The corporate education reform juggernaut wants personalized learning in every school in America, and Delaware’s latest educational technology report will help to make sure that happens in The First State. Unless you home school, standardized testing will be impossible to stop in the future. The plans from this report could also bring data mining into your very own home.
Last year, the Delaware 148th General Assembly created a State Educational Technology Task Force through Senate Concurrent Resolution #22. The task force released their final report to the General Assembly yesterday. There are far-reaching and gigantic goals coming out of this report, with huge technological and financial implications for every single student, teacher, school, and citizen in the state.
To be clear from the get-go: I am not against technology in the classroom. What I am against is technology taking the place of a human teacher. Technology, in my opinion, should be used as a support for the teacher, and not the other way around. In today’s society, the majority of us are glued to the internet. This article would not exist were it not for the internet. My other chief concern with the digital invasion into every classroom is the data that comes out of it. I’ve written about this hundreds of times in the past couple years, more so in the past few months. There is nothing in any law that will prevent aggregate data, formed through algorithms embedded into the various learning modules and standardized tests, from falling into outside companies hands. In fact, most states seem to want them to have access to this information. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) had its guidelines relaxed to such an extent that companies have easy access to student data. The data is not connected to any personal identifiable information for each student, but it is all sent to these companies with each student identification number assigned to it based on the information they request.
Imagine, if you will, what happens when you go to Amazon. You’ve been shopping there for years. Amazon knows what you want to look for. If you bought the second season of Downton Abbey through their cloud service, bought a paperback of The DaVinci Code a couple months later, and then a Bananarama mp3 a few months later, Amazon will tailor your shopping experience based on everything you have purchased and browsed. As most of us who have gone through these “suggestive” ideas, there are many times where we don’t want what they are recommending. But it still shows up. The same happens with Google. It remembers what you search for. How many times have you gone to type something in Google, and they automatically know exactly what you are looking for? Or Google thinks it knows and goes right to it but it was wrong? It is all based on algorithms and predictive analysis.
Educational data on your child is crafted the exact same way. It doesn’t know his name or his social security number, but it knows how old they are, what school they go to, what grade they are in, how long it takes to finish a test, all the behavior issues, any discipline problems, and much, much more. It is all assigned to that number. Outside companies get this information for “research” and send it back to the state. The state is then able to come up with a model for that student based on their own data and what these companies are doing with it. In time, states will emulate the Amazon and Google predictive analysis methods and will come up with “suggestive” career paths for students (if they aren’t already). The personalized learning will be tailored towards that career path. And of course all of this will be based on the Common Core, as students move on based on Competency-Based Education. They can’t move on until they have gained proficiency in a subject. Instead of you searching on Google or Amazon, this is the state (already bought by Corporate America) searching on your child and taking those predictive analysis algorithmic conclusions and making decisions on your child. Whatever happened to the uniqueness and individuality of each child? There are human factors and emotions that no computer-based model can ever measure. Corporate Education Inc. wants to take that away from your child. Permanently.
I also have grave concerns with the goal of every single student in Delaware having a state-owned digital device in home AND school by 2020. The report shies away from districts and charters having individual contracts with providers of the devices due to cost. So the technology each student would have would be based on what the state decides to purchase. We are seeing this already in twenty-four Delaware local education agencies with the Schoology Learning Management System.
For teachers, they will be subject to countless hours of professional learning development geared towards the technology and how to implement the technology towards instruction. In time, they will be required to show “confidence” in this ability. Teaching will shift away from teacher to student interaction to a technology-student-moderator environment.
The report also touches on what is known as the K-12 Open Educational Resources Collaborative. This group is comprised of eleven states, including Delaware and the following: California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. But they aren’t the only members. There are companies and “associations” that signed on as well: the Council of Chief State School Officers, Achieve Inc., The Learning Accelerator, Lumen Learning (most likely an offshoot of The Lumina Foundation. Their CEO was a speaker at Delaware’s Pathways To Prosperity conference in February), Creative Commons, State Education Technology Directors Association, Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, State Instructional Materials Reviews Association, Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics, and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. And just to put the frosting on this corporate education reform entity, guess what they support? A member of their advisory team named Joe Wolf, who is also the Chair of The Learning Accelerator, is into “Social Action Bonds”. But who are we kidding? You can call them whatever you want, they are all Social Impact Bonds. Every day there is some new education company coming out of the woodwork that I never knew existed before!
What concerns me about Delaware’s Educational Technology report is the questions that were not asked. If the goal is to have every single student’s home wi-fi compatible, who pays for the actual internet service provider (i.e. Comcast or Verizon)? How would it connect to the education personalized management systems? If the home becomes a new “learning environment”, would anything on the internet in each person’s home then become “data” available for “education agencies” to request from the state (fully allowable under FERPA)? Since most homes tend to get bundle packages, including cable and phone, does that mean that data could now be fodder for the state? Imagine every single phone call you make on your landline or every television show you watch being a part of data collection. By not answering these types of questions, or even asking them, it is very bold of this task force to suggest these kinds of recommendations. There is a Student Data Privacy Task Force now in session (they meet again on Monday, April 4th from 3:00 to 4:30 pm on the 7th level of the Carvel State Office Building at 820 N. French St. in Wilmington and it is open to the public). But this task force was created from Senate Bill 79 in Delaware which had so much lobbying from Microsoft and Google that the original intent of the legislation was shredded due to their interference and still allows this open flow of student data at an aggregate level (based on each student’s identification number).
This potential future is happening right before our very eyes. There is so much more to this, and a few of us in the education blogging landscape suspect a future where the majority of the population become little drones and worker bees as a result of all of this. We will exist only to serve the hive, aka, the corporate government. Your job will be created for you based on your digital education. Meanwhile, those in power will control it all.
It is time for a revolution.