Bookmarked Comments on ClassDojo controversy (code acts in education)

The educational app ClassDojo has been the target of articles in several British newspapers. The Times reported on data privacy risks raised by the offshoring of UK student data to the US company–a story The Daily Mail re-reported. The Guardian then focused on ClassDojo promoting competition in classrooms. All three pieces have generated a stream of public comments. At the current time, there are 56 comments on the Mail piece, 78 at The Times, and 162 on The Guardian. I’ve been researching and writing about ClassDojo for a couple of years, on and off, and was asked some questions by The Times and The Guardian. So the content of the articles and the comments and tweets about them raise issues and questions worth their own commentary–a response to key points of controversy that also speak to wider issues  with the current expansion of educational technology across public education, policy and practice. ClassDojo has also now released its own response and reaffirmation of its privacy policy.

Ben Williamson addresses a number of questions leveled at Class Dojo, especially in light of the current concern around data. One of the points that he makes that really stuck out was the notion of ‘sensitive data’. Often this is defined by privacy, however as Williamson examples the collection of data over time actually has the potential to turn the seemingly arbitrary into sensitive data.

ClassDojo has been dealing with privacy concerns since its inception, and it has well-rehearsed responses. Its reply to The Times was: ‘No part of our mission requires the collection of sensitive information, so we don’t collect any. … We don’t ask for or receive any other information [such as] gender, no email, no phone number, no home address.’ But this possibly misses the point. The ‘sensitive information’ contained in ClassDojo is the behavioural record built up from teachers tapping reward points into the app.

Williamson does however close with a warning, that with GDPR coming in, ‘data danger’ is quickly becoming its own genre:

The risks of ‘data-danger’ for children reported in the articles about ClassDojo doubtless need to be viewed through the wider lens of media interest in social media data misuses following the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal. This presents opportunities and challenges. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness and perhaps prompt efforts to tighten up student privacy and data protection, where necessary, as GDPR comes into force. ClassDojo’s response to the controversy raised by the press confirmed it was working on GDPR compliance and would update its privacy policy accordingly. Certainly 2018 is shaping up as a year of public awareness about uses and misuses of personal data. It’s a challenge too, though, as media coverage tends to stir up overblown fears that risk obscuring the reality, and that may then easily be dismissed as paranoid conspiracy theorizing. It’s important to approach ed-tech apps like ClassDojo–and all the rest–cautiously and critically, but to be careful not to get swept up in media-enhanced public outrage.

Listened The value of rituals in a digital world from Radio National

Are rituals still needed in a world mediated through digital devices?

Alexandra Samuel made the argument that ‘digital rituals’ are associated with the notions of reflection and community.

I think there’s two pieces. I think there’s the reflection and formulation of intention, what do I want from this experience, what does it mean. You know, a lot of rituals will include some element of solitary reflection as part of that process, and I think that is hugely valuable when it comes to thinking about our digital lives. But then the other piece is really almost the mirror image of that. Yes, there’s a piece of ritual that is about solitary reflection, but then there’s another piece that’s really about community recognition and understanding that you are now taking your place in a community or changing your relationship to the community or the community is now offering you a different form of participation or membership, and that notion, that when you join a community or when you change your relationship to the community, that you need to have some kind of mutual negotiation of what that means, that I think is a big part of what’s missing and it really has to do with giving us a chance to say, you know, hey, your Facebook login or your Instagram account or your new blog are not just about you, you are taking a place in a larger community that has a stake in how you use of this access.

This made me wonder if approaching the web following the #IndieWeb principles is somehow ritualistic. Rather than merely commenting or sharing, I now make the effort post content on my own site and syndicate from there.

My only question is whether this is the way it is simply because the technology is yet to develop and as it currently is, the #IndieWeb involves a little bit more effort and investment? Or will the community nature of it sustain the reflective nature?

Also posted on IndieNews

Bookmarked A Point of Contact by Glen Cochrane (A Point of Contact)

I live in Canada, currently in Calgary. I have also lived in Central and Eastern Canada, and in Asia.

I don’t blog a lot, and this frequency suits me. I do go through phases depending on the season and depending on time commitments.

Generally, this blog is about (but not limited to) education and technology.

I came upon Cochrane’s blog via his response to my discussion on literacies and fluency. It reads like an #IndieWeb blog in structure, with the structured responses and notes, just without the post kinds and webmentions.
Bookmarked Here’s what is going wrong with ‘evidence-based’ policies and practices in schools in Australia by James Ladwig (EduResearch Matters)
So on a general level, the case for evidence-based practice has a definite value. But let’s not over-extend this general appeal, because we also have plenty of experience of seeing good research turn into zealous advocacy with dubious intent and consequence. The current over-extensions of the empirical appeal have led paradigmatic warriors to push the authority of their work well beyond its actual capacity to inform educational practice. Here, let me name two forms of this over-extension.
James Ladwig unpacks evidence-based approaches. In response to ‘synthetic reviews’, he suggests:

Simply ask ‘effect on what?’ and you have a clear idea of just how limited such meta-analyses actually are.

While in regards to RCT’s, he states:

By definition, RCTs cannot tell us what the effect of an innovation will be simply because that innovation has to already be in place to do an RCT at all. And to be firm on the methodology, we don’t need just one RCT per innovation, but several – so that meta-analyses can be conducted based on replication studies.

