By Stephanie Simon at Politico
BIG DATA UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Online learning has exploded in both K-12 and higher education. And the more students click away, the more personal information they reveal — not just about what they know, but about how they think and learn. A conference opening this weekend in California aims to tackle the ethical, technological and academic questions raised by all that data. The workshop, which runs June 1 through 4, brings together sociologists, computer scientists, lawyers, researchers and others to explore the risks and benefits of collecting, storing and mining all the data students shed while engaging in digital learning. The focus will be on MOOCs, but the findings will likely be applicable to the K-12 environment too.
— Organizers hope to come up with recommended policies for storing data, protecting personal information and allowing researchers to access files. They’re modeling the conference after a 1975 gathering that drew together lawyers, scientists and physicians to write up key principles governing research with human subjects. The goal is to avoid imposing “inherited rules” from other disciplines on the emerging field of data-mining students. “Online learners deserve better than that. The science does, too,” said Mitchell Stevens, associate professor of education at Stanford.
— Stevens organized “Digital Learning Data as a Public Good,” with Susan Silbey, a professor of humanities at MIT, and John Mitchell, Stanford’s vice provost for online learning. Participants are mostly academics but also include representatives from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: http://stanford.io/1mK0K7y.
SPEAKING OF MOOCS: The ed tech company Instructure this week unveiled a new platform, dubbed Canvas Catalog, that lets any college or university host its own online courses, without partnering with existing companies such as Coursera, edX or Udacity. It’s called a “white-label” platform, meaning it offers a blank slate that the institution can mark with its own brand, letting even small colleges make a splash online.
AND SPEAKING OF PRIVACY: Facebook wants to patent a system for letting children create accounts with parental supervision, a sign the social network may be moving closer to extending membership to pre-teens. Facebook now bans kids under 13, in part because the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, limits how much information online companies can collect on young children. But CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said bringing pre-teens to the social network is a fight worth pursuing. “My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age,” he said in 2011. Julia Horowitz, a lawyer for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, isn’t so sure. Letting kids open Facebook accounts assumes “an adult level of discretion that’s unreasonable to ask of children,” she said. Pro Technology’s Erin Mershon has the story: http://politico.pro/1nyWUS2.
GOOD MORNING, IT’S FRIDAY, MAY 30. It’s the end-of-the-year crunch for school projects, which sent my husband to a thrift store in frantic search for an Edmond Halley costume. Our fourth grader pronounced the result “more 1950s gangster than 18th century astronomer” but wore it all the same. Maybe we should have worked on a comet costume instead. Please send news tips for the weekend to Maggie Severns email@example.com. Send events firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Twitter: @Morning_Edu and @POLITICOPro.
SPEAKING OF FACEBOOK: Founder Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, today announced a $120 million commitment to improve education in San Francisco-area schools. Of that, they wrote in the San Jose Mercury News, the first $5 million will go to initiatives that provide computers and connectivity in schools. Through their Startup:Education foundation, the couple wrote, the project will also work with partners to start new district and charter schools. They also championed the results of their $100 million donation to Newark schools four years ago (which has plenty of critics): “A lot of the work we started is still underway, but we’ve already seen some good results. Newark now has the leading teacher contract in the country that was developed with teachers to reward good performance. New district and charter schools run by organizations with a track record of success have started, as well as 50 new principals. Across the district, the graduation rate has grown by 10 percent.” More: http://bit.ly/1tt52ko.
RAINING ON ‘READING RAINBOW’ PARADE: A Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to create an interactive digital library inspired by the old kids’ TV show “Reading Rainbow” has been hugely successful. It reached its $1 million goal in less than a day and has now passed $2.3 million. But as the money has rolled in, critics have piped up. The Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey pointed out that the reincarnated Reading Rainbow is a for-profit company and the ‘interactive library’ is an app — with a monthly subscription fee. Others took to Twitter to recommend that book lovers donate their cash, or their time, to support public libraries and public schools. The Kickstarter page: http://kck.st/1gG5yv4. Dewey’s story:http://wapo.st/1jyxonL.
FREE SPEECH TAKES A HIT: Commencement speaker protests grew so loud this year [http://politi.co/1o2Jp97] that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education was inspired to publish its first report on the topic. It found today’s college students are more finicky than ever: The number of reported “disinvitations” and demands that invitations be rescinded rose from six in 2000 to 29 in 2013 and there were 129 total protests over the 14 years. Most often, speakers’ perceived views on gay rights sparked opposition; abortion and the “War on Terror” were the second-most common points of contention. (Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was the center of this year’s most high-profile protest.)
— “The data confirms what we and many others suspected,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “The desire to silence speakers on campus is strong — and disturbingly, ‘disinvitations’ are becoming more common.” The report: http://bit.ly/1rmjVJJ.
— Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg weighed in on the trend — to decry it — in his first blog post on Bloomberg View since 2012. “Tolerance for other people’s ideas and the freedom to express your own are inseparable values,” he wrote, part of the “sacred trust” at the heart of democracy. “But that trust is perpetually vulnerable to the tyrannical tendencies of monarchs, mobs and majorities. And lately, we have seen those tendencies manifest themselves too often, both on college campuses and in our society.” http://bv.ms/1k5WIHR.
‘BROTHER’S KEEPER’ MOVES FORWARD: A White House task force charged with coming up with a plan to boost achievement for young minority men will deliver their findings to President Barack Obama today. The plan will call for focusing on early reading skills and career training. Obama will also call on members of his administration and the public to take a pledge to mentor young men of color.
NOT JUST CHILD’S PLAY: University of Chicago economist James Heckman, the Nobel Prize winner who has focused on the value of pre-K, is out with a new study looking at early childhood education in Jamaica. He and co-author Paul Gertler, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, find a substantial and sustained benefit to a home visitation program that teaches low-income mothers how to play with their toddlers in ways that promote their cognitive and emotional development. When those children grew up, they earned on average 25 percent more than a control group. The paper will be published today in the journal Science. An abstract: http://bit.ly/1kPogjw.
CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS OVER COMMON CORE?: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is still weighing whether to sign a bill repealing the Common Core. The National Association of School Boards of Education is doing its best to persuade her not to with a lengthy letter arguing that the bill is unconstitutional. NASBE contends the bill violates the separation of powers by ordering the state school board to develop new standards — but giving the legislature the power to review, approve or amend them. “The manner in which HB 3399 is designed is constitutionally infirm,” NASBE argues. Fallin has until June 7 to decide. The letter:http://politico.pro/1hgK3Sd.
REPORT ROLL CALL
— States continue to face challenges to implementing the 2008 Fostering Connections Act for foster children. Government Accountability Office: http://1.usa.gov/TYlzTe.
— School choice programs such as vouchers can create regulatory burdens. The Friedman Foundation: http://bit.ly/TYnlnu.
— The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has developed a test so that any high school can compare itself with schools worldwide in reading, math and science: http://bit.ly/1nsJwiq.