I've published the seventh article in my "Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015" series. You can find it here.

I also wanted to make note some of the news items that didn't make the story. So I've decided to include those below.

The University of Florida is changing the name of its ISIS student record system so that no one will confuse it with the Islamic terrorist group. Because Florida.

Edsurge asks, “How K–12 Can Improve Personalized Learning With a Corporate Tool?” (For what it’s worth, the topic of the story, the Tin Can API has its roots as a military tool not a corporate tool. But hey, what’s a little ed-tech history among friends.)

CUNY adjunct professor (and former CIA director) David Petraeus reached a plea deal for leaking classified information to his mistress/biographer. Unlike other leaders, he won’t serve jail time. He’ll pay a $40,000 file and get 2 years of probation.

According to LA School Report, LAUSD’s new student information system is finally operational.

Via Go To Hellman: “16 of the top 20 Research Journals Let Ad Networks Spy on Their Readers.”

Via the AP: “A Penn State University fraternity was suspended for a year Tuesday after police began investigating allegations that members used a private, invitation-only Facebook page to post photos of nude and partly nude women, some apparently asleep or passed out.”

Learnsprout’s Paul Smith offers a look at “the world of student information systems.” (For what it’s worth, this line strikes me as dangerous techno-solutionism: “ If the SIS isn’t ship shape, Johnny’s not getting into Harvard.”)

“Are Colleges Invading Their Students’ Privacy?” asks The Atlantic. Duh?

Apple Watch is officially out, and I’ve been getting the email pitches from companies bragging they have an app on it. PBS Kids’ Apple Watch app will let you control your children’s viewing on the PBS Kids iOS app. Sounds progressive. And according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Penn State will experiment with Apple Watch on campus this fall. It bought 8 watches, so yeah… Not really a one-to-one wearable computing initiative, I guess.

Well, here’s a chilling headline from Edsurge: "How Bank Regulation Applies to Student Data Privacy.”

The Economic Times reports that “Infosys co-founder and billionaire Nandan Nilekani, who spearheaded [India’s] massive unique identification project, is gearing up for an equally ambitious project – to help elementary school children across the country improve their reading and arithmetic skills using low-end tablets and smartphones.”

Mark Zuckerberg just dropped another $100M to protect his privacy.”

In still more NYC news, there’s a new database for parents to use to see their children’s attendance and grades, replacing the ARIS system.

Hal Friedlander, the department’s chief information officer, said on Tuesday that NYC Schools was designed internally for less than $2 million and was expected to cost under $4 million for further development over the next four years. By contrast, ARIS, developed by IBM and a group of subcontractors, cost the Education Department $95 million from 2007 to 2014. Department officials said that only 3 percent of parents used it. Teachers and principals used it more often, but a 2012 audit report by the city comptroller found that nearly half of them had not logged into the system during the previous year.

Via Edsurge: “Do Learning Management Systems Actually Improve K–12 Outcomes?

Via eCampusNews: Instructure has released Canvas Data, “a hosted data solution providing fully optimized data to K–12 and higher education institutions capturing online teaching and learning activity.”

No Child Left Un-Mined? Student Privacy at Risk in the Age of Big Data.”

NSA summer camps: “More hacking than hiking.”

Tony Bates on “Privacy and the use of learning analytics.”

Sorry, the way you type is exposing your identity online even if you're browsing anonymously.”

Harvard student loses Facebook internship after pointing out privacy flaws.”

AT&T Helped U.S. Spy on Internet on a Vast Scale.”

Via ProPublica: “First Library to Support Anonymous Internet Browsing Effort Stops After DHS Email.” The Kilton Public Library in New Hampshire was using Tor, but police have pressured the library to stop.

The Kilton Public Library in New Hampshire has voted to continue to support the Tor network. (Tor makes Internet browsing anonymous.) The Department of Homeland Security and local police had warned the library that running the relay would facilitate crime.

Via the LA School Report: “While LA Unified may still be struggling to integrate its iPads and other digital devices into the classroom, its police department has found a few useful things to do with theirs.” (That is, monitoring schools for “vulnerabilities.”)

