April 08, 2017

4/7: Student Privacy, Equity, and Digital Literacy Newsletter

Student Privacy, Equity,
and Digital Literacy Newsletter

Week Twenty-Three: April 7, 2017
The Youth and Media team at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and the Data & Society Research Institute are proud to bring you this Student Privacy, Equity, and Digital Literacy newsletter on a bi-weekly basis. If you have suggestions or reflections, please send them our way—thanks for reading!
Student Data Privacy
Does Education Secretary DeVos View Education as a Public Good?
During a speech promoting school choice last week, Betsy DeVos compared it to having the option of choosing ridesharing applications, like Uber or Lyft versus taxis. DeVos has been criticized for focusing on commercial services, rather than mentioning public transport, which critics say is reflective of not seeing education as public good. Quartz reports that 84% of Americans have either not heard of or not used ridesharing applications, reflecting that this metaphor is focused on privileged experiences of choice: “By comparing the education of children—which most people see as a social good, its accessibility and affordability crucial to the nation’s continued success—to private corporations, she only reinforces the level of disconnect between herself and the American public.” The Washington Post provided an assessment of how data used to inform school choice may be misleading and inconsistent. EdWeek provided clarification on DeVos’ claims regarding American student performance on the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) and the international Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests.

Repeal of Promised Online Privacy Regulation Does Not Account for Children’s Privacy
Congress has voted to repeal a Federal Communications Commission rule that would have improved online privacy regulation. The rule was issued in October 2016 to take effect in December 2017. PBS NewsHour provides useful insights into the impacts of this ruling, including recommendations for protecting online privacy. The repealed regulations would have prohibited Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon from selling browsing habits of consumers. While not addressed in the news coverage, of particular concern for families is that the ISPs do not differentiate household browsing habits, so children’s data is up for sale, too. The Internet Society views privacy as key to reinforcing trust on the Internet and challenges ISPs to act as “trusted stewards” of user data, rather than data brokers. Bruce Schneier of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center and Kennedy School of Government examines consequences of this repeal. Crowdsource efforts have emerged to buy and publicly post the browsing habits of Congress members who supported the bill.

Happenings. EdWeek reports that the Institute of Education Science, a research wing of the U.S. Department of Education, was found in an independent audit to not be screening contractors working with student data. In a move toward greater transparency of the types of cyber security incidents occurring in schools, Ed Tech Strategies, a Virginia-based research group has mapped 105 cyber-security incidents occurring in U.S. public schools from January 2016-March 2017. A system administrator raises concerns about the privacy implications of adoption of Chromebooks and Google-Suite in schools, “Nobody's asking why it's free," he said. “I thought it was common sense that, generally, if you're not paying for the app, you're the product.” Larry Cuban evaluates personalized learning programs in K-12 instruction. Cuban offers a continuum of personalized learning, placing student-centered learning at one end and teacher-centered learning at another, finding that regardless of the technology and policy, no programs diverge from the traditional age-graded school structure. The Hechinger Report recommends the Atlanta Public Schools’ data visualization blog as a way for schools to share the data they collect in ways that are meaningful for parents and the school community.
Data & Equity
Department of Education Discontinues $12 Million Diversity Grant Program
The U.S. Department of Education recently discontinued a $12 million grant program, “Opening Doors, Expanding Opportunities,” which aimed to support and improve economic and racial diversity in public schools. Anya Kamenetz of NPR reports on a series of case studies showing improvements in learning outcomes for all students when diversity is improved. The Washington Post reports that research in 2010 found that “poor children who go to mixed-income schools fare better academically than poor children who go to high-poverty schools.”

When Data Is Used to Marginalize Vulnerable Students: New Findings from National and Global Studies
A recent paper, Privacy, Poverty and Big Data: A Matrix of Vulnerabilities for Poor Americans, reports that for poor and vulnerable populations, privacy vulnerabilities are magnified, often because they “misunderstand the scope of data collection and falsely believe that relevant privacy rights are enshrined in privacy policies and guaranteed by law,” a misconception the authors report is common across socioeconomic categories, but “exacerbated by poor communities’ higher reliance on mobile connectivity and lower likelihood to take various privacy-protective measures online.” According to a Kaplan press release cited in the article, 40% of college admissions officers report visiting applicants’ social media feeds, up from 10% in 2008. This practice, combined with a lower likelihood of applicants from low socio-economic populations to engage in privacy protective practices online, has the potential to disproportionately negatively impact poor applicants.
Teachers College at Columbia University published a global study that includes 190 interviews from 16 countries and finds serious barriers facing refugee children seeking education. Among the barriers are xenophobia, school admission policies that restrict and limit access, and refugee children’s lack of documentation. These findings are reflective of practices reported by Georgetown University Law Center. In a study of four U.S. school districts, interview participants reported cases where admission was delayed for undocumented students to occur after statewide testing and refugee students were enrolled into alternative schools or schools designed for correctional needs. In the global and national cases, accountability measures surfaced as an issue for schools integrating refugee children into their learning communities, suggesting a need for balancing school performance metrics with the humanitarian needs of these vulnerable populations.

