Data, Surveillance, and Teaching Machines (Hack Education)

Education writer Audrey Watters is raising interesting questions regarding educational data collection in her latest post on Hack Education:

Data, Surveillance, and Teaching Machines

Sorry for the light posting here, but I’m immersed in writing my book – Teaching Machines – which is due out late 2013/early 2014 (I hope).

However, the news of this past week has been fairly distracting from that project: revelations about the US government’s massive spying programs that include the monitoring of all our telephony metadata, as well as our usage of many popular technology sites. Verizon. Google. YouTube. Apple. Microsoft. Skype. Yahoo. Facebook.

My worries here aren’t simply about the sanctity of the US Constitution (although, god yes, there’s that). Nor are my education-related concerns that schools have been outsourcing many of their IT functions – hardware and software – to these very companies (although, god yes, there’s that too).

My book examines the history of education technologies and our long-running drive to automate teaching and learning. Pressey’s teaching machines of the 1920s. Skinner’s teaching machines of the 1950s. Radio, television, and YouTube broadcast of lectures and lessons. Intelligent tutoring systems. Khan Academy and its millions of lessons delivered. Adaptive learning tools. MOOCs. Massive student data collection. Artificial intelligence.

It’s the latter few that were the inspiration of my book, when I sat in one of Google’s self-driving cars with its creator and now MOOC startup founder Sebastian Thrun. And these also have me thinking about the relationship between Boundless Informant, the government surveillance program, and the boundless informants/information we’re collecting and developing and analyzing in education.

Read more.

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