Last weekend, the New York Times ran a story “Deciding Who Sees Students’ Data,” which focused on the non-profit, inBloom. For those not familiar with inBloom, it’s a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-backed enterprise that aims to streamline and connect management of student data and the data itself via cloud services. According to their website:
inBloom is a non-profit organization created in response to a request from states and school districts to simplify how they record student information, administer tests, analyze performance, train teachers, and share lesson plans to support personalized learning. Personalized learning means that students’ learning experiences are tailored to their individual developmental needs, skill levels, and interests.
Parents in the Jefferson County, Colorado school district pushed back against the district’s plan to join with inBloom, mainly over questions about how student data would be used, how it would be protected, and concerns regarding privacy. In the age of Edward Snowden, how seriously can one take the promise of an organization when the NSA can’t even protect its data?
How much is student data worth? Social security numbers seem like high-ticket items, but is the real payoff in demographic data and user behavior? Combine services like inBloom’s with proponents who want a tablet in the hand of each child twenty-four hours a day and my cynicism takes over. Will an algorithm that monitors a child’s low reading ability tell another program to show the child more image-based ads on their tablet? It sounds like something from a Philip K. Dick novel. But when thinking about the kind of data that’s being recorded, it’s important that students and parents have a voice and that forethought is being used.
With that in mind, if you’re a parent, teacher, or student what are your thoughts on student data being connected and centralized on the cloud? Comment below and let us know.