HE is encompassed in the sprawling networks of actors and technologies of metric power. The data infrastructure of higher education is an accomplishment of a mobile policy network of sector agencies along with a whole host of other organizations and experts from the governmental, commercial and nonprofit sectors. A form of mobile, networked fast policy is propelling metrics across the sector, and increasingly prompting changes in organizational and individual behaviours that will transform the higher education sector to see and act upon itself as a market.
The tech elite now making a power-grab for public education probably has little to fear from FBI warnings about education technology. The FBI is primarily concerned with potentially malicious uses of sensitive student information by cybercriminals. There’s nothing criminal about creating Montessori-inspired preschool networks, using ClassDojo as a vehicle to build a liberal society, reimagining high school as personalized learning, or reshaping universities as AI-enhanced factories for producing labour market outcomes–unless you consider all of this a kind of theft of public education for private commercial advantage and influence.
Researchers have begun to propose using genetic data from students to personalize education. Bringing genetics into education is highly controversial. It raises significant concerns about biological discrimination and rekindles long debates about eugenics and the genetic inheritance of intelligence.
Ready or not, technologies such as online surveys, big data, and wearable devices are already being used to measure, monitor, and modify students' emotions and mindsets.
For years, there’s been a movement to personalize student learning based on each child’s academic strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Now, some experts believe such efforts shouldn’t be limited to determining how well individual kids spell or subtract. To be effective, the thinking goes, schools also need to know when students are distracted, whether they’re willing to embrace new challenges, and if they can control their impulses and empathize with the emotions of those around them.
Something that Martin E. P. Seligman has discussed about in regards to Facebook. Having recently been a part of demonstration of SEQTA, I understand Ben Williamson’s point that this “could have real consequences.” The concern is that all consequences are good. Will Richardson shares his concern that we have forgotten about learning and the actual lives of the students. Providing his own take on the matter, Bernard Bull has started a seven-part series looking at the impact of AI on education, while Neil Selwyn asks the question, “who does the automated system tell the teacher to help first – the struggling girl who rarely attends school and is predicted to fail, or a high-flying ‘top of the class’ boy?” Selwyn also explains why teachers will never be replaced.
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:
Precision education represents a shift from the collection of assessment-type data about educational outcomes, to the generation of data about the intimate interior details of students’ genetic make-up, their psychological characteristics, and their neural functioning.
In simple terms, datafication can be said to refer to ways of seeing, understanding and engaging with the world through digital data. This definition draws attention to how data makes things visible, knowable, and explainable, and thus amenable to some form of action or intervention. However, to be a bit more specific, there are at least ten ways of defining datafication.
- Legally & ethically
This is a good introduction to his book Big Data in Education.
Standards may seem invisible, but they matter—they are consequential to how the world is organized, how people and their behaviour are regulated, and how processes and objects are defined and measured. Those who control standards therefore hold great power to coordinate and organize social, economic, cultural, ethical and political life. Standards constitute societies.
In the tangible world, standards define almost everything. There are standards for the dimensions of kitchen goods and furniture, standard measures, standard fonts and paper sizes, standard economic models, standards for food products, standard business practices, standard forms to fill in, standard formats for cataloguing and indexing, governmental standards, standard classifications of illness and healthiness, standards for ensuring software can operate on computer hardware and that data are interoperable across systems, and much more.
People are standardized too. Standard measures of personality or citizenship, standards of dress and behaviour, standards for credit-scoring and social media profiling, and standards that define social class, socio-economic status, gender, nationality and ethnicity all affect people’s everyday lives. Standard linguistic definitions help us make sense of ourselves and the world we inhabit.
ISO identifies a number of benefits in their press release:
a) better alignment of educational mission, vision, objectives and action plans
b) inclusive and equitable quality education for all
c) promotion of self-learning and lifelong learning opportunities
d) more personalized learning and effective response to special educational needs
e) consistent processes and evaluation tools to demonstrate and increase effectiveness and efficiency
f) increased credibility of the educational organization
g) recognized means to enable organizations to demonstrate commitment to education management practices in the most effective manner
h) a model for improvement
i) harmonization of national standards within an international framework
j) widened participation of interested parties
k) stimulation of excellence and innovation
The problem with this list is that there are so many biases built in and that become a guide for the global operating system.