Ed tech from a parent perspective.

As faculty at a college, I use a great bit of technology. And I get pitched in emails by ed tech companies regularly. Others, such as Audrey Watters , have ably documented the fraud and corruption involved in the ed tech higher education world. Between working with tech (including some programming) and reading widely about evidence-based scholarship of teaching and learning, I don’t pay much attention to ed tech pitches by email: two seconds and it’s in my junk email.

I now have school-age kids, and am seeing the push by ed tech companies in the K-12 sector. For example, I recently saw the new company Class Tag pop up as sponsored posts at a couple teacher blogs. Here are a couple of concerns from a cursory, 5-minute review of their materiel.

  1. Their privacy policy “works similar to the way Facebook notifies of of friend requests.” I don’t think a privacy policy should work “similar to” anything: it should be explicit. Also, if you want to borrow a privacy policy, perhaps not Facebook?

Privacy policy



2. Parent shaming seems to be built into a scoreboard. If a parent doesn’t click through emails, they must not be engaged in the kids schooling, yes (NO).(this image comes from a teacher blog , not the company web page.)

Parent engagement dashboard 3. Translation is tough right? We pay people money to accurately translate others’ words, in medicine, in law, in literature. How is this startup going to accurately translate complicated messages about deeply personal learning issues? It’s not. And the translations will confuse everyone.
Language translation image

4. The privacy policy indicates they will share personal information (parent information, not children under 13) with any “affiliate of ClassTag who is in the same corporate family as us as long as their privacy practices are substantially similar to ours.” What is the same corporate family? And how substantial is substantial? The same corporate family makes little sense if Class Tag is a start up. Unless, like so many ed tech companies, what Class Tag wants to do is get big enough to be purchased by a larger company, that then mines the personal data of the start-up.






This is not a substantial review of this product or of those endorsing it. That said, knowing what I do of how higher ed tech operates, I’m gradually learning that K-12 ed tech works the same way.

As a final though, consider that this product is free to the teacher and parents. As so many have noted, you either pay for the product, or you are the product. There is no free.



Going quiet.

During various times in my career, I’ve stepped back from public-facing work. I attend but do not present at conferences. I organize fewer meetings. I avoid stirring up trouble.

This is one such time. On sabbatical, I work reasonably hard, taking coursework, reading widely on history and pedagogy, and doing my best to self-teach myself new tech. Currently I’m in a statistics 101 course and trying to decide if I want to host static pages on github using jekyll. I’m also reading about capabilities approach to development, feminism, and pedagogy and thinking about how it relates to signal theory, which is the purview of biologists and business folk. I came across both capabilities theory and signal theory in Zeynep Tuecki’s Twitter and Teargas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest.

What started with a “hey, I should read more” has turned into a fuller literature review. Right now, as I’m learning about both ideas, my ideas are inchoate. That said, I started my project with the idea that I could make my courses just a bit better for students in poverty. It turns out that the capabilties approach deploys a parallel idea of justice, encouraging us to make things more just regardless of where we are rather than try to set up a perfectly just system and work to that. What’s more, I’ve the beginning of a pedagogic framework that blends Freire’s notions of empowerment with the capabilties approach to justice.

So, while I’m not teaching this year, I find myself working as much as during “regular” work time. . . working quietly.

Safe home.