456557)

            Last I checked, it's quite easy to move to Somalia.

            So based on that I assume you consider the Islamic Courts Union -- the radical Islamic group that seeks to control Somalia -- to be a... corporation? Not a government (or aspiring government)?

            Somalia does not suck because of corporations, it sucks because of its government(s). People like you think of Somalia as a governmental vacuum but that's just ignorant of the real situation.

            • Last I checked, it's quite easy to move to Somalia.

              So based on that I assume you consider the Islamic Courts Union -- the radical Islamic group that seeks to control Somalia -- to be a... corporation? Not a government (or aspiring government)?

              Somalia does not suck because of corporations, it sucks because of its government(s). People like you think of Somalia as a governmental vacuum but that's just ignorant of the real situation.

              The point isn't move to Somalia because it sucks, the point is move to Somalia if you want to ignore government. It sucks precisely because the government is ineffective, and that is exactly what a country with no effective government turns into. Sure it has a government, but under the same argument, so does Afghanistan, or hell, even SeaLand had a government for years.

              • by stdarg (456557)

                It sucks precisely because the government is ineffective,

                That's incorrect though. It sucks because the government has absolutely no limit to its power.

                If you're in the ICU's jurisdiction, you would not be saying "Haha government is so weak here, you can ignore it if you want." You'd be executed for doing the most minor thing if it didn't fall in line with the ICU's orders, especially as a presumably Western non-Muslim guy (just guessing).

                Sure it has a government, but under the same argument, so does Afghanistan

                Yes, of course Afghanistan has government... I don't understand... in your mind, who is Afghan President Karzai (i.e. does he e

  • by Bogtha (906264)

    However, a video on inBloom's Web site suggesting what this techno-utopia might look like may give readers of 1984 some pause. In one scene, a teacher with a tablet crouches next to a second-grader evaluating how many words per minute he can read: 55 words read; 43 correctly.

    Since when is the idea of a teacher evaluating a student's abilities an Orwellian concept? Or does it magically become Orwellian just because a tablet is involved?

    • by MrKaos (858439)

      However, a video on inBloom's Web site suggesting what this techno-utopia might look like may give readers of 1984 some pause. In one scene, a teacher with a tablet crouches next to a second-grader evaluating how many words per minute he can read: 55 words read; 43 correctly.

      Since when is the idea of a teacher evaluating a student's abilities an Orwellian concept?

      When they read too much one day they'll become a threat.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07, 2013 @08:23AM (#45057427)

      Or does it magically become Orwellian just because a tablet is involved?

      It is Orwellian because it tracks data well beyond academic results, such as student's outside interests and "attitudes", and makes that data available to for-profit commercial interests: "federal law allows for sharing of it with private entities and then used to sell commercial education-related products ... The businesses operating in the sector call the data contained within the database a treasure trove..." [educationnews.org]

      That's why many parents are calling this Orwellian. And they have NO CHOICE. It cannot be opted out of.

      • Just wait until this gets into the hands of asshole headmasters [dailymail.co.uk] in the UK.
      • by DarkOx (621550)

        Its not a new thing that people place "judgement" on certain types of attitudes. Its isn't as if the term "bad attitude" has not been around for a long time. When we start codifying and making education and opportunistic prescriptions based on "how enthusiastic" someone is; I think its of some concern. Its to easy for people to see adjectives like "passionate" as an explicitly desirable quality.

        Sure sometime it might be; might always be though. An intelligent but dispassionate individual for ins

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Its not a new thing that people place "judgement" on certain types of attitudes.

          But it IS a new thing that we track this subjective assessment in databases which are no longer private to the student/parents/teachers. It IS a new thing that "outside interests" outside of the school domain are logged in the same database. It IS a new thing that all this information can be sold and will follow students forever.

    • by Lundse (1036754) on Monday October 07, 2013 @08:32AM (#45057481)

      Since when is the idea of a teacher evaluating a student's abilities an Orwellian concept? Or does it magically become Orwellian just because a tablet is involved?

      Not magically and not because of the tablet. But when one actor becomes the keeper, gatekeeper and salesperson through yet another "nice-data-you-have-there-maybe-we-should-hold-that-for.you"-based (ie. cloud) solution, then yes, we are moving closer to an Orwellian concept (with a few corporate, not one state, big brothers).
      It is not because the teacher is marking it on a tablet, it is because one big corp is going to be analysing, using and reselling the data from everything both student and teacher does to advertisers, government and related industries that this becomes a problem.

