Archives for category: Data and Data Mining

Naomi Klein coined the iconic book Shock Doctrine, about the way that the powerful elites use emergencies to expand their power because of the crisis. New Orleans was one of her prime examples of “disaster capitalism,” where the devastation of a giant hurricane created an opportunity to break the teachers union and privatize the public school system.

In this brilliant essay, published in The Intercept, Klein describes the many ways in which the plutocrats of the tech industry are turning the pandemic into a gold mine for themselves and planning a dystopian future for the rest of us.

Please read this provocative and frightening essay, which has numerous links to support her argument.

What she details is not just a threat to our privacy and our institutions but to our democracy and our freedom.

It is no coincidence, she writes, that Governor Andrew Cuomo is enlisting a team of tech billionaires to reimagine the future of the Empire State. They know exactly what they want, and it’s up to us to stop them.

She writes:

It has taken some time to gel, but something resembling a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine is beginning to emerge. Call it the “Screen New Deal.” Far more high-tech than anything we have seen during previous disasters, the future that is being rushed into being as the bodies still pile up treats our past weeks of physical isolation not as a painful necessity to save lives, but as a living laboratory for a permanent — and highly profitable — no-touch future.

Anuja Sonalker, CEO of Steer Tech, a Maryland-based company selling self-parking technology, recently summed up the new virus-personalized pitch. “There has been a distinct warming up to human-less, contactless technology,” she said. “Humans are biohazards, machines are not.”

It’s a future in which our homes are never again exclusively personal spaces but are also, via high-speed digital connectivity, our schools, our doctor’s offices, our gyms, and, if determined by the state, our jails. Of course, for many of us, those same homes were already turning into our never-off workplaces and our primary entertainment venues before the pandemic, and surveillance incarceration “in the community” was already booming. But in the future under hasty construction, all of these trends are poised for a warp-speed acceleration.

This is a future in which, for the privileged, almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming and cloud technology, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone, then screen “shared” on a mediated platform. It’s a future that employs far fewer teachers, doctors, and drivers. It accepts no cash or credit cards (under guise of virus control) and has skeletal mass transit and far less live art. It’s a future that claims to be run on “artificial intelligence” but is actually held together by tens of millions of anonymous workers tucked away in warehouses, data centers, content moderation mills, electronic sweatshops, lithium mines, industrial farms, meat-processing plants, and prisons, where they are left unprotected from disease and hyperexploition. It’s a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable, and data-mineable by unprecedented collaborations between government and tech giants.

If all of this sounds familiar it’s because, pre-Covid, this precise app-driven, gig-fueled future was being sold to us in the name of convenience, frictionlessness, and personalization. But many of us had concerns. About the security, quality, and inequity of telehealth and online classrooms. About driverless cars mowing down pedestrians and drones smashing packages (and people). About location tracking and cash-free commerce obliterating our privacy and entrenching racial and gender discrimination. About unscrupulous social media platforms poisoning our information ecology and our kids’ mental health. About “smart cities” filled with sensors supplanting local government. About the good jobs these technologies wiped out. About the bad jobs they mass produced.

And most of all, we had concerns about the democracy-threatening wealth and power accumulated by a handful of tech companies that are masters of abdication — eschewing all responsibility for the wreckage left behind in the fields they now dominate, whether media, retail, or transportation.

That was the ancient past known as February. Today, a great many of those well-founded concerns are being swept away by a tidal wave of panic, and this warmed-over dystopia is going through a rush-job rebranding. Now, against a harrowing backdrop of mass death, it is being sold to us on the dubious promise that these technologies are the only possible way to pandemic-proof our lives, the indispensable keys to keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Alan Singer writes her about the massive data breach at Pearson, which was covered up for nearly a year.

He writes:

“And you thought it was safe to sign into a test at Pearson Vue. Well you better think again. At least one Pearson online product was hacked exposing student data from 13,000 schools and one million college students. The hack occurred in November 2018, the F.B.I informed Pearson in March 2019, and Pearson, covering itself for as long as possible, finally went public with the disclosure in July 2019.

”The hacked product is Person’s aimsweb®, that is used to monitor student reading and math skills. Pearson’s assessment sub-division markets the product with claims that “its robust set of standards-aligned measures, aimswebPlus is proven to uncover learning gaps quickly, identify at-risk students, and assess individual and classroom growth.” A side benefit, especially useful for authoritarian regimes, is that aimsweb® also monitors student online “behavior.””

Parents who sued were offered a year of free credit monitoring. They said no thank you.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Bill Gates apparently feel they are not winning enough battles in the court of public opinion, so they have created a lobbying organization to promote their ideas in Congress and state legislatures. 

Will the Gates lobby push for Common Core? For more high-stakes testing? For more federal funding for charter schools? For evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students? For more technology in the classroom?

These are but a few of Bill Gates’ failed education initiatives. Has he learned from failure or will he use his C4 lobby to push his failed ideas even more?

Bill and Melinda Gates have launched a lobbying organization to advocate for issues in health, education, and poverty, The Hill reported on Thursday.