Another issue is that Research shows what has happened, not what will happen. This is not to say no to evidence, but a call to be sensible about what we think that we can learn from it.

What it can do is provide a solid basis of knowledge for teachers to know and use in their own professional judgements about what is the best thing to do with their students on any given day. It might help convince schools and teachers to give up on historical practices and debates we are pretty confident won’t work. But what will work depends entirely on the innovation, professional judgement and, as Paul Brock once put it, nous of all educators.

This touches on Mark Esner’s argument that great teacher will make anything work to a degree. Also, Deborah Netolicky’s observations about evidence.

Replied to #WhyITeach by John Wigg (Mr Wigg)
I teach because I love being a child’s advocate and helping him/her realize his/her own potential.
I remember deciding that I wanted to be a teacher when I left school and although I became a teacher, my reasoning for why I wanted to teach considerably changed. I started out with an interest in History and in hindsight, probably subject knowledge and skills, yet when I finished my studies I was more interested in creating the conditions for others to wonder.

I think I teach (or am involved in education) to support others in reaching their potential, but also in engaging in interests. I remember being told once that the word essay is best understood as ‘your say’. I have never actually found a reference for this, but the lesson stuck.

Syndicated at Read Write Collect

Replied to Have we moved on from the Cambridge Analytica scandal? by Donelle Batty (My Thoughts...)
This week has been fascinating, it appears that things have begun to recover after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which then led to the #deletefacebook movement. This movement seemed to have a small, but noticeable impact for a moment on the pages that I support.
Although it is easy to ‘delete Facebook’, doing so without a replacement fails to recognise its place – positive or negative – in our life and society. I remember when I used to live in the Victorian country side being amazed by the amount of Weeping Willows growing along the open channels that carried water between the various properties. An introduced species, they actually sapped up a lot of the water. I once asked the Outdoor Education teacher I was working alongside why they did not just remove them. He explained that to simply remove them actually causes even more damage through erosion. What is needed was to plant something next to the tree that would be able to take its place and fill the same purpose. Delete Facebook was therefore never going to work without there being a replacement in its place.

The Luddbrarian suggests that what makes the current campaign different is that the data breaches allowed Trump to win. This overlooks the problem at the base of such automated solutions.

Facebook offers people an easy way to stay in touch with friends, Facebook offers people an easy way to stay on top of the news, Facebook makes it easy for people to share photos, Facebook makes it easy to plan events (and to say whether or not you’re going to the event), Facebook makes it easy to promote your new creative project, and so forth. In order to obtain these “goods” on offer from Facebook a user must deal with the “bads” of Facebook – but that is why the bribe exists and how it operates. The offer of the good is used so that people overlook the bad.

What we need is to widen our technological imagination and consider how Facebook could be better. For me, the #IndieWeb is a part of that.

Liked Facebook must be restructured. The FTC should take these 9 steps now | Barry Lynn and Matt Stoller by Barry Lynn (the Guardian)

If the next set of FTC commissioners truly are serious about making Facebook serve the interests of the American public, here is a set of actions they should begin to take on day one. Every one of these action has a strong foundation in US law and practice:

1) Impose strict privacy rules on Facebook, perhaps using Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation as a guide.

2) Spin off Facebook’s ad network. This will eliminate, in one swoop, most of the incentive that Facebook now has to amass data and to interfere and discriminate in the provision of information and news.

3) Reverse the approvals for Facebook purchases of WhatsApp and Instagram, and re-establish these as competing social networks.

4) Prohibit all future acquisitions by Facebook for at least five years.

5) Establish a system to ensure the transparency of all political communications on Facebook, similar to other major communication networks in the United States.

6) Require Facebook to adopt open and transparent standards, similar to conditions the FTC imposed on AOL Messenger in the AOL-Time Warner merger settlement in 2001.

7) Establish whether Facebook violated the 2011 consent decree and, if so, seek court sanctions.

8) Threaten to bring further legal action against Facebook unless top executives immediately agree to work with the FTC to restructure their corporation to ensure the safety and stability of our government and economy.

9) Establish whether top executives enabled, encouraged, or oversaw violations of the 2011 consent decree and, if so, pursue personal fines against them.

Liked Don’t fear complexity by Dave White (Digital - Learning - Culture)

At my institution, the University of the Arts London, we see the value in uncertainty. In many of our courses it is important that our students are in a liminal state for much of the time within which they are not quite sure of what they know. This is a key aspect of the process of creativity and it’s also central to my reframing, or extension of, information literacy. Questioning our self, our motivations and methods, for seeking and validating information is our only chance of maintaining our agency within complexity. Not being afraid of being immersed in complexity requires understanding the value of uncertainty. This is all the more important where we receive information as an effect of our interactions. To ask how what we engage with has arrived in front of us and why we are comfortable with it (in the context of our identity and position) has to be central to what it means to critically evaluate.

To maintain the agency of our students (and ourselves) and not fall into the trap of assuming a ‘natural order’ which just so happens to be our current worldview we must reveal, not simplify, complexity. In tandem with this we must provide the critical tools to navigate complexity without denying it.