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"If you have children, you are likely to worry about their safety – you show them safe places in your neighborhood and you teach them to watch out for lurking dangers. But you may not be aware of some online dangers to which they are exposed through their schools.
There is a good chance that people and organizations you don’t know are collecting information about them while they are doing their schoolwork. And they may be using this information for purposes that you know nothing about.
Our research explores how corporate entities use their involvement with schools to gather and use data about students. We find that often these companies use the data they collect to market products, such as junk food, to children.
When children work on their assignments, unknown to them, the software and sites they use are busy collecting data.
For example, “Adaptive learning” technologies record students' keystrokes, answers and response times. On-line surveys collect information about students' personalities. Communication software stores the communications between students, parents and teachers; and presentation software stores students' work and their communications about it.
In addition, teachers and schools may direct children to work on branded apps or websites that may collect, or allow third parties to collect, IP addresses and other information from students. This could include the ads children click on, what they download, what games they play, and so on.
How student data are used
When “screen time” is required for school, parents cannot limit or control it. Companies use this time to find out more about children’s preferences, so they they can target children with advertising and other content with a personalized appeal.
Children might see ads while they are working in educational apps. In other cases, data might be collected while students complete their assignments. Information might also be stored and used to better target them later.
For instance, a website might allow a third party to collect information, including the type of browser used, the time and date, and the subject of advertisements clicked or scrolled over by a child. The third party could then use that information to target the child with advertisements later.
We have found that companies use the data to serve ads (for food, clothing, games, etc.) to the children via their computers. This repeated, personalized advertising is designed specifically to manipulate children to want and buy more things.
Indeed, over time this kind of advertising can threaten children’s physical and psychological well-being.
Consequences of targeted advertising
Food is the most heavily advertised class of products to children. The heavy digital promotion of “junk” food is associated with negative health outcomes such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Additionally, advertising, regardless of the particular product it may sell, also “sells” to children the idea that products can make them happy.
Research shows that children who buy into this materialist worldview are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and other psychological distress.
Teenagers who adopt this worldview are more likely to smoke, drink and skip school. One set of studies showed that advertising makes children feel far from their ideals for themselves in terms of how good a life they lead and what their bodies look like.
Additionally, nearly 300 software companies signed a self-regulatory Student Privacy Pledge to safeguard student privacy regarding the collection, maintenance and use of student personal information. However, they aren’t sufficient. And here’s why:
Companies can address privacy concerns by making digital data anonymous (i.e., not including PII in the data that are collected, stored or shared). However, data can easily be “de-anonymized.” And, children don’t need to be identified with PII in order for their online behavior to be tracked.
Second, bills designed to protect student privacy sometimes expressly preserve the ability of an operator to use student information for adaptive or personalized learning purposes. In order to personalize the assignments that a program gives a student, it must by necessity track that student’s behavior.
This weakens the privacy protections the bills otherwise offer. Although it protects companies that collect data for adaptive learning purposes only, it also provides a loophole that enables data collection.
"Just like anything else that involves human experience or interaction, the act of learning does not happen in a vacuum. It is at the intersection of prior knowledge, experience, perception, reality, comprehension, and flexibility that learning occurs. In years past, the traditional learning paradigms of behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism have been the benchmarks against which the learning process has been measured. What happens, though, when you throw into the mix all the technological advancements that have come about over the last 40-50 years? These theories certainly do not become obsolete by any means, but they do need to be used in a very different way to be able to incorporate the attributes of a 21st century learning environment. In today’s technology-rich society, it has become increasingly important to learn how to learn. Vail put it simply by declaring that learning must be a way of being (1996)."...
By Daniel Willingham "It’s time to admit we don’t know what we’re doing when it comes to educational technology.
We’ve already had one round of chagrined admissions. About 10 years ago, the common practice was buying hardware and dropping it into schools: Every student got a laptop, perhaps, or every classroom got a computer-driven whiteboard. Policymakers finally realized that such purchases don’t boost student achievement or create a new generation of programmers.
Better planning is now more common, but it’s time for chagrined admission 2.0.
The problem is that tech purchasing decisions are usually not much better informed than your decision about whether or not to buy a smartwatch. History shows that perfectly sensible intuitions about how devices ought to work in classrooms often prove wrong.
Consider Amazon’s recent $30 million contract to sell e-books to New York City schools over a three-year period. Reading on a screen would seem to be little different than reading on paper. Maybe even better: They can integrate video and audio, for example, and content can be updated easily. But in study after study, reading comprehension is actually a little worse on screens. That’s why even younger readers with lots of screen-based experience say they prefer paper."...