Happenings. Joshua Browder, a Stanford University student has developed a chatbot that offers free advice for those seeking refugee asylum. Last month, we reported on the challenges of quantifying the number of transgender students in K-12 and higher ed because currently, no statistics are collected. Arguments around inclusion of sexual orientation in the U.S. census similarly assert the right and need to be counted. Meghan Maury of the National LGBTQ Task Force says: “Decision makers use the data collected in the long-form census . . . to allocate resources and ensure that they’re enforcing laws appropriately.” Cathy O’Neil discusses how algorithms use stereotypes for classification, putting women at a disadvantage. Yet efforts are underway to embed fairness and accountability into algorithmic programming. Pew Internet reports a disparity in internet access, finding white households (78%) to be more likely than Black (65%) or Hispanic (58%) households to have home broadband. The hashtag #missingDCgirls catalyzed national attention for missing Black and Latina girls, whose cases had reportedly received little attention. Ray Dalio, philanthropist and founder of Bridgewater refers to high dropout school dropout rates in Connecticut as a “human tragedy” and acknowledges the high economic and social costs. A recent survey of college students at an Ontario University found that one in four students has a credit card that has exceeded its limit, and these numbers are higher for gay students and students of color.
Digital Literacy
Teens Talk about Digital Literacy
In March, the Children’s Advisory Panel (CAP) released a new report on how pre-teens and young teens understand their digital lives. CAP, “an initiative by Telia Company in collaboration with child rights organizations and schools in seven countries across the Nordics and Baltics,” engaged with over 700 students in 6th through 9th grade to generate Life Online through Children’s Eyes.
These young teens had a lot to say about the digital literacy skills of the adults in their lives. For instance, one eleven-year-old shared that: “‘Sometimes, my mom or her friends comment on my photos on Insta. It is so embarrassing! I want my friends to write ‘fina’ (cute) and stuff, but then my aunt writes “Oh you are such a pretty girl.” I delete that, and hope no one saw it.’” Overall, though, the teens do “welcome the participation of adults in creating and maintaining rules online . . . [but prefer them] in the background— allowing the children a safe place to express their opinions without critique or adult influence.” The teens also look to adults to “ensure information integrity and to support the balance of online/offline time.”
Teens are also looking to one another for support in cultivating these and related aspects of digital literacy.  The Internet on Our Own Terms: How Children and Young People Deliberated About Their Digital Rights, a recent report commissioned by 5Rights, looked at recommendations from over 100 teens (ages 12-17) in the U.K. According to these findings, teens think that a “peer-group advice service” would be a valuable component of education about digital life.

Happenings. Many adults are busy indeed tackling information integrity challenges! Recent contributions from the grown-up cohort include guidance from Fordham University on understanding the fake news ecosystem; a new paper from Professor Kate Starbird at the University of Washington maps “an emerging alternative media ecosystem on the web of surprising power and reach” that has at heart “anti-globalism — deep suspicion of free trade, multinational business and global institutions”; a report in The Intercept on Cambridge Analytica’s alleged harvesting of Facebook users’ data; the launch of the inaugural International Fact-Checking Day earlier this week; a story in Global Voices that asks how we “build a civics of trust”; and a new report from the House of Commons committee on how “if the press is to maintain the public’s trust, journalists must demonstrate their commitment to clear and unbiased reporting of scientific facts — and be given the necessary support by policymakers to do so.”
EdTech looks at the emerging power of Internet of Things devices in higher education. Two new initiatives aim to super-charge ed tech innovation: Southern New Hampshire University and ReThink education have pledged $15 million to support ed tech start-ups, and Google.org is donating “$50 million to global edtech nonprofits . . . the biggest financial commitment to a single topic that the organization has made since its inception in 2005.” Education Week examines the opportunities and challenges of “curriculum playlists,” a pillar of the “K-12 personalized-learning movement.” The article dives into questions of algorithmic bias and fairness, quoting Cathy O’Neil: “People don't really demand evidence when technology and algorithms are involved, because they're bewildering, but you don't need to understand what's in the black box to know if something works."  University of California, Irvine has a new Connected Learning Lab, “a new interdisciplinary hub dedicated to researching and putting into practice equitable learner-centered innovation in educational technology.” Proposals for HASTAC 2017, The Possible Worlds of Digital Humanities, are due April 17.

Deeper Dives
Monica Bulger presented “Fake news, reliability & questioning: A researcher’s struggle to navigate the new information landscape,” a reflection of our team’s experiences in creating our newsletter, at the annual Electronic Resources & Libraries Conference in Austin.
What We’re Listening to . . .
​The National Writing Project hosted a panel discussion of Media Literacy Tools to Comprehend and Critique Fake News. New Hampshire Public Radio discussed dyslexia screening in schools and featured a personal video from a family doctor whose daughter is dyslexic.  National Public Radio interviewed Tressie McMillan Cottom on her “new book, Lower Ed, [which] argues that for-profit colleges exploit racial, gender and economic inequality.” The co-creators of DigCitKids discussed “Digital Citizenship from a Kid’s Perspective.” Harvard Law School and the Berkman Klein Center convened a panel on “Fake News, Concrete Responses: At the Nexus of Law, Technology, and Social Narratives,” featuring Martha Minow, Jonathan Zittrain, Sandra Cortesi, An Xiao Mina, and Nathan Matias. Ted Koppel discussed with Sean Hannity the consequences for public trust in news of putting the opinion column onto the front page. In a podcast from 2015 that is relevant to recent discussions of school choice in New York, and algorithms in education more generally, EconTalk host Russell Roberts discussed matching markets with Alvin Roth. At 34:00, Roth describes how the algorithm was optimized to improve options for students and their families and increase the likelihood of placement into students’ top school choices.