    • by SirGarlon (845873) on Monday October 07, 2013 @08:46AM (#45057565)

      Since when is the idea of a teacher evaluating a student's abilities an Orwellian concept?

      I agree with you that the particular example of the teacher checking the student's reading speed and accuracy in real time is not Orwellian.

      What I am more uncomfortable with is the example of:

      ... a geometry teacher reassigning students' seating assignments based on their 'character strengths', moving a green-coded female student ('actively participates: 98%') next to a red-and-yellow coded boy ('shows enthusiasm: 67%').

      Here we have a system where, early on, students are being sorted by behavior -- or more accurately, on the teacher's subjective impression of their behavior. Let's hope the teacher is totally fair and unbiased, because anyone who's too different from his/her preconceptions is going to get labeled with an official-looking percentage. My concern is that these numbers, which sound very arbitrary and subject to emotional judgments, will create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      In school, did you ever have a teacher you just didn't click with? I hated my sixth-grade math teacher's guts, and as far as I can tell that sentiment was totally mutual (I remember her body language.) But for me, it was no problem, because the seventh-grade math teacher didn't give a damn what Mrs. G. thought. With this system, Mrs. G. could have labelled me red (40%) in some "character" category and that data would stay with me into seventh grade. So the seventh grade teacher could say "oh, little Sir Garlon is an insubordinate slacker, I'd better not waste my limited time on him -- I'll concentrate on the yellow students because I need to end the year with 50% green to get tenure."

      This is more or less what happened to my brother, whose IQ is 10 points higher than mine but who had a hearing disability that made the educational system sideline him. Now he's driving a truck instead of curing cancer or building space probes.

      • "This is more or less what happened to my brother, whose IQ is 10 points higher than mine but who had a hearing disability that made the educational system sideline him. Now he's driving a truck instead of curing cancer or building space probes."

        Maybe he's happier driving a truck? When the economy falters, the first to get cut are those useless rocket scientists. Your brother will probbly be driving a truck well into the zombie apocalypse.

        • by SirGarlon (845873)

          Maybe he's happier driving a truck?

          Thank you for your well-informed assessment of my brother's career choices. I wasn't aware you knew him!

          • Calm down; He was asking you a question. Hence the question mark at the end of the sentence.

            I, too, am moderately curious as to the answer, but I know that it's an unlikely one, as the road not traveled is impossible to quantify.

            • by SirGarlon (845873)
              There are different dimensions to career happiness. I would say, for him, truck driving is high on the "lack of annoyance" axis but low on the "sense of fulfillment" and "upward mobility" axes.
      • Not "sorted".

        Students may be more inclined to participate when those around them do so. Having data based on at least more than one teacher's subjective opinion is a lot better, and likely to prevent exactly the scenario you describe.

        Mrs. G. would only be a part of your character input, and her contribution would decrease over time.

        There are important things to object to here, but you chose one that teachers and parents everywhere will support due to extrapolation based on anecdote. In fact, none of the exa

      • Here we have a system where, early on, students are being sorted by behavior -- or more accurately, on the teacher's subjective impression of their behavior.

        Not only that, but it also has absolutely no room for the cause of behaviour. It provides very little insight at all, nothing more than an observant teacher or parent can deduce in a few hours.

        A lot of fields like this seem to mistake collecting data for improving something.

        That said, I very much doubt better teaching is really the goal in this. We live in the age of the great data mines, where we take something, distort it into a metric and sell it on.

        This will be purely for the data, and to hell with how

      • by dcw3 (649211)

        This is more or less what happened to my brother, whose IQ is 10 points higher than mine but who had a hearing disability that made the educational system sideline him. Now he's driving a truck instead of curing cancer or building space probes.

        So, you can cure cancer with a 60 IQ? Sorry...cheap shot, and I couldn't resist.

      • by stdarg (456557)

        With this system, Mrs. G. could have labelled me red (40%) in some "character" category and that data would stay with me into seventh grade. So the seventh grade teacher could say "oh, little Sir Garlon is an insubordinate slacker, I'd better not waste my limited time on him -- I'll concentrate on the yellow students because I need to end the year with 50% green to get tenure."

        I understand your concern but this specific example isn't very good. If the teacher just picks a number subjectively like you say Mrs. G did, then the 7th grade teacher would set everybody to green to get tenure.

        It would be huge progress if teachers had goal posts to which they were held accountable in some way (tenure, pay, whatever), and I think that would outweigh the abuses you're talking about. Teachers can already screw your grades if they don't like you, especially in less objective classes where you

      • by manicb (1633645)

        Are you seriously using IQ scores as a meaningful reference point while arguing that people may be under-appreciated if you judge them with arbitrary quantitative measures?