"Digital learning tools that fit well within existing classrooms and don't disrupt the educational status quo tend to be the most widely adopted, despite their limited impact on student learning, an analysis of ed-tech products designed for higher education concludes.
Experts say that pattern is also reflected in K-12, raising tough questions about whether many ed-tech vendors' emphasis on quickly bringing their products to scale is actually hampering the larger goal of improving schools.
"There is a lot of research showing that more comprehensive technology interventions tend to have more positive results in both sectors," said Barbara Means, the director of the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International, the nonprofit research center that conducted the new analysis. "To create an education technology tool that can have an impact, but also be adopted in many classrooms, requires thinking about supports for teachers, resources for instruction, and rethinking the way time is used within schools."
Those conclusions are drawn from a fresh analysis of data SRI gleaned while evaluating the effectiveness and growth curves of 29 digital learning tools funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2010. The products included complete online courses, peer-support platforms, and predictive analytics tools. Most had no statistically significant impact on student outcomes. But the number of users that each product attracted varied widely, from as few as 181 to as many as 130,000.
The SRI researchers found some evidence that when it comes to ed tech, effectiveness and scale may actually be inversely related: The more effective the tool, the smaller the scale at which it was adopted, and vice versa.
They also identified three common factors among those products that scaled most rapidly: a promise of cost savings for schools, no requirements for face-to-face training, and an ability to be easily integrated into existing teaching and learning practices.
Those traits reflect the dominant Silicon Valley business approach of seeking to quickly gain as many users as possible—a strategy that Means described as particularly ill-suited for schools."...
"This was/is a “catalyst” KINDERGARTEN classroom in Mentor, Ohio (pic from 2014). This picture truly gives me the chills. It is void of anything vibrant, enticing, or living. It is so deathly dismal grey. It is so opposite of how my 4-5s classroom looks— gratefully! The above appears to me like children have been implanted into some unnatural, doldrum business office setting. It looks like kinders sitting in on some corporate board (bored) meeting.
This is Tom Vander Ark’s ‘branchild.’ He ultimately sees classrooms just like this, with minimal amounts of teachers who would be translated into “facilitators.” Their jobs would be to guide the children towards online programs which would suit children’s individualized learning plans. The teachers are to become robotic sales clerks essentially for all of the products Vander Ark has for sale related to online learning. Information in turn would be documented at each and every keystroke, into the students’ “digital portfolio backpacks.”
"...Rather than creating a new generation of pleasure-readers, forcing kids to keep track of their reading time can turn it into a chore."...
By Erica Reischer
"Children who read regularly for pleasure, who are avid and self-directed readers, are the holy grail for parents and educators. Reading for pleasure has considerable current and future benefits: Recreational readers tend to have higher academic achievement and greater economic success, and even display more civic-mindedness.
But recreational reading is on the decline. According to a National Endowment for the Arts report based on longitudinal data from a series of large, national surveys, the rate at which teens voluntarily read for pleasure has declined by 50 percent over the last 20 years. Reading now competes for children’s time with many other alluring activities, including television, social media, and video games. Most leisure time is now spent in front of a screen.
To ensure that kids are spending at least some time every day reading, classrooms across the country have instituted student reading logs, which typically require kids to read for a certain amount of time—about 20 minutes—each night at home and then record the book title and number of pages read. In some cases, parents must also sign this log before their child turns it in to the teacher."...
"The way we understand our intelligence and abilities deeply impacts our success. Based on social science research and real life examples, Eduardo Briceño articulates how mindset, or the understanding of intelligence and abilities, is key. When students or adults see their abilities as fixed, whether they think they're naturals or just not built for a certain domain, they avoid challenge and lose interest when things get hard. Conversely, when they understand that abilities are developed, they more readily adopt learning-oriented behaviors such as deliberate practice and grit that enable them to achieve their goals. But this belief is itself malleable, and there are clear actions we can all take to establish a growth mindset and enable success for our children, our peers and ourselves.
Eduardo Briceño is the Co-Founder and CEO of Mindset Works (http://www.mindsetworks.com), an organization that helps schools and other organizations cultivate a growth mindset culture. The growth mindset was discovered by Stanford professor and Mindset Works co-founder Carol Dweck, Ph.D., and is described in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (http://www.mindsetonline.com). Mindset Works offers Brainology, an innovative blended learning program to teach a growth mindset to students, teachers and schools, as well as teacher professional development and tools (http://www.mindsetworks.com/brainology/)."