The Gates Policy Initiative, which was announced on Thursday, will work with lawmakers on issues such as global health, global development, moving people from poverty to employment, and education for black, Latino, and rural students. The initiative, which will be a 501(c)(4) organization under the US tax code, is independent from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the billionaire couple’s philanthropic organization.

Rob Nabors, the director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the former White House director of legislative affairs during the Obama administration, told The Hill that the Gates Policy Initiative would work in a bipartisan way.

In an article in The Hill, Rob Nabors said the new lobbying organization would reflect the work of the foundation.

Much of what they’ve learned running their foundation will help them through the process of establishing a lobbying shop.

“Probably the most important point for us is similar to the way Bill and Melinda have approached their philanthropic giving and other things that they do. They are interested in learning what works and what doesn’t work,” Nabors said.

He said that if they are not successful in a couple of years, they will “shutter the shop and figure out what else could potentially be done.”

“I think that experimental type of approach, that innovative type of approach, is both relatively unique in this space and embedded into the DNA that Bill and Melinda bring with them,” he said.

Nabors said that when he worked in the Obama White House, his job was often described as the White House chief lobbyist.

“I’m excited to get back into the mix of talking to people specifically about the work that they are doing every day, trying to put bills together that will make people’s lives better,” he said.

He added that Bill and Melinda Gates also bring a unique lens to a lobbying shop.

“They are very data-focused so a number of the types of issues that we will be exploring and the solutions that we are exploring are based on data that we collected from programs that we funded,” he added.

 

Well, here is a nice development for those of us who object to depersonalized learning. The data analytics firm called Knewton is going out of business. Knewton was acquired by Pearson and was supposed to be the ultimate refinement of data mining.

Peter Greene describes the rise and fall of Knewton here.

The founder and CEO of Knewton was Jose Ferreira, who believed he was bringing Big Data into the classroom. He claimed in a video that with his techniques, his company knew more about students than their parents did. Here is an article from 2013 in which his vision is portrayed as the wave of the future, one of those inevitable phenomena that would envelop us whether we liked it or not.

Here he is, extolling the virtues of data mining. 

Knewton sounded too much like Brave New World to me, and I resented the fact that investors were creating a technology to spy on our children.

Peter Greene writes:

Adaptive learning. Computer-enhanced psychometrics. Personalized learning via computer. Knewton was going to do it all. Now it’s being sold for parts.

Knewton started in 2008, launched by Jose Ferreira. By 2012, Ferreira led the ed tech pack in overpromising that sounded both improbable and creepy. In a Forbes interview piece, Ferreira described Knewton as “what could become the world’s most valuable repository of the ways people learn.” Knewton could make this claim because it “builds its software into online classes that watch students’ every move: scores, speed, accuracy, delays, keystrokes, click-streams and drop-offs.”

Developments like this offer hope that other massive invasions of privacy, which are inherently dehumanizing, will fail. I’m on the side of flawed and fallible human beings. Teachers and parents, not machines.

Please join this free webinar on protecting your privacy and the privacy of students.

SIGN UP FOR OUR FREE JAN. 20 WEBINAR ON HOW EDUCATORS CAN BETTER PROTECT THEIR STUDENTS’ PRIVACY — AND THEIR OWN

A few weeks ago, it was reported that the personal information of 500,000 San Diego students, former students and school staff was exposed in a massive breach. At about the same time, education institutions and organizations were rated as the worst sector for cybersecurity in a 2018 report.

We invite you to join us for a short webinar on Jan. 20, with important tips on how teachers and district/school staff members can better protect their students’ privacy of and their own.

We will be offering guidance along with Marla Kilfoyle of the Badass Teachers Association from our Educator Toolkit for Teacher and Student Privacy, released this fall. Educators will receive a certificate of participation. Don’t miss out! Space is limited!

When? Sunday, January 20 from 6-7 PM EST (3-4 PST). We’re saving lots of time for questions!

How? Sign up here – it’s free!

We hope to see you on the 20th.

Leonie Haimson and Rachael Stickland
Co-Chairs, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy

http://www.studentprivacymatters.org

The New York State Allies of Parents and Education issued this “action alert”:


Dear Allies,

URGENT – PLEASE TAKE ACTION and DEMAND the Board of Regents and NY State Education Department RETURN the MISGUIDED Gates Foundation Grant.

Last month, NY Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia asked the Board of Regents to approve a new $225,000 grant from the Gates Foundation for enhanced communication efforts around the standards, testing and data collection — to convince parents that State Ed is on the right track in all these areas. The Board voted 14 -2 to approve this grant, with only Regents Cashin and Ouderkirk voting no and Regent Johnson was absent.

The Gates Foundation has been behind some of the most controversial — and unsuccessful — education policies in history, including persuading states to adopt the Common Core standards, evaluate teachers based on test scores, and expand the collection and disclosure of highly personal student information as part of its $100 million dollar inBloom project. .