        (Not that I doubt your story -- depressingly plausible.)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Simple: take it to its extreme. Every class mark, outburst, school habit from k-12 will be evaluated fr your college transcript.

      You have the grades, but so do 500 other applicants, and there are 2 slots left. And you happen to make the top 4, but you have recorded 'play problems' in grades 4-6, while the others don't. And now your rejected from college. Better off at a trade school, right?

      Point is, this moves toward a direction where future workers are highly redirected based on a learning system that only

  • ...so yes..can't we just agree already that networked computers are gathering data points on everyone and everything at an astounding pace, and much of it is freely donated by the people themselves thru SN's and other social portals.

    but is it a net plus or a net negative? it's easy to argue both sides of this Gate's Foundation initiative to track student progress and use the date to tailor individual plans...i mean really isn't this the promise of the Network Society?

    but wait!! collecting all this data an

    • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Monday October 07, 2013 @08:48AM (#45057579)

      it's easy to argue both sides of this Gate's Foundation initiative to track student progress

      Then go ahead and argue the pro side, because I seem to lack the imagination (or ability to lie without laughing at the idea tht anyone would believe me). Students have been tracked for many years - they're called school records. Part of them was kept confidential, and there is no reason to share them beyond a student's parents, teachers, and maybe a few school officials. Let's keep it out of the "cloud". Woz was right - the "cloud" is dangerous and downright un-American. People should own their own data.

      isn't this the promise of the Network Society

      What the hell is a "network society", and where do I go to opt out (and opt out on my children's behalf)? Sounds a lot to me like the old society, except with information needlessly given to certain parties with a vested interest.

      • by mjr167 (2477430)

        where do I go to opt out (and opt out on my children's behalf)?

        Homeschooling has been becoming more and more mainstream and easier than ever since we now have the internet.

        • I strongly believe that parents should be able to home school their kids if they choose, but I also think that the public schools, for which we pay so much (especially around here), shouldn't push people to home schooling just because they're needlessly playing Orwellian games.

      • by Agent0013 (828350)

        What the hell is a "network society", and where do I go to opt out (and opt out on my children's behalf)?

        The "network society" is also known as "the borg". And don't worry about opting out. There is no opting out, you will be assimilated. And once you are assimilated, you will never want to be disconnected from the collective ever again.

  • A lot of this data is collected now and goes to the state. Is the sky-is-falling reaction due to the fact that the data will go to InBloom, a private entity? In one scene, a teacher with a tablet crouches next to a second-grader evaluating how many words per minute he can read: 55 words read; 43 correctly. -- This has been done since typewriters were introduced in classes Later, she moves to a student named Tyler and selects an e-book 'for at-risk students' for his further reading. The video follows Tyler
    • The problem is the same thing we see with all large bureaucracies. What if the teacher has a mistaken or prejudiced opinion? In the old world, the student might have a bad day/year but things move on and in a few years no one remembers. In this brave new world, the student is stigmatized forever. Good luck getting crappy teacher inputs removed from this benevolent "greater good" tracking system. We already see teachers overreaching themselves getting kids put on powerful drugs like Ritalin. Imagine all the
      • by mjr167 (2477430)

        If your 3rd grade teacher doesn't like you, you still have 9 other grades (and teachers) to convince that you are a worthwhile person. My husband flunked his first semester of college, permanently tanking his GPA, and was still able to land a good job. He had to explain why his GPA was so low in all his interviews, but it was recoverable.

        If you (or your parents) let one person's ill opinions fuck your life, then shame on you. If your 4th grade teacher treats you like crap because your 3rd grade teacher d

    • by BonThomme (239873)

      you'd think the kids with vision problems would automatically get coupons for LensCrafters...

  • What's sad thing here is that Gates is probably well-meaning.
    The same can never ever be said of the other side.

  • by walmass (67905) on Monday October 07, 2013 @08:21AM (#45057411)
    Sorry, formatting lost in my previous post. A lot of this data is collected now and goes to the state. Is the sky-is-falling reaction due to the fact that the data will go to InBloom, a private entity?

