Personalized learning, accountability, and advertising in schools—what is the value of student data?
The Data & Society Research Institute has just released three papers addressing the value of data in education. In Personalized Learning: The Conversations We’re Not Having, Monica Bulger explores the implications of data-driven instruction, asking what learning and skills these systems optimize for and who decides? Bulger also raises concerns about how increased communication to parents of children’s performance and attendance might create stress and confusion for families. In The Myth of Accountability: How Data (Mis)Use is Reinforcing the Problems of Public Education, Claire Fontaine examines what areas of performance current accountability movements make visible and what might be obscured. Fontaine argues that as accountability becomes a mainstay of public education, the instruments for accountability and related education reform platforms must be assessed and held accountable as well.
In Advertising in Schools, Maxwell Foxman, Alexandra Mateescu, and Monica Bulger examine concerns around advertising in schools and differentiate between traditional, contextual advertising (think local pizza place ad under sports scoreboard) and data-driven, addressable advertising (based on behavioral information about the user). While the focus of much discussion is on addressable advertising, no evidence can be found of this practice occurring in schools. When considering advertising in schools, what should be key concerns?
Homeless children forced to miss school for shelter intake interviews
September is Attendance Awareness Month! The national nonprofit Attendance Work started the nationwide recognition of the connection between school attendance and achievement in 2013 to mobilize schools and communities to promote good attendance. For homeless families, data from the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness shows that reliable school attendance can be a challenge. In New York City, the whole family must travel to the city’s intake center to complete an interview in order to be placed in a shelter. These interviews can take place over multiple days and in the past children have had to miss school repeatedly in order to attend. A new policy being implemented in New York City will reduce the number of days that families in a housing crisis will need to pull their children out of school to complete interviews by only requiring children’s presence during the initial interview.
Happenings: A newly published article in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics reports that by the age of 4, children living in low income families have heard 30 million less words than children in higher income families, which has significant implications for their learning experience. Education Week will host a webinar geared towards educators explaining how to use predictive analytics to reduce drop-out rates on September 9. This article explores the possible causes of racial segregation in charter schools in Indianapolis. Post-recession economic recovery hasn’t reached America’s schools. The US State Department is working to close the gender gap in STEM by sponsoring a girls only summer program where girls can sharpen their technology skills. Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory’s Outreach Summer (SAILORS) program, “a two-week summer day camp for 10th grade girls,” plans to be residential next summer and to see a “sister program” open at Princeton. New testing data shows that Detroit Public Schools students’ math and reading proficiency dropped from 2015 to 2016. This article explores the ways that technology can “help students with learning disabilities communicate and gain confidence.” In this blog post, Claire Fontaine explores the ways in which parents use data to justify decisions that perpetuate segregation in schools.
Making new makerspaces
As digital literacy skills continue to become ever more essential for educational and professional success, unique makerspaces that offer innovative types of digital literacy experiences and digital tech access continue to pop up in communities across the country. Residents of Omaha, Nebraska, can visit “Do Space,” which is a relatively new “‘technology library’ . . . that has no books but offers access to computers, high-end software, 3-D printers and laser cutters.” Residents of Amherst, New Hampshire, can pay for a membership in a soon-to-be-opened makerspace at the local middle school where “after the school closes—starting about 4 o’clock on weekdays and on weekends—if you’re a member, you can show up and swipe your card and make use of the tools and the space.” One commentator notes that the Amherst school and community infrastructure might make this opportunity for “STEM education for adults” more likely to succeed than other similar ventures because there are public facilities and systems in place already upon which the makerspace can draw. In turn, it seems likely that the digital literacy and other lessons these adult users learn will strengthen the school and community. If you’re in the New York area, Maker Faire, a broad introduction to makerspaces, is happening October 1 & 2.
Happenings: FETC has announced its 2017 conference line-up, which includes a featured workshop on “The Interoperability Lab: Digital Learning Tools Integration Made Easy.” As school systems around the country invest in digital tech, the role of the school district CTO is evolving rapidly; according to Keith Krueger of CoSN, the “vast majority [of the CTO role] is understanding the education environment and, increasingly, you have to have leadership and vision skills.” Some of these new types of digital tech investments include sensor networks; for example, at “Maayanot High School in Teaneck, an auto-watering garden will greet students on the first day of school. The auto garden is controlled by a moisture sensor that triggers the motor to go on or off depending on the moisture level in the soil.” Some digital ed tech is now finding its way into non-school settings; last week, the MOOC-provider Coursera “launched Coursera for Business, an enterprise platform for companies. According to CEO Rick Levin, a large percent of the site’s users are seeking content that can advance their career.”