The University of Maryland University College will spin out into a startup its data analytics platform, to be called HelioCampus. MindWire Consulting’s Phil Hill says “it is part of a growing trend for universities to act as ed-tech startup.” I’m not sure this is really a new thing, however as the history of ed-tech is full of these endeavors. TurnItIn. Computer Curriculum Corporation. PLATO. Carnegie Learning. WebCT. And on and on and on.

The New York Times profiles Clever, a startup that helps schools move student data to the various software they utilize.

This is the sort of partnership that always prompts me to say: we do a lousy job interrogating TOS and privacy policies in ed-tech. Via Campus Technology: “Civitas Learning Taps into Echo360 Student Data.” “‘Combining historic and student profile data with real-time classroom activity, gives institutions more actionable insights to help each individual student on their path to success,’ said Fred Singer, CEO of Echo360, in a prepared statement.”

Instructure Dodges a Data Bullet,” says Phil Hill. That is, Canvas Data is out of beta and will offer free daily data logs to clients, not just monthly logs as initially planned.

More universities adding drone programs.”

Carnegie Mellon Universities denies taking money from the FBI to infiltrate the TOR network.

The Big Sort: Our Problematic Obsession in American Education With Ranking People

The Cathedral of Computation

Justice for “Data Janitors”

Student privacy and social infrastructure

Lessons from the Digital Classroom

Hello Future Pastebin Readers

How obsessive self-tracking is eroding privacy for everyone

Data Mining Reveals How Smiling Evolved During a Century of Yearbook Photos.”

Optimism Returns to Student Data Privacy Debate.”

Personalized Learning is Not a Product

Education Week frames the story of Knewton’s product release as about OER, highlighting how misused the word “open” is in ed-tech. The headline changed on Buzzfeed’s coverage, but you can still see it in the URL slug. (Related: by Mindwires Consulting’s Michael Feldstein: “The Fraught Interaction Design of Personalized Learning Products.”

Westmont College is scanning its students’ brains to see if they’re learning. I love this quote:

“I was trying to think of something more ridiculous, but I couldn't,” said Robert A. Burton, a neurologist and author of A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves.

Inside Higher Ed covers D2L’s new adaptive learning offering.

Need another hint that “adaptive learning” is mostly meaningless marketing fluff? Here you go: Knewton and HP are teaming up to offer adaptive textbooks… in print.

Speaking of “personalization,” Inside Higher Ed’s Carl Straumsheim wrote about the so-called adaptive software offered by JumpCourse, demonstrating that it was pretty easy to guess one’s way through the coursework, something that can eventually lead to ACE credit: “General Ed Cheap and Easy.” As adaptive learning CEOs are wont to do, the CEO invokes “learning styles” (in part) as to why this is all okay.

Edukwest reports that Silicon Valley private school AltSchool, founded by Xoogler Max Ventilla, has hired more Silicon Valley tech types: “Joining the AltSchool team are Bharat Mediratta from Google, who has been appointed CTO. Uber’s former head of global security Michael Ginty has been appointed to head of safety at AltSchool. Former Rocket Fuel VP Sue Yoon and former Zynga Director of Product Rajiv Bhatia are also joining.” Because education is an engineering problem, clearly.

Carey's article was accompanied with a sidebar, a rewriting of the history of "personalized education,"" crediting Stanford University's Patrick Suppes as its "intellectual father." Of course, Jean-Jacques Rousseau was not in Silicon Valley when he penned Emile, so I guess that history does not count.

[TEx – Total Education Experience").” That’s the name of a new program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley that will combine “big-data and personalized approaches” to keep students on track. It’s all available on an iPad, so you can be sure it’s terrific.

A lawsuit charging that Google and Viacom illegally tracked kids using the Nickelodeon website has been dismissed, reports Re/code.

Coverage of the EFF’s complain from Buzzfeed, The Wall Street Journal, and Techcrunch.

Via The Oregonian: “Six University of Oregon employees, including a vice president and the school’s interim top lawyer, are under investigation for alleged misconduct in the handling of therapy records of a student who says she was gang-raped by three Ducks basketball players.”

