Opinion: Incline parents should be leery of student data mining | SierraSun.com

Opinion: Incline parents should be leery of student data mining

John Eppolito
Opinion

I'm writing this to elaborate on "free" education software Dr. Andy Whyman mentioned in his June 15 oped published in the Bonanza — "Why you should be leery of 'Big Data'."

On 4/29/16, a proposed "1:1 Program" at Incline High School (IHS) was kicked off by a private meeting at the high school — it was attended by Superintendent Davis, Deputy Superintendent McNeill, Area Superintendent Gonzales, Principal Leslie Hermann, and other district employees.

The goal of the program is to get a laptop in the hands of every student at IHS next school year.

A 1:1 Program and use of the third party education software at IHS was never vetted by teachers or parents!

Mr. Joel Reidenberg, law professor at Fordham and Princeton universities, is one of the top data security experts in the country. While testifying to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education on Feb. 21, 2015, Mr. Reidenberg said, "School districts aren't paying for software with cash instead they are paying for it with the personal information of all the children who use the software."

Watch the clip here: bit.ly/2aculVa.

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On 6/14/16, I spoke to Mr. Reidenberg about 1:1 devices and third party education software. He told me the device (laptop) itself is not really a problem. The software, especially the free software, is the problem because it is a Student Data Mining (SDM) tool.

In the 2015-16 school year, a couple teachers at IHS used a free SDM program called Edmodo. Edmodo is not paid for with cash; instead it is paid for with student data. Ask your high school children if they already use Edmodo.

Next school year, if every IHS student is issued a laptop, the local administrators may apply pressure on all teachers to use Edmodo and probably other SDM software.

What data will be collected, stored, analyzed, shared and possibly sold by these third party software vendors used at IHS?

Politico published an article on 5/15/14 titled "The big biz of spying on little kids." It reads in part: "Students shed streams of data about their academic progress, work habits, learning styles and personal interests as they navigate educational websites. All that data has potential commercial value: It could be used to target ads to the kids and their families, or to build profiles on them that might be of interest to employers, military recruiters, or college admissions officers."

Read the article here: politi.co/2akomlD.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an article on 8/20/15 titled "Surveillance Society: Students easy targets for data miners." It reads in part: "The growing education technology sector is selling the promise of improved student achievement through websites, apps and tools that analyze each child's strengths and weaknesses. In doing so, though, ed tech companies are lapping up unprecedented amounts of information about students, while laws provide little protection."

"Parents are very nervous, and rightfully so, when third parties are empowered to build dossiers on their children"

Read more here: bit.ly/1Po9z3I

Atlantic Journal-Constitution published a blog by Jane Robbins on 2/26/16 titled "Children's privacy at risk from software used in schools." She wrote: "These interactive programs, marketed by private vendors, frequently use sophisticated software that collects massive amounts of highly personal information about the student's behaviors, mindsets, and attitudes – the '21st-century' psychological skills that the government thinks he should have."

Read more here: bit.ly/2acvtrP.

American Thinker published an article on 8/22/15 titled "Common Core: Who's Watching the Kids?: It reads in part: "Children may be playing interactive educational games, doing interactive assignments, and writing stories that can be easily shared with the teacher and other students. These seemingly harmless activities are in fact being used to collect personal and private information without the parents' consent or knowledge."

"This data will be stored forever, and parents will have very, very limited access to it, if any at all."

Read more: bit.ly/1WLhxJE.

If your child uses Edmodo at IHS, the company will likely be "amassing a profile" on your child, as this Education Week article suggests: bit.ly/1r2Hhh4.

In addition, Edmodo will share your children's personal information with others. Read the privacy policy here: edmodo.com/privacy#policy.

The bottom line is: WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT STUDENT DATA COMPANIES LIKE EDMODO WILL COLLECT, STORE, ANALYZE AND SHARE ABOUT OUR CHILDREN; MORE IMPORTANTLY, WE DON'T KNOW HOW IT WILL AFFECT THEIR FUTURE.

Until a 1:1 program at IHS is thoroughly vetted with teachers and parents, I don't think students should be logging into and sharing information with any third party education (Student Data Mining) websites.

John Eppolito is an Incline Village resident and former K-12 teacher. Email him at john@Jtahoe.com.