When Education Data Takes a Dystopian Turn

You expect the educators at school to know a lot about your kid. After all, educators are with their learners for 6 to 7 hours a day, five days a week. They come to know who’s their learners are and how they learn. Educators know how every kid performs on every formative and summative assessment

But that’s not the only info that schools collect on the learners in their buildings. Schools routinely collect information about race, attendance, parent income, phone numbers, medical info, etc.

The point that I am trying to make is that schools today collect an unprecedented amount of data on their learners. That alone should make you wonder who has access to this data and how it is being safeguarded. 

Taking Care of the Data

The National Center for Education Statistics has previously recognized the need for quality academic data. NES does not recommend the kinds of data collected but instead determines what constitutes quality data, including instrument design, minimization of errors, sampling sizes, and more. 

Data privacy was not a concern because learner data identifying individual learners has been masked or hidden.

The concern today is that private info about learners must be protected. Schools must protect learners according to FERPA and HIIPA requirements. Anyone other than an educator who needs the info to provide instructional, health-related, or social services for a kid may view the data. 

This will make you breathe a sigh of relief until you realize that education technology companies collect similar learner data. 

Sloppy Data Collectors

Education technology software relies on amassing learner data. Every instructional program your kid is enrolled in collects info similar to that collected by schools, especially regarding name, date of birth, and instructional program. Most apps collect additional as well.

Although what is being collected is important, it’s more important to determine what happens to the data after the program has ended or the learner moves on to another grade or school. Education technology brings with it certain privacy concerns such as:

  • What exactly is being collected?
  • How long is the data stored?
  • Will the data be sold?

How to Prevent a Data Dystopia

Many people rail against the thought of using data to make an Orwellian society like the one portrayed in 1984. A “Big Brother” state that quietly collects an arsenal of data is scary, especially because data analysis could be used to make assumptions about learners before they become adults.

Wise parents and educators must ask about data collection. Who gets it? For how long? What happens to the data once it’s collected?

If you don’t get satisfying answers, walk away from any education technology company that refuses to protect the identity of your kid. 

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