    In one scene, a teacher with a tablet crouches next to a second-grader evaluating how many words per minute he can read: 55 words read; 43 correctly.
    -- This has been done since typewriters were introduced in classes

    Later, she moves to a student named Tyler and selects an e-book 'for at-risk students' for his further reading. The video follows Tyler home, where his mom logs into a parent portal for an update on his status — attendance, 86%; performance, 72% — and taps a button to send the e-book to play on the family TV.
    -- Supplemental reading? The only difference is, it is going to a TV

    And another scene shows a geometry teacher reassigning students' seating assignments based on their 'character strengths', moving a green-coded female student ('actively participates: 98%') next to a red-and-yellow coded boy ('shows enthusiasm: 67%').
    -- And kids with vision problems are also moved to the front of the class. What the point?
    • And another scene shows a geometry teacher reassigning students' seating assignments based on their 'character strengths', moving a green-coded female student ('actively participates: 98%') next to a red-and-yellow coded boy ('shows enthusiasm: 67%').
      -- And kids with vision problems are also moved to the front of the class. What the point?

      Personally, one of the things I hated the most in school was being used like this to "help the teacher manage the unruly ones". Way to go, teacher, rewarding the students who do a good job by (implicitly) giving them a crappy job.

      • by malakai (136531)

        Personally, one of the things I hated the most in school was being used like this to "help the teacher manage the unruly ones". Way to go, teacher, rewarding the students who do a good job by (implicitly) giving them a crappy job.

        Which goes to show that even without this technology it was already happening. Of course good teachers try to use student behavior as a force of good in the classroom. Adding technology which is akin to a Wedding Seating Chart planner ( trust me, you think gauging kid behavior and

        • by stdarg (456557)

          Of course good teachers try to use student behavior as a force of good in the classroom.

          That's an exploitative teacher, not a good one.

  • Common Tool Problem (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    At first glance this system I think has the common tool problem.

    It's naively neither good nor evil but depends on how it's used.
    The scenarios illustrated in the synopsis could very well be seen as beneficial, if it's used in good faith and understood as such.

    But I find it often is easier to use tools in non-beneficial ways. Will the teachers use the seating arrangement tool to try to make their problems with students other students problems (and they very well might not be able to handle the problem)?
    Will t

  • False benchmarks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pla (258480) on Monday October 07, 2013 @08:27AM (#45057451) Journal
    The privacy issues here really don't bother me so much - We already have fairly strong laws regarding who can store/share information about minors, and with whom.

    The bigger issue IMO comes from the described use of easily-measured statistics over more difficult, but meaningful measures of learning. 55WPM with 43 correct (what does that second number even mean, anyway? "No Billy, that says potato, not aardvark" )? Useless, unless we want to train a generation of speed-readers. More importantly, did he fully appreciate the racist subtext inherent in Jane ordering Spot to run?

    Sad. On the one hand, I weep for the future of humanity; On the other, I have absolutely no concerns about job security for as long as I want to stay in the workforce. But hey, I see a great future for the the trophy manufacturing industry!
    • by MitchDev (2526834)

      "We already have fairly strong laws"

      HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA

      Like laws have ever stopped corporations or other criminals

      • by pla (258480)
        Like laws have ever stopped corporations or other criminals

        So... To deal with the fact that corporations and criminals ignore the law, you propose what exactly - More laws for them to ignore? Or that we simply deprive ourselves of good things to keep it out of "their" hands?
        • by MitchDev (2526834)

          This "technology" isn't needed in schools, and school's are increasingly cash-strapped to make these options attractive to them. Amazing how conveniently that worked out, isn't it?

    • Your entire post says "I know nothing about K-12 education". You won't be getting speed readers out of this, because speed reading is a different technique from being able to recgognize words. We know why most people have a hard time reading, outside of learning disabilities, and this data is invaluable for those students.

      Take a moment and reflect on how blessed you are to not live, work, or play with any below average people. Or how insulated you have been all your life.

      I can't type 20 years of experience

  • by tuppe666 (904118) on Monday October 07, 2013 @08:30AM (#45057467)

    "When you're dying of malaria, I suppose you'll look up and see that balloon, and I'm not sure how it'll help you. When a kid gets diarrhoea, no, there's no website that relieves that,"

    Not seeing this helping people dying of Malaria either.

  • ...how education has fallen so far when we started adding all this technology and started treating education like Corporate Indoctrination and rating students' "active participation" and "shows enthusiasm" levels as if students were serfs...er, employees, to be controlled and used, rather than educated.

  • by anegg (1390659) on Monday October 07, 2013 @08:44AM (#45057553)

    My county's school system uses an on-line system to involve parent's in the education process. Student attendance, assignment status, and grades are posted in the system; parents access the system to monitor how their children are doing, and can theoretically use the information to apply virtually real-time corrective action. Everyone's involved, so this is good, right?

