Learning Analytics Apps in Schools: Parents will drive Implementation as well as Privacy Concerns


The New York Times reports (November 16, 2014) on «Privacy Concerns for ClassDojo and Other Tracking Apps for Schoolchildren».  ClassDojo, a new app claimed to be used by at least one teacher in roughly one out of three schools in the United States, lets teachers award points and subtract them based on a student’s conduct. While the app has some gains for the teacher, it is clearly the parents that are targeted by the developer as it allows the teachers to communicate directly with them. ClassDojo is free to install and use; the business model, however, is to develop to parents additional services, like more detailed behaviour analysis, The New York Times reports.

See full The New York Times story

While parents would drive implementation, they are also the ones to warn against privacy issues. The case of ClassDojo shows similarities with other services on the European market. Innovative services are introduced to the teachers and schools. When questions are raised about who owns the data, and how will they be used, the answer is to update (in the case of ClassDojo) or point to the product’s privacy policy stating that the service will not share personal information to any third party, and assure that  ‘it is the user’s own data’.

What ownership to the individual student’s data may mean, is not clear when there is substantial pressure from teachers and parents to implement a system for the whole class. If one student is opting out, the system would break; or at least, the child not being showered with virtual badges for obedience (or getting a disappointed pong sound for disobedience) will have a hard time.

Tracking apps for children raises a number of questions that teachers, school principals, parent groups and school authorities have to find answers to. The industry solution to the privacy concerns is to keep the data within the company. The only way they can capitalise on the data is to sell additional services to the ones willing to pay, mainly the parents. What models and algorithms that are used to come up with the services will not be revealed to the users, who are trapped in a system that has built-in barriers for opting out. It will not be easy to be a privacy sceptic in a parents’ meeting dominated by happy mothers and fathers with good score cards.

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About Author

Tore Hoel is affiliated with Learning Centre and Library at HiOA, and has been working within the learning technology standardisation community for more than ten years. He is now working on Learning Analytics Interoperability within the LACE project.

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