Data Collection: Is it Worth the Risk?

This week the readings focused on student data and privacy. I need to start with the absolute mind-blowing Knewton Education Datapalooza video. Mostly because I can’t even begin to wrap my head around much of what was being referenced. Clearly, there is so much potential when it comes to data collection and analysis. In this video, the speaker referenced being able to reach a point in the future of predicting grade performance in classes and then correlating that to what type of food you should eat for breakfast in order to be successful. Companies like this have figured out how to squeeze every possible drop of data out of any activity that students complete online. They use this data to try to benefit student learning – or at least that’s their stated objective.

This is where a lot of the readings centered. What is truly the end point of all of this data? Surveillance and data used to be for the sake of safety and security. However, we now live in a world where the data is being used for the sake of marketing and advertising revenue. Everything we do, every website we visit, every status we update provides companies with information about what we are most likely to purchase from them. We are constantly being mined for data.

Many adults are aware of this. But it gets tricky when we think about working with students. There are so many wonderful opportunities surrounding technology in education right now. As educators, we have an incredible amount of software and tools available to help enhance our students’ learning opportunities. However, we need to deal with the risk of student data collection. As adults, we can weigh the risks for ourselves and many of us come to the apathetic conclusion that we don’t care what data is collected about us. If anything, isn’t it nice to see ads that market toward what we are actually interested in? However, we can’t make these choices for students.

As educators, we’re in a position where we want to expose students to technology to enhance their learning, but we’re making decisions surrounding student privacy on behalf of the students. This can be scary when considering how much time students spend online and how much of their data is constantly being collected.

After reading a great deal about student data collection, I’ve reached a conclusion that I think is the best I can reach for now. As of right now, there are not that many websites and tools we can use with students that don’t mine for data. If the privacy policy tells us that the site collects advertisement data, there is no way to disable that. It seems very unfortunate that students would miss out on some of these opportunities just because of the data collection piece. The solution for now seems to be centered around media literacy.

We need to help teach students how to critically view the advertisements they’re seeing. We need to teach them to understand that websites and advertisements are targeting them specifically in ways that can influence their emotions and opinions. Students are going to use technology whether or not it’s for educational purposes. Instead of depriving them of the educational opportunities and leaving them to field technology on their own in their free time, we should help guide them through the learning process of how to interact with technology safely, responsibly, and critically. Honestly, we may want to focus on that for ourselves a little more as well.

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3 thoughts on “Data Collection: Is it Worth the Risk?

  1. norma says:

    You make a great point that data collection (privacy policies) are tricky especially when it comes to children. But, I really do believe that as adults we have also become compliant to these type of things we just sign off and say okay without thinking or reading the policy. We have become numb to privacy policies which can be harmful.

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    • vronvz says:

      I completely agree. You often hear adults saying “I don’t have anything to hide, why should I care?” without even considering the many ways their data could be used.

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  2. professorjvg says:

    So many people don’t even know that the data is being collected. I don’t care so much if it’s collected to send advertisement to me. In this election, people were also getting “news” and appeals tailored to their particular algorithms in their social media sites. Access to information that we need to participate in a democracy is pretty serious!

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