First: the University of Oregon says it’s returned a students confidential files to the UO Counseling Center. Then: “An employee of the University of Oregon counseling center says she has been fired for signing a letter criticizing the university for accessing an 18-year-old student's therapy records,” reports The Register Guard. Those records were accessed by the UO, it contends, as part of its defense in a lawsuit by a student allegedly raped by three of the school’s basketball players.

Via Pacific Standard: “When Students Become Patients, Privacy Suffers.” Related to privacy and health records: “‘I Don’t Blame the University for a Rape. I Blame Them for How They Responded to It.’

Teachers applying for a Google Certified Educator certificate will be monitored via their webcams.

Common Sense Media to Release Privacy Ratings for Ed-Tech Products.”

A FERPA complaint has been filed by a parent, accusing Eva Moskowitz of violating student privacy.

Following criticism of an early version of a student privacy bill, its introduction was delayed.

Education Week obtained a draft of President Obama’s proposed “Student Digital Privacy Act” which has apparently been renamed to include the word “innovation.” “Unlike the California law, the draft version of the proposed federal bill obtained by Education Week does not contain an explicit prohibition on vendors amassing profiles of K-12 students for non-educational uses. Nor does the draft federal bill follow California's approach of prohibiting vendors from collecting student information via an educational site, service, or application, then using that information to target advertising to students elsewhere.”

As part of the SOTU, POTUS will propose “The Student Digital Privacy Act,” which is said to be modeled after the legislation passed last year in California banning the use of K-12 student data for advertising or marketing. “Industry Sees Promise, and Cause for Worry, in President's Data-Privacy Plans.”

Stanford Discourages Students From Viewing Their Admissions Files.”

Tuesday night, President Obama gave the annual State of the Union pep-talk. Among the education-related proposals: free community college, a law protecting student's data and privacy, streamlined higher education tax credits, and universal pre-school.

FERPA dictates that students (and until they’re 18, their parents) can access their education records. According to Reason, the Goodrich Area Schools in Michigan initially billed a mom $77,718.75 when she demanded access to her son’s records.

The US Supreme Court ruled that GPS trackers are a form of search and seizure, and as such could violate the Fourth Amendment. But hey, let’s hook students up to the Internet of Things!!

What happened when a parent fought for his kid’s privacy at an all-Chromebook school.”

Via The Intercept: “Not So Securus: Massive Hack of 70 Million Prisoner Phone Calls Indicates Violations of Attorney-Client Privilege.”

N.J. school district’s ’bitcoin hostage" problem caused by weak passwords, firewall holes

On VTech: Via Boing Boing: “Bad toy security led to massive toy maker hack that leaked data for 4.8 million families.” “Vtech toy data-breach gets worse: 6.3 million children implicated,” Cory Doctorow writes in a follow-up. More coverage from ZDNet. “Privacy, Parenting, and the VTech Breach,” by Common Sense Media’s Bill Fitzgerald. “VTech vs EDTech,” by Tony Porterfield.

Windows 10 defaults to keylogging, harvesting browser history, purchases, and covert listening.”

From Bruce Schneier: “For the past few months, Lenovo PCs have shipped with an adware app called Superfish that man-in-the-middles TLS connections. Here’s how it works, and here’s how to get rid of it. And you should get rid of it, not merely because it’s nasty adware. It’s a security risk. Someone with the password – here it is, cracked – can perform a man-in-the-middle attack on your security as well.”

Kean University is the latest to send admissions letters in error. 3000 people were mistakenly notified that they’d been accepted to the school.

Via The Register: “Toymaker Mattel has unveiled a high-tech Barbie that will listen to your child, record its words, send them over the internet for processing, and talk back to your kid. It will email you, as a parent, highlights of your youngster’s conversations with the toy.” What could go wrong?

Oops. Carnegie Mellon sent 800 students letters telling them they’d been admitted to its prestigious CS program – in error.

Texas State University joins the list of schools which have accidentally sent acceptance letters to the wrong students. Not sure how that compares to this: “University of Florida admits 3,000 students — then tells them it is only for online program”

Via Techcrunch: “The American Library Association Lost Control Of Their Facebook Page This Weekend.”

