Student privacy concerns hover over big data analytics

Dive Brief:

  • The private micro-school program AltSchool, funded in part with $133 million dollars of venture capital from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and others, has a staff that contains over 50 engineers, data scientists, and developers who are designing tools to measure student performance, physical feedback, and more, which Education Week reports could be available to other schools by the 2018 academic year.
  • Intensive data collection is being tested on AltSchool students, whose habits are subjected to analysis by scientists searching for patterns in engagement, how classroom resources are used, social habits, student attention span, and more.
  • Because AltSchool is such a dramatic example, many education experts welcome its experimentation since it sparks dialogue over the use of analytics and privacy in the classroom.

Dive Insight:

The tech-focused private school startup is still relatively new, though its growing chain of seven microschools now has roots in California and Brooklyn, with additional plans for Chicago. And its approach is apparently connecting in those communities, with a reported 4,000 applicants vying for just 200 slots.

Yet from the beginning, the approach  which eliminates traditional class structures, focuses on tech, and brings video cameras into the classroom for accountability and data collection  has been controversial. AltSchool uses its own proprietary software and collects what some view as an excessive amount of student data.

Student data collection has seen plenty of pushback in recent years, with lawsuits filed that allege spying on students by tech companies like Google. A new campaign launched last month by the Electronic Frontier Foundation focuses on data collection in public school classrooms, and is crowdsourcing information. 

Recommended Reading

Education Week: The Future of Big Data and Analytics in K-12 Education