Hyping Personalized Digital Instead of Closed-Loop Learning Sounds Better. Omits all that Troubling Data Gathering Too

I really am not opposed to the 21st Century. I simply notice when I am dealing with a slogan for self-interested change instead of the real rationale. For a long time that has been my suspicion about the Digital Learning push. It would enrich the sellers of all that computer equipment and software. But it’s a lot more than that. I have come a long way since a speech by former West Virginia Governor, Bob Wise, hyping Digital Learning by pulling at the heart strings. He had the audience visualizing the children in isolated Appalachian hamlets hungry for knowledge. Suddenly gaining access to the top science lecturers via ICT and having the chance to move beyond their current circumstances.

I remember thinking that I had just read repeated insistences that under the Common Core teaching template lecturing and explaining concepts systematically were out. As in better not do it if you want to keep your job. So the poignant story just came across as a desire to sell Digital Learning where the facts did not fit the sales job. But we have education doctorates now credentialing based on an agreement to make technology the focus of school. It’s central to the accreditation vision of schools and districts going forward. It is central to the UN’s vision of the 21st century “bureaucrats manage us and we don’t complain about it” Knowledge Society.

The one I explained here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/all-that-is-solid-melts-into-air-but-does-it-really/ where knowledge as we know it is mostly missing and intuitions and hunches substitute just fine. I have ed tech conferences going back more than two decades giddily acknowledging that digital learning is a Trojan Horse, weakening academics but doing wonders for social inclusion. We have Basareb Nicolescu, President of UNESCO’s CIRET, writing about “The Transdisciplinary Evolution of Learning” where “mentalities evolve” because “courses at all levels” must now “sensitize students and awaken them to the harmony between beings and things.” Remember that when we get to Learning Maps below. And that this consistency of coursework is best accomplished by extending “networks, such as the Internet, and ‘invent’ the education of the future by insuring planet-wide activity in continuous feedback, thereby establishing interactions on the universal level for the first time.”

Which certainly sounds like what is going on with the MOOCs like EdX and their now global partnership of higher ed institutions. The problem no one is focusing on was laid out in a November 2012 UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE for short) report on Learner Analytics. If you are not familiar with IITE, perhaps it is because it is located in Moscow. Yes, the one that likes onion-domed architecture and seriously regrets the loss of its former Superpower status. In case “Learner Analytics” is a new term for you too, I will include IITE’s definition. Since the US Department of Ed has also quietly put out a report advocating LA and education data mining, let’s all listen up now:

Learning Analytics appropriates [captured digital data to help inform decision-making] for education. With the growth of huge data sets and computational power, this extends to designing infrastructures that exploit rapid feedback, to inform more timely interventions, whose impact can then be monitored. Organizations have increasingly sensitive ‘digital nervous systems’ providing real time feedback on the external environment and the effect of actions.”

So in K-12 Digital Learning the computer system is capturing a great deal of info on each student’s interests, capabilities, responses to questions, attitudes, perseverence, actions, etc. As to MOOCs and free online gaming, well that LA report said point blank:

“The free hosting of learning platforms and courses by initiatives such as Harvard+MIT’s edX are quite openly motivated by the opportunities that come with the ownership of unprecedented data sets from millions of learners’ interactions.”

Which is apparently so useful that MIT now has a Human Dynamics Lab looking at a society enabled by Big Data. http://hd.media.mit.edu/ . Something to think about with Peter Senge and Otto Scharmer and reorganizing 21st century society around systems thinking. And the push at Harvard and MIT for Action Science and a new economy based on needs and distributed capitalism. Not to be paranoid but the National Academy of Sciences really did advocate that the US economy be reorganized around Sustainability and planned with Big Data with the aid of the tech companies like Microsoft and IBM. And at the precise same time K-12 and higher ed are being reorganized to limit knowledge and just rain personal behavioral data on companies like Coursera and EdX and NewsCorp’s Amplify and Carnegie and Gates-funded inBloom. What are the odds?

I read the new book Big Data this weekend and it states that if another company came up with “an e-commerce site, social network, or search engine that was much better than today’s leaders like Amazon, Google, or Facebook, it would have trouble competing…because so much of the leading firms’ performance is due to the data exhaust they collect from customer interactions and incorporate back into the service.” Now if that is true now, imagine combining that inferential data with all the personal behavioral data scheduled to become available from the new gaming focus of K-12 and the expansion of the MOOCs and the online delivery of basic math and literacy skills.

When I had the epiphany that perhaps the real purpose of the Common Core State Standards was to get Digital Learning in place and all the behavioral data that would then start to flow, I searched for a connection to Big Data. Up popped this recent article http://online.stanford.edu/news/2013/02/19/learning-goes-digital-big-data-can-guide-us on Stanford Prof Roy Pea, a big fan of Soviet Lev Vygotsky, who we already met in this troubling Cyberlearning post. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/the-need-to-know-as-we-understand-it-today-may-be-a-lethal-cultural-sport/

I actually listened to the hourlong EduCause keynote speech by Professor Pea and took good notes, Beyond all the data flowing out of MOOCs, both Professor Pea and the OSCon July 2012 speech of Danny Hillis from Applied Minds he referenced (and I also listened to) made it clear that online courses require Learning Maps. Closed Loop Learning Maps of a Domain that the student moves through with a visual interaction via computer. Hillis and Pea said the Common Core takes K-12 in this direction and then each put up a slide of skills with the title: “Example of Competencies That the Map Needs to Show.”

MOOCs then would do the same for higher ed. In fact, Pea lamented that “learning maps are conspicuously absent” in higher ed and that their “development is an ‘urgent priority.” Doesn’t that sound lovely? These are the skills step-by-step we want you to have and we are designing backward from the end view. The skills needed for the UN’s Knowledge Society.  The one of just experiential knowledge and hunches and basic skills as described above and in this deeply troubling recent report   http://www.un.org/sg/management/pdf/HLP_P2015_Report.pdf

Hillis and Pea both talked about the InBloom K-12 database that will make “open access, flexible, useful learning maps and recommended learning resources for every student’s specific interests and needs–a reality throughout US schools.” Which is of course only possible because of all the personal behavioral data to be captured by the computers and software and Amplify tablets etc. Hillis also mentioned that the Gates Foundation funded the buildout of inBloom’s “personalized learning” infrastructure as part of its much broader interests in education that go far beyond the Common Core.

Now the Big Data book says it is now impossible for an individual to limit the flows of Big Data everyday and that we just need to make the companies accountable for what they do with it. But accountable to who? The US federal government wants the tech companies to help governments at all levels rework the nature of the economy. The UN wants the Knowledge Society with a global Mutual Benefit economy that looks like a modern version of that little c communism vision that Uncle Karl came up with so long ago. They claim that will result in a peaceful world by 2030. Transdisciplinarity and Sustainability and MOOCs and Competencies and 21st Century Learning are ALL premised on this revised UN-developed vision of the future.

I know because IITE issued an April 2012 Policy Brief that says precisely that called “ICTs for Curriculum Change.” Where is our recourse if that’s the vision the Gates Foundation is actually funding our transformation to? or Carnegie? or the National Science Foundation?

And through inBloom and Digital Learning and expanding MOOCs we are about to put Big Data on steroids with info on thoughts and desires and feelings for virtually every student in K-12. Professor Pea pointed out that MOOCs will not be about working with a professor. They will be about students working with each other. An online social learning community throwing off personal data.

Community. Community. The omnipresent vision of the 21st century.

Will there be any place for the independent individual in this vision?