Florida high school science teacher Dean Liptak has been suspended for using a signal jamming device in his classroom in order to block students from using cellphones.

Hackers hijack school Twitter account, post photoshopped image of teacher in his underpants.”

Cryptography for Kids

Via E-Literate, “Instructure Releases 4th Security Audit, With a Crowd-sourcing Twist.”

A study from ID Analytics found that 140,000 identity frauds are perpetrated on minors each year.”

Meanwhile, as Gizmodo’s Annalee Newitz writes, “Almost None of the Women in the Ashley Madison Database Ever Used the Site.”

Two trends you just know ed-tech will pick up on: “App Used 23andMe’s DNA Database To Block People From Sites Based On Race And Gender.” And “Using Algorithms to Determine Character.”

Facebook patents technology to help lenders discriminate against borrowers based on social connections.”

Education Week’s summary of a NEPC report on privacy:

Its authors, Alex Molnar and Faith Boninger, both University of Colorado researchers, recommend that legal protections be extended beyond students’ formal educational records to include the wide range of student data – including anonymous information and “metadata,” such as what type of device a student is using or where they are accessing the Internet – that is now frequently collected and shared by ed-tech companies. The researchers also recommend that the legal burden to protect students’ information be shifted to include vendors, as well as schools and districts.

Phil Hill offers a round-up of news and analysis about Rutgers University and ProctorTrack, “which costs students $32 in additional fees, accessing their personal webcams, automatically tracks face and knuckle video as well as watching browser activity.” He adds, “Student privacy is a big issue, and students should have some input into the policies shaped by institutions.”

An op-ed in the NY Daily News argues that now that NYC has lifted the ban on cellphones in schools, there needs to be a better policy to protect students’ privacy and prevent unreasonable searches of the devices.

Edsurge also touted the benefits of eye tracking.

Via The Atlantic: “Long-Range Iris Scanning Is Here. An engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon says he’s invented technology that can identify someone from across the room with the precision of a fingerprint.” What could possibly go wrong?

Via The Toronto Star: “Toronto’s public school board hid a camera in the office of a principal suspected of misconduct, putting him under surveillance for ‘months’ before a caretaker found the device in a clock, says the Ontario Principals’ Council in an email to all Toronto administrators.”

Is ‘Hello Barbie’ spying on your kid?

Remember how last fall people were upset that Harvard researchers had surreptitiously recorded classrooms to gauge student attendance? Anyway… the research is now available.

Via the NSBA’s Legal Clips blog: “Utah Court of Appeals rules that video from school camera was subject to FERPA disclosure restrictions because it was an ‘education record.’

Who Controls Your Dissertation

Last year, plagiarism detection company TurnItIn acquired robo-essay grading startup LightSide Labs, and now TurnItIn has used that technology to release “Turnitin Scoring Engine, a service that provides automated scoring of short answer texts and written essays.”

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Government Surveillance

Via The New York Times: “Suicide on Campus and the Pressure of Perfection.”

The Princeton Review responds to UMKC.

Via Politico: “A new report from the Center for Community Alternatives finds that nearly 75 percent of colleges and universities collect high school disciplinary information, and the overwhelming majority consider those records in deciding which students to admit.”

The Department of Education has decided not to move forward with its plans to create a college ratings system. Instead it’s going to make a “consumer-focused website.”

“The U.S. Department of Education has set aside more than $4 million to develop the Obama administration’s college ratings system,” says Inside Higher Ed.

New York has passed a bill that would require sexual assault charges be included on college transcripts.

Virginia tops nation in sending students to cops, courts,” says The Center for Public Integrity.

Venture capitalists continue to demonstrate that they have no understanding of how school works. Take Mark Cuban, for example. He’s cited in Education Week promoting Snapchat and other “disappearing message apps,” (particularly one in his investment portfolio, CyberDust). “Hopefully, more school officials will use Cyber Dust,” Cuban said. “It will allow them to have private conversations where they can be honest and productive rather than writing every message … to protect themselves.” Uhhhhhhh.

Audrey Watters


Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015

A Hack Education Project

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