"Researchers reveal that human brain has at least 180 different regions, confirming the existence of 83 known regions and adding 97 new ones"
"When the German neurologist Korbinian Brodmann first sliced and mapped the human brain more than a century ago he identified 50 distinct regions in the crinkly surface called the cerebral cortex that governs much of what makes us human.
Now researchers have updated the 100-year-old map in a scientific tour de force which reveals that the human brain has at least 180 different regions that are important for language, perception, consciousness, thought, attention and sensation.
The landmark achievement hands neuroscientists their most comprehensive map of the cortex so far, one that is expected to supersede Brodmann’s as the standard researchers use to talk about the various areas of the brain.
Scientists at Washington University in St Louis created the map by combining highly-detailed MRI scans from 210 healthy young adults who had agreed to take part in the Human Connectome Project, a massive effort that aims to understand how neurons in the brain are connected."...
By Cory Booker and Anya Kamenetz [Image credit: LA Johnson/NPR]
"Welcome to our sand box.
For months now, the NPR Ed Team has been playing with what we like to call "long listen" ideas — worthy stories that we can't tell in three or four minutes.
Some ideas don't hold up. The ones that do make it here, including this little adventure to a one-room schoolhouse in the Colombian Andes and this strange tale of two men, separated by an ocean and united by a stolen laptop.
For this week's long listen, I sat down with my Ed Team co-conspirator, Anya Kamenetz, to talk about one of my favorite subjects: brains. Specifically, how children learn to read and what can be done to help struggling readers.
It turns out, two of my all-time favorite literacy stories (at least from the past two years) began with the work of one researcher: Northwestern University neurobiologist Nina Kraus.
First, Kraus found that kids who took music lessons for two years didn't just get better at playing the trombone or violin; playing music also helped their brains process language. Consonants and vowels became clearer, allowing the brain to make sense of them more quickly."...
“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they’ve been fooled.” — Unknown.
I’m an expert on how technology hijacks our psychological vulnerabilities. That’s why I spent the last three years as a Design Ethicist at Google caring about how to design things in a way that defends a billion people’s minds from getting hijacked.
When using technology, we often focus optimistically on all the things it does for us. But I want to show you where it might do the opposite.
Where does technology exploit our minds’ weaknesses?
I learned to think this way when I was a magician. Magicians start by looking for blind spots, edges, vulnerabilities andlimits of people’s perception, so they can influence what people do without them even realizing it. Once you know how to push people’s buttons, you can play them like a piano.
And this is exactly what product designers do to your mind. They play your psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against you in the race to grab your attention.
I want to show you how they do it.
Hijack #1: If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices
Western Culture is built around ideals of individual choice and freedom. Millions of us fiercely defend our right to make “free” choices, while we ignore how those choices are manipulated upstream by menus we didn’t choose in the first place.
This is exactly what magicians do. They give people the illusion of free choice while architecting the menu so that they win, no matter what you choose. I can’t emphasize enough how deep this insight is."...
"Even proponents of educational technology admit that a lot of software sold to schools isn’t very good. But they often highlight the promise of so-called “adaptive learning” software, in which complex algorithms react to how a student answers questions, and tailor instruction to each student. The computer recommends different lessons to different students, based upon what they already know and what they still need to work on.
Wonderful in theory, but does it work in practice?
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sought to find out, and gave money to 14 colleges and universities to test some of the most popular “adaptive learning” software in the marketplace, including products from a Pearson-Knewton joint venture, from a unit of McGraw-Hill Education called ALEKS and from the Open Learning Initiative. Most of the universities combined the software with human instruction, but a few courses were delivered entirely online. Almost 20,000 college students and 300 instructors participated in the experiment over the course of three terms between 2013 and 2015. It’s probably the largest and most rigorous study of adaptive learning to date. Then Gates hired SRI International, a nonprofit research institute, to analyze the data. (The Gates Foundation is among the funders of the Hechinger Report.) This story also appeared in U.S. News & World Report.
What SRI found was sobering. In most cases, students didn’t get higher grades from using adaptive-learning software, nor were they more likely to pass a course than in a traditional face-to-face class. In some courses the researchers found that students were learning more from adaptive-learning software, but even in those cases, the positive impact tended to be “modest”. The report is here.
“I wouldn’t characterize our report as cynical, just cautious,” said Barbara Means, director of the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International and one of three authors of the report."...
"As laptops become smaller and more ubiquitous, and with the advent of tablets, the idea of taking notes by hand just seems old-fashioned to many students today. Typing your notes is faster — which comes in handy when there's a lot of information to take down. But it turns out there are still advantages to doing things the old-fashioned way.
