The Dark Side of Student Data Mining

Janice Gobert’s recent op-ed in US News & World Report is another classic example of the huge disconnect between parents and the big government and corporate education-technology “Big Data” machine. Big Data seems to believe computers can teach children better than teachers or parents. It also claims entitlement to constant data from our children, including psychological data, handsomely profiting corporations and government but destroying privacy and the student-teacher interaction, all without evidence of effectiveness. This is why informed parents and teachers in droves are rejecting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Common Core State Standards (CCSS), high-stakes testing, and “competency based” (“individualized”) education.

Gobert, whose company develops the software she lauds (no conflict of interest there), attempts to justify both the invasive data-mining and the NGSS, which have received poor reviews from many, varied organizations. She raises the favorite bogeyman of the establishment — American students’ 21st place in international rankings of science performance, supposedly endangering US global competitiveness. Yet, she ignores contrary data and research showing no correlation between these rankings and national economic performance.

More alarming is this paragraph, containing the kind of language that sends parents running for the exits of public schools and possibly towards attorneys:

Educational data mining offers more than the traditional statistics used on typical, multiple-choice tests. These high-fidelity data are in the form of log files from mouse clicks within the digital learning environment. They also measure and monitor things like students’ saccadic eye patterns as students learn from visual and textual information sources, data from sensors tracking facial expressions and posture, and more.

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