Luckily, New York parents and educators across the state defeated inBloom, but the state is still planning to expand its collection of student data from early childhood through college. The new standards that NYSED has developed are still developmentally inappropriate and little different from the Common Core and there is still too much emphasis on flawed high-stakes testing. Moreover, NYSED has failed to enforce the state student privacy law, passed in 2014 in the wake of the controversy over inBloom — though the legal deadline for implementation was more than four years ago. Meanwhile, NYSED’s own data system has been audited twice by the NYS Comptroller, and found to be highly insecure and vulnerable to breaches.

PLEASE CLICK HERE to TAKE ACTION and DEMAND that the Regents give back the Gates funds and instead of trying to hoodwink us into accepting State Ed’s flawed policies, include parents in authentic decision-making on all issues affecting our children, including standards, teacher evaluation, and privacy. The State Education Department should also be barred from any effort to expand student data collection until the 2014 student privacy law has been fully enforced and the SED’s own data system made secure.

Thank you,
NYSAPE.org

Larry Cuban was asked this question by a reporter. His answer was no, because part of the job of a teacher is to conduct surveillance of students and to monitor their work.

“..Maintaining order and constant surveillance of students has been, historically, what teachers have to do in order for students to learn. Before there were computer devices and monitoring software, teachers walked up and down aisles of desks and around the perimeter of the classroom inspecting what students were doing.

“It was the job of the teacher to know that students were working on what the teacher asked them to do.

“In my judgment, when a teacher looks at student screens while a lesson is underway, there is no invasion of student privacy. It is simply what teachers do as part of their role in guiding student learning.”

He does not engage in the issues that most concerns readers here: the mining of student data collected by the software corporation as students work and the relentless drive by tech companies not only to monetize personally identically information, gathered without the knowledge or consent of students, but the effort by those corporations to replace expert teachers with technology.

Take this short survey.

The Badass Teachers and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy are working on a Teacher Privacy Toolkit and would like educators and other school or district staff to respond to a survey about data practices in their schools. This is important to ensure that the toolkit is as useful as possible and responds to educators’ concerns about their students’ privacy and their own.

The link is here: http://bit.ly/2oJNYgC

The survey will close on March 18 so please help them out!

 

Parents Across America (an independent group of parent activists that is critical of the commercialization and corporate takeover of education) has created a valuable resource about the effects of screen time on children. 

It is titled “Our Children @ Risk.”

The paper is 26 pages long. It contains extensive documentation.

It is a valuable resource in light of the profit-driven effort to promote EdTech in the schools without regard to is effects on children.

Here is the introduction:

“Children have a basic right to live in environments that promote their social, emotional and intellectual well-being. They have the right to grow up, and parents have the right to raise them, without being undermined by greed.” Susan Linn

“Parents Across America has developed a position paper and associated informational materials which detail a number of concerns about the invasion of EdTech* into our schools, and which we have collected under the title, “Our Children @ Risk.”

“This document is an annotated bibliography of resources we used to inform our position paper and materials. References to the outline letters and numbering below are used parenthetically throughout the informational materials to indicate the corresponding supportive research, documentation, expert opinion, and anecdotal and other background information.

“There is some overlap in the categories, and, of course, many of the sources quoted address more than one area of concern.

“A. Effect on children’s mental/emotional health

“B. Impact on student learning

“C. Physical effects – screen time

“D. Physical effects – vision E. Physical effects – sitting

“F. Effects on schooling

“G. Questionable effectiveness of EdTech

“H. Constant testing/lack of informed consent

“I. Privacy issues

“J. Who benefits?”

 

Kevin Welner of the National Education Policy Center has written a thoughtful (and optimistic) commentary on the Gates Foundation’s latest big bet on reforming education. The new one will invest $1.7 billion in networks of schools in big cities, in the hopes that they can work together to solve common problems.

Welner, K. (2017). Might the New Gates Education Initiative Close Opportunity Gaps? Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/bmgf.

Welner notes that the previous big initiatives of the Gates Foundation failed, although he believes that Gates was too quick to pull the plug on the small schools initiative in 2008, into which he had poured $2 billion. Gates bet another $2 billion on the Common Core, and that was sunk by backlash from right and left and in any case, has made no notable difference. Gates poured untold millions into his plan for teacher evaluation (MET), but it failed because it relied too much on test scores.

Welner says that Bill Gates and the foundation he owns suffer from certain blind spots: First, he believes in free markets and choice, and he ends up pouring hundreds of millions into charters with little to show for it; second, he believes in data, and that belief has been costly without producing better schools; third, he believes in the transformative power of technology, forgetting that technology is only a tool, whose value is determined by how wisely it is used.

Last, Welner worries that Gates does not pay enough attention to the out of school factors that have a far greater impact on student learning that teachers and schools, including poverty and racism. These are the factors that mediate opportunity to learn. Without addressing those factors, none of the others will make much difference.

Welner is cautiously optimistic that the new initiative might pay more attention to opportunity to learn issues than any of Gates’ other investments.

But he notes with concern that Gates continues to fund charters, data, technology, and testing. He continues to believe that somewhere over the rainbow is a magical key to innovation. He continues to believe in standardization.

It seems to me that Kevin Welner bends over backwards to give Gates the benefit of the doubt. With his well-established track record of failure, it is hard to believe he has learned anything. But let’s keep hoping for the best.