Student Data Privacy
New school software from Facebook engineers poses student privacy questions & opens potential learning opportunities
Facebook engineers have helped to create a “Personalized Learning Platform” tool in the form of software Summit Basecamp, which “tailors lessons to individual students using software that tracks their progress.” The tool is the result of a collaboration between Facebook and the charter school network Summit Public Schools, whose leaders strongly advocate for personalized learning. While “dozens of schools nationwide have signed up to use the program,” recent media coverage highlights concerns about the volume and types of student data collected by the program— as well as with whom the data might be shared. Current parental consent forms for schools that use the program specify that the data may be shared with companies such as Facebook and Google, and Summit Basecamp’s terms of service broadly grant Summit Public Schools permission to “share student data with any company it deems necessary.” The terms of service do state that students’ personally identifiable information will not be used for targeted advertisements; however, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation characterized the terms overall as “‘sloppy.’”
Happenings. Zachary Gold explores implications of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) for monitoring the connected classroom. The Texas Attorney General reached a settlement with Juxta, an app developer whose product suite includes the messaging app “Jott”; the $30,000 settlement is the result of allegations by the Texas Attorney General that Juxta “violated Texas consumer protection law by engaging in false, deceptive or misleading acts or practices regarding the collection of personal information from children.” Juxta transmitted personal information (such as IP addresses and GPS coordinates) that could be used to identify their young users’ locations. The Center for Democracy and Technology issued the “State Student Privacy Law Compendium,” which summarizes state-by-state the privacy laws that govern student data collection, use, and sharing. The CDT report, prepared by BakerHostetler, highlights that —though the collection of student data is not new— the “means by which student data is collected, the types of data collected, and the entities that ultimately have access to this data have expanded dramatically.” The National Association of State Boards of Education is hosting its annual conference October 19-22 in Kansas City, MO, which will feature panel discussions on student privacy, school surveillance, and CIPA. The Electronic Frontier Foundation offers a “check-in on what’s happened in the student privacy world since we [EFF] submitted our FTC complaint about Google’s practices a little under a year ago.” The Privacy Technical Assistance Center of the U.S. Department of Education recently released a new guidance video on email and student privacy. EDRi, a European association for the protection of rights and freedoms in the digital environment, has published a booklet, “Your guide to Digital Defenders vs. Data Intruders – Privacy for kids!,” aimed at children between 10-14 years old with the goal of informing the choices these young users make on digital platforms.
Data & Equity
Calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion
The NAACP has issued a statement calling for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools. Based on concerns regarding school segregation, higher expulsion rates for students of color, and uneven resource allocations, the NAACP expressed concerns about inequity in charter schools. The NAACP argues that the privatization of schools leads to a diversion of public funds to support non-public school choices, negatively impacting public schools. They also call for strengthening of oversight in governance and practice of charter schools to improve transparency practices and accountability measures. This Washington Post article about the NAACP’s statement provides a helpful summary of the key arguments for and against charter schools, as well as information about the claims that the NAACP is making regarding the impact of charter school funding on public schools and transparency and accountability in charter schools.
Happenings. Mikaela Pitcan writes about the implications of gaps in student data around mental health. Data analyzed by the Atlantic shows that school disturbance laws, which allow for children (as young as 7 in some states) to be charged by the justice system for violations of these laws, disproportionately affect youth of color. An article in the Heching Report describes the challenges of “parachute kids” —adolescents sent to U.S. public schools by parents in China—whose visa status may not be part of school records and therefore may not receive adequate counseling and support as they adjust to a new culture. Montana State University reacted to data showing gender disparities in STEM faculty positions with purposeful action to close the gap. University of Michigan is working towards gauging the campus climate regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion by using a university-wide survey. This will be an interesting story to follow as University of Michigan develops plans to continue measuring these efforts over time. The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case on racial bias in criminal sentencing — but the case doesn’t appear to be addressing bias found in algorithmic risk assessment tools used in criminal sentencing. A study using 2011-2012 data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights shows that black children were much more likely to receive corporal punishment in schools than their white counterparts, even though white children are more likely to attend schools that allow corporal punishment. The study also showed that male students were far more likely to receive corporal punishment than female students. Geofeedia, a service that analyzes social media feeds and provides real-time surveillance data to law enforcement agencies, appears to be targeting minority groups who use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It is unclear how many students and youth have been affected by this reporting, however, the ACLU has raised concerns about the violation of free speech rights of activists of color, and Twitter has responded by blocking Geofeedia's commercial access to its feeds. A recent report out of New York City’s Independent Budget Office unpacks the barriers to education and high school graduation faced by homeless students; under new reporting requirements from the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, there will soon be more data about these and related barriers for this group of vulnerable students because “by next year, all states will be required to report the graduation rates of students experiencing homelessness, in the same way they do other vulnerable groups, such as the disabled and English-language learners.”