    Unfortunately, we have discovered that not all of the teachers are good at getting data in. After several episodes of us correcting our child and then finding out that the data in the system was inaccurate (assignments turned in were not credited, leading to fails and missing assignments) we have very mixed feelings about using the system.

    On the one hand, having access to see that assignments are/aren't being turned in, and seeing grades even if the work doesn't make it back home, is good. On the other hand, when the quality of the data is bad, it becomes virtually useless for the purpose of involving the parent in the education process. We can never be sure that a missing assignment is really missing; often a week or more later the system will be updated to show that the assignment was turned in after all.

    In one extreme example, a report that was delivered in class and turned in at the end of the presentation was given a grade of zero for never being turned in, and it was an end of the year project report worth a significant portion of the grade. When we went to bat for our kid, the teacher eventually admitted that the report had been delivered in class but didn't know where the hardcopy went. It was too late to turn in a copy of the hardcopy, so in the end that grade was just removed from my child's average. Since she had an "A" anyway, it wasn't harmful, but could have been if she had a lower grade and the report would have brought it up.

    My point with all this is that these systems all sound great, but unless an incredible effort is put in the data quality may not be sufficient for the purpose of the system. Its worse to have a system with low quality data that can't be relied upon than it would be to not have the system at all, in my opinion. Depending on how many people are relying on the system and in what ways, it could be extremely problematic. The traditional "end of marking period only" grading system has lots of play where teachers can make adjustments. This is bad if they abuse the power, but is good if they simply correct for lapses. A more realtime scoring system may not have the same flexibility yet may be being used in a more direct feedback manner. Data quality issues will be harder to correct, yet the dependency on the data correctness will be higher.

  • Yeah, but ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Monday October 07, 2013 @08:55AM (#45057613) Homepage

    inBloom execs maintain their service has been unfairly maligned, saying it is entirely up to school districts or states to decide which details about students to store in the system and with whom to share them

    And do the parents and students have any say?

    Because quite frankly it's not really up to the school boards to share private information about children with a corporation.

    This definitely sounds like from pretty creepy level of tracking -- and the 'permanent record' we used to joke about as kids might become real. By the time a kid is out of highschool, companies are going to know every detail about them and have that information to use for their own purposes.

    • by rnturn (11092)

      ``the 'permanent record' we used to joke about as kids might become real. By the time a kid is out of highschool, companies are going to know every detail about them and have that information to use for their own purposes.''

      At least when the old `permanent record' we were told our misdeeds would be recorded in was being kept, it was generally something that was only used while you were still a student and became a closed book once you graduated from high school. This system will almost certainly be stored

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday October 07, 2013 @09:10AM (#45057697)

    ... For very sarcastic definitions of fun.

    Between the InBloom data collection, Common Core being implemented in such a way that the quality of education is declining fast, the high stakes testing in New York last school year which only 30% of students passed and which was administered by Pearson without any independent oversight whatsoever, and the governor of New York saying that public schools should be closed if they don't raise said test scores, I really fear for my kids' education. Right now, the teachers are being forced to use curriculum that they haven't designed and can't modify for individual students' strengths and weaknesses. Instead, they need to do what the book says when the book says to do it. They need to teach only what's going to be on the Pearson tests or else their kids will do poorly and then their jobs will be at risk. All in the name of getting "more data" on how our schools are performing. I feel like this is a really bad Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle joke where they're destroying the schools by attempting to measure them.

    • Just remember, it is this way be design. Public education really took off at the same time as industrialization. The goal was not to educate, but to produce factory workers.

      Since we no longer have factories, I guess they no longer felt the need to as much as they were.

  • I don't think that there's anything right about this, but it seems to me that InBloom is merely responding to demand. As long as there are a large body of helicopter parents, there will be companies that try to make better helicopters.

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Monday October 07, 2013 @09:47AM (#45057981)

    It's almost like Gates and Co. have the intent to socially profile people starting at a young age while at the same time convert the entire educational learning process into a format and content delivery system which he can sell at whatever price he wants, along with controlling what kind of media is in the content. It's digital book burning and your kids will only know what Bill's educational system teaches them. Freakin creepy.

  • See this testimony submitted to the Colorado Board of Education by EPIC:
    http://epic.org/privacy/student/EPIC-Stmnt-CO-Study-5-13.pdf [epic.org]
    Please donate to EPIC.
  • This appears to be the 21st century makeover of Chris Whittle's 1992 Edison Project [wikipedia.org], an attempt to buy student eyeballs with free satellite dishes, with the promise of classroom content supported by ad revenue.

    Beware technologists bearing gifts for schools out of the goodness of their hearts.

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