📑 Colleges are turning students’ phones into surveillance machines, tracking the locations of hundreds of thousands

Bookmarked Colleges are turning students’ phones into surveillance machines, tracking the locations of hundreds of thousands (Washington Post)

The systems highlight how widespread surveillance has increasingly become a fact of life: Students “should have all the rights, responsibilities and privileges that an adult has. So why do we treat them so differently?”

As someone who supports schools with attendance, I understand to a degree where this is all coming from. However, this does not mean it is right. Along with the take-up of video surveillance as perpetuated by companies such as Looplearn, the use of phones as a means of tracking is raising a lot of questions about the purpose and place of technology within learning.

The Chicago-based company has experimented with ways to make the surveillance fun, gamifying students’ schedules with colorful Bitmoji or digital multiday streaks. But the real value may be for school officials, who Carter said can split students into groups, such as “students of color” or “out-of-state students,” for further review. When asked why an official would want to segregate out data on students of color, Carter said many colleges already do so, looking for patterns in academic retention and performance, adding that it “can provide important data for retention. Even the first few months of recorded data on class attendance and performance can help predict how likely a group of students is to” stay enrolled.

What is most disconcerting is the hype around such data.

The company also claims to see much more than just attendance. By logging the time a student spends in different parts of the campus, Benz said, his team has found a way to identify signs of personal anguish: A student avoiding the cafeteria might suffer from food insecurity or an eating disorder; a student skipping class might be grievously depressed. The data isn’t conclusive, Benz said, but it can “shine a light on where people can investigate, so students don’t slip through the cracks.”

Here I am reminded of the work by Cathy O’Neil in regards to big data.

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