Digital Classrooms As Data Factories

Yesterday I shared an introductory essay to my series “Education in the Cloud,” which included the slide presentation “Big Data vs Teachers.” Today’s post features “Digital Classrooms As Data Factories.”

Slide Presentation: Digital Classrooms As Data Factories

My goal for this series is to make it clear that the “Future Ready” changes we’re seeing in today’s classrooms stem from the drive to create a speculative market in education data linked to social impact investing, Pay for Success, and Social Impact Bonds. These bonds are designed to be bundled as asset backed securities and traded on global markets. Did we learn nothing from the 2008 housing market crash? In addition, there are troubling elements of social control and surveillance embedded in the shift to online education as data dashboards and digital portfolios of “competencies,” academic AND behavioral, have begun to take precedence over authentic, offline learning experiences.

Recent “philanthropic” interest in universal pre-kindergarten, early literacy interventions and post-graduation plans (college, career, military or certifications) does not stem from some benevolent impulse. Rather it is about creating opportunities to embed digital frameworks into our education systems that reduce children’s lives to datasets. Once education is simplified as 1s and 0s, global finance will be well-positioned to speculate (gamble) on the future prospects of any given child, school, or district.

That is what accounts for intrusive preschool assessments like TS Gold and the pressure for middle school students to complete Naviance strengths assessments.  Impact investors need baseline data, growth data and “value added” data to assess ROI (return on investment). There are opportunities for profit all along this human-capital value chain. That is why end-of-year testing had to go in favor of constant, formative assessments. That is why they needed to implement VAM (Value Added Measures) and SLOs (Student Learning Objectives). These speculative markets will demand a constant influx of dynamic data. Where is this student, this class, this district compared with where they were projected to be? We need to know. Our bottom line depends on it.

We must recognize that beneath the propaganda of expanding opportunities for our most vulnerable populations, what is happening with “Future Ready” education is predatory and vile. It demeans education, turning it into a pipeline for human capital management at the very moment more and more experts are conveying grave concerns about the future of work in a world increasingly governed by artificial intelligence and automation.

The shift away from neighborhood schools to “learning ecosystems” of the type promoted by Knowledgeworks relies on the public accepting the premise that the future of education will involve tracking and aggregating demonstrations of student (and later, worker) competencies across multiple device platforms in many different locations. These demonstrations will be uploaded to our “lifelong learning lockers.”

The system for doing the tracking is already in place. It’s called xAPI or Tin Can API. This future of education, one underwritten by the Department of Defense, sees knowledge as something to be converted to a noun, verb and object. It’s suited to “just in time training,” and perfect for future workers expected to continually reinvent themselves in the gig economy. It’s simple, and trackable. They can track your learning, from whatever source, via multiple devices and platforms, your whole life. Watch the video. You may want to watch it more than once. Remember, “We can track it…” Consider the implications of that as education is being positioned as both a global investment opportunity and a mechanism for digitally-mediated social control.

Tin Can API-SCORM Could Do More
Rustici Software LLC Youtube Video 1:48 Minutes

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