The federal government, bent on collecting massive amounts of personal information on its citizens – a flagrant violation of the Fourth Amendment – and the tech industry, under fire for its digital products designed to addict, have joined forces in American classrooms.
Through the unconstitutional Every Student Succeeds Act, passed in 2015 under the Obama administration, digital devices with computer adaptive software for both lessons and testing are pushed into K-12 classrooms.
During student engagement in digital programs, massive amounts of lucrative personal data are collected, including information about a student’s behavior, beliefs and interactions.
The U.S. Department of Education has become increasingly aggressive in demanding more personal information for various federal grants, especially from states that refused to adopt Common Core. Federal interference in education has gone beyond the Education Department, creating an even more snarled web of government tentacles.
In violation of the 10th Amendment, the Departments of Education and Defense in 2011 created the Federal Learning Registry as an open-source infrastructure where resources are aggregated and shared.
Because the two departments needed help with collecting student data online and sending that data to the Learning Registry, they created other programs and then partnered with Silicon Valley giants.
In 2014 the federal agency National Science Foundation funded Carnegie Mellon University to create LearnSphere, a project to mine educational data for storage in a repository of millions of data points for each student and publicly available to registered users. The data are generated from interactive tutoring systems, educational games and massively open online courses.
The U.S. Department of Education further inserted itself into the classroom unconstitutionally with the launch of the Online Education Resources – #GoOpen – in 2015 as it encouraged states, school districts and educators to use open-licensed online curriculum and educational games.
Silicon Valley corporations have been quite willing to provide digital products and software. They not only profit from the sale of their products but from the collection of personal data, which are used to create more education products. There is a decades-old battle among tech companies to hook students as future customers.
The companies are fiercely competing for business in the U.S. primary and secondary school markets, a technology market anticipated to reach $21 billion by 2020, according to Ibis Capital and EdtechXGlobal.
Google quickly gained a major presence in public classrooms through bypassing district administration and taking their free classroom apps and low cost laptops to teachers instead of the traditional sales channels used by Apple and Microsoft.
Google’s education apps, such as Gmail and Docs, are used by more than half of the nation’s elementary and secondary school students. Chromebooks, Google-powered low-priced laptops, account for 58 percent of the 12.6 million mobile devices sold to primary and secondary schools in 2016, up from less than 1 percent in 2012. Windows laptops and tablets dropped from 43 percent in 2012 to 21.6 percent of the mobile devices sold to schools in 2016.
Google’s low price for laptops is possible because, unlike Apple or Microsoft, which make money primarily by selling devices or software services, the company derives most of its revenue from online advertising targeted through sophisticated use of people’s personal data.
While the student is using the Google device, personal data are being collected. However, Google has refused to disclose how it uses data collected from students’ online activities including what is collected, why it’s collected and how the data are used.
Google makes a small management service fee for each of the millions of Chromebooks they sell to schools. More importantly, they are likely getting generations of future customers. When students graduate from high school, those who have Google accounts are encouraged by the company and the school to upload their school Gmail, Docs and other files to a Google consumer account.
Facebook, the social media giant, is under fire for its addictive social media platform and its new messenger app for children as young as 6. Now its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have introduced a digital learning program into schools that allows students to “take charge of their own learning” – code for students teaching themselves – while relegating teachers to the back burner as facilitators. The program uses education software developed by the Chan Zuckerberg initiative.
Proponents of the video game tout its education merits but fail to produce any evidence or research that show video games can lead to increased learning.
Have you wondered why edtech is promoting video games in the classroom? It’s because they know the games are addictive and can collect massive amounts of very lucrative data about the child’s behavior and interactions.
Microsoft has introduced a highly popular video game, Minecraft, into thousands of classrooms. With more than 100 million registered users, Minecraft is the best-selling computer game ever. According to Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, renowned addiction expert, the game, which was purchased from a small Swedish software company for $2.5 billion, is in “every way – clinically and neurologically – an addicting drug.”
According to its press release, Dreambox, the online math program for elementary school children, collects 50,000 data points per hour. Knewton, an adaptive learning platform, collects 5-10 million data points per student per day.
Through the federally funded LearnSphere, the data can be connected from all online activity across multiple websites and platforms.
While parents once worried about the effects of TV on children, the hypnotic effect of immersive and interactive digital screens on the brains of youngsters is quite different. Research shows an increase in clinical disorders among children, such as ADHD, aggression, mood disorders and psychosis.
As far back as 2000 the Alliance for Children, whose National Advisory Board includes some of the most respected psychiatrists, professors, pediatricians and educators in the nation, called for a comprehensive report by the U.S. surgeon general on the full impact of emotional, physical and other developmental hazards posed by computers for children.
Parents can control their children’s exposure to addictive technology by demanding an opt out of screen learning including online programs that collect and share their private data.
State legislators are responsible for calling a halt to the industry’s preying on children to hype their harmful and useless technology.