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Bill Fitzgerald | February 3, 2014

Dr. Alan Singer put out a piece on Huffington Post Education today ostensibly about how New York State education officials don't want to hear about objections to the Common Core standards. However, the piece goes off the rails into a criticism of a single person, and any point gets lost in the process.

The first seven paragraphs rehash New York education politics, including a summary of the New York Regents Research Fellows. In the eighth paragraph, things get messy.

On the EngageNY website and for the Regents Research Fund the chief salesperson for Common Core is Kate Gerson, a very attractive woman who appears to have minimal teaching experience. Although she is not an actual employ of the State Education Department, Gerson represents them at Common Core meetings across the state and is the featured Common...

Bill Fitzgerald | January 30, 2014

In discussions about student privacy and data collection, it's easy to remain stuck on small pieces of the larger picture. In the interest of showing a more complete picture, it's worth looking at the data trail that could be created from a single day of learning. To guide us on this journey, we will work with Sondra*, a sixteen year old high school student. Sondra is enrolled in her local public school. She plays basketball, and takes a regular courseload.

1. The Day

A. Waking Up

Sondra wakes up at 6:30. She has left her school-issued iPad (part of the schools 1:1 iPad initiative) on and charging all night. Her school has Google Apps; she messages Amy, her girfriend, and says a quick "hello" via hangout.

B. Homeroom

On her way to school, Sondra stops off and gets coffee. She had been up late the night before, and mornings are always difficult. The caffeine...

Bill Fitzgerald | January 25, 2014

In preparing for my Educon session, I've spent a fair amount of time reviewing the existing open content repositories, as well as sites dedicated to sharing individual lessons. Leaving the licensing terms of some lesson sharing sites aside for the moment, this review showed that if you are looking for either a complete openly licensed text or an individual lesson, you will have plenty - really, an almost overwhelming amount - of options.

What's largely missing, though, are any comparable sites supporting the work of teachers looking to create and share coherent sets of resources and activities that can be used to support learning. In working on the details of the Ancient Civilizations project, I found myself creating exactly that: a set of resources that hold...

Bill Fitzgerald | January 22, 2014

This Saturday, I will be facilitating a conversation at Educon focused on building the structure to support an openly licensed Ancient Civilizations course. The planned conversation is really one small piece of a longer process - during the session, we will split our time between working, identifying useful sources to incorporate into the course, identifying potential projects to help ground the work in interdisciplinary project-based learning, and identifying other people who might be interested in working on the course. At the risk of stating the obvious, the work required to do this right has started well before this event, and will continue well past. The conversation at Educon is somewhere in the middle of the process.

It's worth noting at the outset: using the term "course" for this work doesn't feel accurate. It's probably more accurate to say that we are...

Bill Fitzgerald | January 17, 2014

As discussed yesterday, the terms of use on BetterLesson are confusing to the point of hostile to end users. The issues on BetterLesson could easily be the result of oversight, and they also have said that they are looking into it.

Both sites are partnered with a teacher's union: the American Federation of Teachers partners with ShareMyLesson, while the National Education Association partners with BetterLesson.

While the terms on ShareMyLesson are more direct, they still do not respect the choices of content authors. ShareMyLesson claims full rights to do whatever it wants with any content in the site; this is defined in the "Rights In Posted Content" section of ShareMyLesson's Terms of Service:

With respect to all Content you...

Bill Fitzgerald | January 16, 2014

At the outset of this post, I want to make my biases clear: I am an open content advocate. There are many reasons why I am an open content advocate; foremost among them is the belief that unfettered access - including the ability to freely access, modify, and redistribute material used while learning - helps eliminate barriers to learning. Additionally, the ability to freely access, modify, and redistribute material puts both teachers and learners at the center of the process. It shifts how we look at both texts and learning. If our texts are fixed and malleable, it's easier to see learning as a process of acquiring and remembering a set of "facts." If, however, we look at a text - or a lesson - as the starting point in the conversation that we call learning, we reinforce the role of the teacher and learner as active participants in the process.

There are other reasons that I support open content, and see widespread adoption of open content as a cure for some of what ails...

Bill Fitzgerald | January 13, 2014

In a classroom setting, as in life, a gulf often exists between the conversation we want to have and the conversation that we get. Understanding why that gulf exists - why what we wanted isn't what we got - can be frustrating and painful.

Yesterday, Grant Wiggins wanted to have a conversation about school climate, and how the general practice of separate lunchrooms and bathrooms for students and teachers could impair the relationships between students and teachers.

However, to make his point, Wiggins compared separate facilities to apartheid. Jose Vilson and Tressie McMillan Cottom did an effective job describing the myriad issues with Wiggins' original post.

Fortunately, I was able to retrieve a cached version of Wiggin's original...

Bill Fitzgerald | January 9, 2014

This post started off as a comment in reply to Leonie Haimson, but it morphed into something more substantial so I made it a separate, new post.


Hello, Leonie,

I'm glad that we agree about the need to safeguard student privacy.

I see the issues related to privacy and data collection playing out against a backdrop where the rights of learners are systematically downplayed and ignored. If we limit our work to stopping data from being shared in a single instance - to a single entity, in one type of datastore - we've delayed the problem but we haven't solved it. Students are still exposed to the next collection effort that comes along, and they have no new rights.

If, however, we shift the frame to include and emphasize the rights of the learner to own their own data, we are having a different conversation that empowers learners over time, across systems, and - most importantly - doesn't...

Bill Fitzgerald | January 7, 2014

EdWeek has an article up about inBloom. It commits many of the standard errors when writing about data collection and student privacy. The entire piece is filled with minor errors, but rather than nitpick the entire thing to death I want to highlight some of the general types of mistakes that get in the way of a coherent discussion of data collection and student ownership of their data.

We'll start with the article's incomplete characterization of what inBloom does:

InBloom provides school districts and states with a service that allows them to store data in an encrypted, cloud-based system. Educators can access that centralized system to pull together data that is usually stored in many different locations, often by third-party vendors. Though current clients are using its service for free, the company is phasing in a charge of $2 to $5 per student by 2015.

...
Bill Fitzgerald | January 6, 2014

In 2013, there has been a burst of attention on data collection and student privacy. Much of the attention has linked data collection to the Common Core rollout, but these arguments are not grounded in fact. Data collection predates Common Core. Here are a few simple examples pulled from the "Customers" page of a single vendor, eScholar.

In this post, I link to case studies included on eScholar's "Customers" page; I also include the case studies as attachments to this post in case the eScholar links change or go dead.

Pennsylvania

From http://escholar.com/documents/Pennsylvania_CaseStudy.pdf

In the quotations below, PDE stands for Pennsylvania Department of Education.

PDE kicked off this project in December of 2005 with a very aggressive timeline of assigning a statewide identifier, known as PAsecureID, to each of...

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