[This is cross posted on the PDEC blog - http://pde.cc/2013/03/edudata/]
Every day it seems there is a new story about new "big data" systems are going to make things better - but then... they just made things creepier.
The latest news like this came from inBloom Inc. via SXSW-Edu (on Reuters). inBloom is a newly formed nonprofit to host a massive database of student records created with $100 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal seems good: track the progress of students through school and use the data to improve their outcomes.
The records can be comprehensive and inBloom doesn't need students' parents to consent to have their records in the database.
Federal officials say the database project complies with privacy laws. Schools do not need parental consent to share student records with any "school official" who has a "legitimate educational interest," according to the Department of Education. The department defines "school official" to include private companies hired by the school, so long as they use the data only for the purposes spelled out in their contracts.
The whole idea that you must have one massive educational database of all student records is an architecture of the past.
The core idea is right: more data about a student's learning experience in school is good for them and could be good for the overall school system. The challenge is how it is engineered. Are students and their parents put at the center of their own data lives? Or are they in another giant system they have little control over or say in?
We need to empower students with their own personal clouds. They must be able to download their own student learning records. They must be able to share them with companies and services that will work on their behalf. With personal clouds and infomediaries to help, students will find educational resources/and tools that can help them fill gaps in their learning and discover communities of interest. This infomediary market approach puts personal data to use without revealing any more data than needed and only on the student's terms.
In this market model the individual collects data in their personal cloud. This could be a machine in their home or a service provider they trust (they must have the right & ability to move service providers with all their data if this is truly a personal cloud service). The individual trusts an infomediary service to look into their personal cloud but does so with a fiduciary duty to the end-user. The infomediary then works on their behalf in the market place to find relevant vendors and services. It does not reveil specific personally identifying information to prospective service providers. It helps the individual have good choices and they decide who to transact with (thus reveling personal information).
The inBloom project sounds like an marketing project: companies will comb through the data base, find students to approach, and sell them with "education" products. The student data is up for grabs.
We need a better set of policies, technologies, and products that put parents and their kids at the center of and in control of their data. This single point of failure won't do.
- K-12 student database jazzes tech startups, spooks parents (mercurynews.com)
- Your Child's Data: Now Online (dianeravitch.net)
- K-12 student database jazzes tech startups, spooks parents (news.yahoo.com)
- Why This $100 Million Student Information Database Is 'A Godsend' For Education Startups (businessinsider.com)
- Public Education is About to Get A Lot More Orwellian... (libertyblitzkrieg.com)