Technology

Privacy vs Process: Where Does Google “Classroom” Fit in LMS Landscape?

How do you define the word classroom? What does it mean to you as a student, as a parent, as a teacher? Does the meaning change if you fit none of those categories? According to Merriam-Webster1 a classroom is merely “a place where classes meet.” That definition seems entirely lacking. Isn’t a classroom more than just a place where classes meet? Isn’t a classroom a place of safety where learning happens? When I use the word safety, I’m thinking in terms of the freedom to make mistakes, a place to be nurtured and encouraged. Classroom is more than a location, it defines the boundaries of a learning community.

This question interests me for two reasons. First, it’s the name of Google’s new app, which will be part of their Apps for Education Suite. Second, with privacy concerns regarding student data, it subverts the idea of the classroom. According to Google’s blogpost, they “know that protecting your students’ privacy is critical. Like the rest of our Apps for Education services, Classroom contains no ads, never uses your content or student data for advertising purposes, and is free for schools.”2 Left unsaid is Google’s ability to collect student data for internal purposes. 

Does your idea of the classroom contain a private company camped in the back of your class gathering notes on everything said?

Learning management systems, like Moodle and Blackboard, leave a lot to be desired. They can be poorly designed, confusing, and/or contain too many functions than are needed. It may lead professors toward options like WordPress as a lightweight solution. But, when an institution hosts their own Moodle installation, they are not inviting a for-profit third-party into the learning experience as a silent observer.

What are your thoughts on Google’s “Classroom”? A welcome addition to teaching and learning, or a move in which teachers and students should be wary?

 

 

  1. Definition of classroom from Merriam-Webster.com  http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/classroom []
  2. “Previewing a New Classroom.” Official Google Blog, http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2014/05/previewing-new-classroom.html []

4 Comments

Daniel

I found this article on a search precisely because red flags have gone up for me with my kids and I am concerned about this matter.

The fact that my kids are doing their homework on Google classroom totally creeps me out. As parents we have purposely NOT given our kids email addresses or social media or posted their names or other identifiable information about them online.

Yet the schools have had us sign waivers (which most parents don’t read) giving permission for to do basically whatever they want with the kids, including giving “personally identifiable information” to third parties online. I modified the form for one of our children to refuse the release of personally identifiable information, but my wife had already signed the form for our other children, so the genie is out of the bottle there. (I still intend to retract this permission going forward.)

The lightning pace at which public schools embraced have embraced and implemented this technology (Google Classroom was apparently rolled out in 2014) ought to be alarming … And it has been done in such a way that to opt your kids out sets them at a disadvantage in class.

In other words, many public (taxpayer funded) schools are now basically forcing parents to go against their better judgment by allowing a third-party entity to gather all kinds of private information from the next generation. This, no doubt, includes writing projects that will reveal personality traits, details of personal life, associations such a names of friends and classmates, family details, life patterns and habits, etc, that will now – for the rest of their life – follow each and every kid who goes through these public schools. This is, in other words, a treasure trove for a private company called Google; it is also a security risk since this information in total is extremely powerful and is designed to make sure that, even if a child decides to be cautious online or to carefully guard their profile – it will be too late because a complete dossier on them will already be out there in the hands of Google thanks to our government-monopoly public school system.

This needs to become a BIG political issue, in my opinion.

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BobbyB

Daniel is 100% correct.

The sad thing is that the boards of education are only looking at the reduced cost of getting “free” apps and not understanding or maybe just not caring) about the true costs.

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