Harnessing online communities as spaces for children to play and learn
In a recent post for the “Parenting for a Digital Future” blog hosted by the London School of Economics and Political Science, Harvard Graduate School of Education doctoral student and Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University affiliate Paulina Haduong proposes that we look at certain online communities as spaces where children can to learn to engage productively in dialogue and become resilient and respectful digital citizens. In many communities, both online and offline, children are penalized for making mistakes without being given a chance to learn better ways of communicating and collaborating; in online communities, they are blocked from platforms, and in schools they are subjected to “zero-tolerance” policies. Haduong argues that online communities such as Connected Camps and games such as Minecraft can serve as loci for children to play with each other, within a structure of older students serving as role models and counselors for younger students. “By receiving feedback on their behaviour,” Haduong explains, “young users can develop resilience and learn social norms that will carry them through their future interactions online as they expand their online participation beyond Minecraft and other communities specific to learning.” (Editor’s note: my kindergartener has never played Minecraft digitally, but he and his friends play it on the school playground all the time. When I told him that I “talk about Minecraft as part of my work,” he said: “I don’t believe you.” #toocoolforschool — Leah Plunkett @ Berkman Klein Youth & Media team.)
Multi-stakeholder events at UC Irvine & Microsoft explore digital citizenship
Earlier this month, the multi-stakeholder LRNG Summit at Microsoft in Mountain View, CA brought together program partners, anchor organizations, municipal leaders, corporations, and funders for a two-day event featuring an overview of LRNG, a “movement . . . [that uses] technology to connect partnerships and learning opportunities both locally and globally.” Next on the agenda: collaborative, interactive sessions where attendees co-designed XPs, Playlists, and Badges, as well as developed unique implementation plans for using the LRNG platform in 2017. As one of the eleven winners of the DML Playlist Challenge, the Youth and Media team at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University will co-design four digital citizenship learning playlists in the upcoming year. Panels at the Summit also explored crucial topics for digital citizenship; for instance, the Youth Jobs Panel —which included San Jose's Mayor Sam Liccardo, Microsoft's Sid Espinosa, and LRNG leader Connie Yowell—discussed the opportunity gap and how to address social inequalities. Video is available here.
Also earlier this month, down in Southern California, roughly 500 people attended the 7th annual Digital Media Learning conference at the University of California, Irvine. DML 2016 was an “inclusive, international gathering of scholars and practitioners in the field, focused on fostering interdisciplinary and participatory dialog and linking theory, empirical study, policy, and practice.” Keynotes considered “what is the intellectual culture of games?” by Constance Steinkuehler and a “Digital Dreamers” conversation between Jose Antonio Vargas and Henry Jenkins. Keynote videos here. Among the many other engaging events and conversations included: Berkman Klein’s Youth & Media team participated in the DML Trust Challenge webinar and presented a summary of the Digital Literacy Toolkit final report; Renee Hobbs from the University of Rhode Island's Media Education Lab demoed a great tool for analyzing media propaganda: Mind Over Media; Lissa Soep from Youth Radio presented West Side Stories project, an interactive map of the West Oakland gentrification process made by youth— a great example of youth exercising civic agency and advocating for equity!
Happenings. On October 19, an Education Week webinar will explore how to increase student engagement with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) learning. The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) released a report on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that “outlines opportunities within the law to use data to examine what is working for students—and what is not—to meet states’ education goals. The report details how the Data Quality Campaign’s (DQC) Four Policy Priorities can help states to do more than meet the letter of the law in ESSA by maximizing the data foundation they have already built over the past decade.” The Innovation Center for Law and Technology at New York Law School announced the new Tyler Clementi Institute for CyberSafety, the “first-of-its-kind anti-cyberharrassment research institute that includes, among other things, the only pro bono law school clinic representing victims of cyberharrassment.” Google will now show data from the U.S. Department of Education’s “College Scorecard” directly in Google search when people search for colleges. The College Scorecard provides students with information such as “college costs, graduation rates, employment outcomes[,] and student debt for every college,” and its display is a part of Google’s move to work “civically minded information” into its search result pages.