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07 March 2014 @ 10:40 am
Excessive claims  
Thanks to Franki Sibberson for making sure I saw this posting from EDUCATION WEEK: http://mobile.edweek.org/c.jsp?DISPATCHED=true&cid=25983841&item=http%3A%2F%2Fblogs.edweek.org%2Fedweek%2Fon_innovation%2F2014%2F03%2Fwhat_does_the_google_investment_in_renaissance_learning_mean.html. Google has invested in Renaissance Learning, the company that markets Accelerated Reader among other products. According to the author of the blog, there are two reasons why Google has invested in Renaissance Learning: "personalized learning paths are rapidly becoming a reality and the big guys will play a key role in innovation."Translation? MONEY! and DATA!

The posting is a little shy on real details about how Renaissance Learning will provide daily data. Right now I am concerned that they have data from the schools they serve. I wonder what data they collect? Do they know which kids have read a certain book and how they scored on the quiz? I know they use their data to proudly proclaim each year that they know which books are most popular for each grade level (a claim that is, at best, not quite accurate and, at worst, a downright lie). They market their annual report to various media outlets who then, without any sort of research, publish it as being an accurate portrayal of what books kids DO read (without ever mentioning that kids might actually read something outside of the books they read for points or that there are schools where AR is not being implemented and dictated).

I am concerned more and more with this data mining. My chief concern is that we are reducing kids to numbers. It is bad enough that I am often reduced to numbers, but taking a child and replacing the real information with scores and points and other descriptors that fail to tell me much about the REAL WHOLE person? How is this allowed under FERPA? How is it permitted by those in education who care about kids? How have paren5ts somehow lost control of the data mining? I know more about a kid after talking to her about her favorite books and authors than any set of numbers can tell me. I know more about a kid after discussing his latest read than points could ever reveal.

I know something else, too. I know research says that posting charts that show the number of books someone has read makes kids never want to read another book again. Imagine what seeing the data walls makes a kid think? I know what it would make me think and feel.

Here is the sentence that sends chills up my spine: "The company today owns one of the largest anonymized data sets on learning progress. Using this kind of data, teachers can then create personalized learning plans for each student or class." Personalized learning plans based on data (they mention Student Growth Percentile, SGP, as one factor they are investigating)? How does this work? I suspect it will be just another APP we can download onto the 1:1 computer tablets that will mean teachers simply have to press some keys and VOILA! their students' plans are done. This rather mechanized view of learning seems dystopic to me. Anyone else? Bueller?

reductio ad absurdum
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