For one thing, research shows that laptops and tablets have a tendency to be distracting — it's so easy to click over to Facebook in that dull lecture. And a study has shown that the fact that you have to be slower when you take notes by hand is what makes it more useful in the long run.
In the study published in Psychological Science, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles sought to test how notetaking by hand or by computer affects learning.
"When people type their notes they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can," Mueller tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can't write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them."
Mueller and Oppenheimer cited that notetaking can be categorized two ways: generative and nongenerative. Generative notetaking pertains to "summarizing, paraphrasing, concept mapping," while nongenerative notetaking involves copying something verbatim.
And there are two hypotheses to why notetaking is beneficial in the first place. The first idea is called the encoding hypothesis, which says that when a person is taking notes, "the processing that occurs" will improve "learning and retention." The second, called the external-storage hypothesis, is that you learn by being able to look back at your notes, or even the notes of other people.
Because people can type faster than they write, using a laptop will make people more likely to try to transcribe everything they're hearing. So on the one hand, Mueller and Oppenheimer were faced with the question of whether the benefits of being able to look at your more complete, transcribed notes on a laptop outweighs the drawbacks of not processing that information. On the other hand, when writing longhand, you process the information better but have less to look back at.
For their first study, they took university students (the standard guinea pig of psychology) and showed them TED talks about various topics. Afterward, they found that the students who used laptops wrote significantly more words than those who took notes by hand. When testing how well the students remembered information, the researchers found a key point of divergence in the type of question. For questions that asked students to simply remember facts, like dates, both groups did equally well. But for "conceptual-application" questions, such as, "How do Japan and Sweden differ in their approaches to equality within their societies?" the laptop users did "significantly worse."
The same thing happened in the second study, even when they specifically told students using laptops to try to avoid writing things down verbatim. "Even when we told people they shouldn't be taking these verbatim notes, they were not able to overcome that instinct," Mueller says. The more words the students copied verbatim, the worse they performed on recall tests.
And to test the external-storage hypothesis, for the third study they gave students the opportunity to review their notes in between the lecture and test. The thinking is, if students have time to study their notes from their laptops, the fact that they wrote down more extensive notes than their longhand-writing peers could possibly help them perform better.
But the students taking notes by hand still performed better. "This is suggestive evidence that longhand notes may have superior external storage as well as superior encoding functions," Mueller and Oppenheimer write.
Do studies like these mean wise college students will start migrating back to notebooks?
"I think it is a hard sell to get people to go back to pen and paper," Mueller says. "But they are developing lots of technologies now like Livescribe and various stylus and tablet technologies that are getting better and better. And I think that will be sort of an easier sell to college students and people of that generation."...
"An ed-tech executive was one of a series of witnesses summoned to an Alabama courtroom this week, as state prosecutors pursue a corruption case against one of the state's most powerful politicians.
Michael Humphrey, executive vice president at Edgenuity, testified in the ethics trial of state House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who is accused in a 23-count indictment of using his clout to attract business for companies he leads.
Humphrey testified that he hired Hubbard on a $7,500-per-month consulting contract to connect him to legislative leaders in other states, as Edgenuity tried to sell digital courses.
Humphrey testified that the House Speaker's work for Edgenuity included calling the then-speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Bobby Harrell. It also included reaching out to Auburn University's athletics director in order to arrange a meeting with a NCAA executive as the company sought permission to sell its products for college athletes, according to the AP.
Hubbard, a Republican, was indicted in 2014 on 23 counts of felony ethics violations on allegations of using his political power to attract business for his companies--the Auburn Network Inc. and Craftmaster Printing.
Based out of Scottsdale, Ariz., Edgenuity provides blended learning programs and virtual instruction for students in grades 6-12."
"Parents in Newark are wondering whether their children have been exposed to dangerous amounts of lead. Since early March, more than half of the 67 district schools have tested positive for high lead levels in the drinking water, and documents shows that the school administration knew about the problem for more than a year.
Last month, Ivelisse Mincey received an automated phone call announcing that lead had been found in the drinking water at Abington Avenue School in Newark, where her 12-year-old son Adam attends. “I put down the phone in an absolute panic,” Mincey said. “My son drinks water from the fountain all day long and now I have no idea whether he is going to have health problems.” Like other Newark parents, Mincey wants to know why the problem wasn’t fixed sooner. “I feel betrayed that the school district didn’t come to me to let me know about this,” she said. “They should have protected my son.”...
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