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.
Have You Heard discusses the rise of the “data boyz,” the quantitative methodologists who increasingly determine what counts–and what doesn’t–in education research. Special guest: UC Berkeley economist Jesse Rothstein.
Some interesting points made about the Mafia pact that silences critique.
If we want a full and comprehensive debate about the role of data in our lives, we need to first appreciate that the analysis and use of our data is not restricted to the types of figures that we have been reading about in these recent stories – it is deeply embedded in the structures in which we live.
Mining tweets? Just provide your search terms, enter a couple commands at the terminal, and voilà, ... instant dashboard!
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.
Facebook has been designed to be an information-gathering engine in order to more effectively sell personalized advertising. Its algorithm also attempts to deeply understand your interests in order to “optimize for engagement”: keep you using the site, and therefore viewing those personalized ads, for as long as possible. Its users access Facebook for 50 minutes a day. In order to gather the most information it can, Facebook has been engineered to be the world’s most efficient peer pressure engine. Users on the platform are constantly being persuaded to stay; those who try and leave report being relentlessly emailed with personalized, emotional content to try and get them to come back.
Tantek Çelik explains this in the IndieWeb Chat:
The big reveal (IMO) of the FB/CA disclosures is that nothing you post to FB is actually “private”, in practice it is silently shared with random apps (that you happen to use your FB ID to sign into), which then are sharing it with other orgs via acquisition or just outright selling your data.
It is time to support parents and teachers to ask critical questions about ClassDojo. As the owners and controllers of a vast global database of children’s behavioural information and a global social media site for schools, its entrepreneurial founders need to be more transparent about what they intend to do with that data, how they intend to generate income from it, and how they want ClassDojo to play a part in interactions between children.
On one level, the human capital narrative creates a restrictive idea of what is a valuable aim for education, most often preparing students for jobs in STEM. While national prosperity is supposed to hang on this monoculture experiment, there’s also a calculation that some – many – will fail unless they have the entrepreneurial skills and grit to make something of themselves. On another level, this free-market ideology is indeed an artificial ecology, propped up by massive (and often unacknowledged) state investment in information technology and biotech sectors and a stripping back of social services. We have gotten to a point where, as Shiva argues, alternatives are closed and killed off.
Cameron Malcher speaks with Marten Koomen about his research into the process by which large-scale tests like PISA and NAPLAN affect school management and curriculum.
Marten Koomen frames the conversation around a discussion of collectivism, neoliberalism and skepticism. For collectivists, school is the responsibility of the state, whereas neoliberals consider it as another product to be consumed. While without effective governance, skepticism ends up in tragedy. Our current climate is very much in response to neoliberalism, however:
We are all part collectivist, individualists neoliberals and skeptics, so to identify in one corner is disingenuous.
The key question that Koomen tries to address is: How did Victoria go from a state that was a leader in content knowledge and democratic values to the launch of a content-free platform driven by the terror of performativity? As he explains,
They had this idea of the net, but no idea of the content … a complete infatuation with the technology.
Discussing PISA, Koomen provides some background to computer-based testing and the ‘Koomen Model’. The model involved providing schools with standardized devices for the consistency of data. It failed based on pressure.
In part, Koomen’s model tells us something about the data and what it tells us. There are groups out there that want the outcomes without the content or context. Koomen returns again and again to the difference between entity realism vs. constructivism:
Entity Realism = things are real
Constructivism = things agreed upon
Realists ignore context as it is not mapped back to a central curriculum. It also allows for the insult of the human spirit through comparison of outcomes, ratio and market results. For example, NAPLAN uses Item Response Theory, a format that does not allow any direct recall or reference to learning and development. This leads to the situation where a student can ‘improve’ yet remain on the same score. Margaret Wu explains this in her chapter in National Testing in Schools, while Sam Sellar, Greg Thompson and David Rutkowski elaborate on it in The Global Education Race.
For Koomen our decline in these scales comes back to a focus on the market:
Neoliberalism considers content as: self-evident, real, axiomatic, socially constructed and marketable. In a way that supports the status quo.
This leads to conversations with students in regards to points on a scale, rather than aspects of context and development. For example, it is easier in the media to talk about a change in ratios or job rates, rather than the collapse in the car industry and what impact that has for the state. This allows for the rise of education conferences based around data with little reference to the local context.
The answer Koomen closes with is to work together though associations to make systemic change.
About a year ago I deleted Google Analytics from this website. I no longer know where visitors come from, what they find interesting, or what they click on. This has liberated my thinking and I believe has made my writing a bit better. I always wrote for myself but I would regularly peak at my statistics. Was my viewership going up? What did people read? How did they get there? What search terms were people using? — Who cares? There are a lot of numbers that ‘social media experts’ will tell you to maximize. But there are few that make any difference.