5 Risks Posed by the Increasing Misuse of Technology in Schools (Diane Ravitch)

  “Diane Ravitch is a Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. She is the Founder and President of the Network for Public Education (NPE) and blogs at dianeravitch.net.”

This appeared in EdSurge, December 29, 2017

At any given moment in the day, I am attached to my cellphone, my iPad or my computer. As a writer, I was an early convert to the computer. I began writing on a TRS-80 from Radio Shack in 1983 on wonderful writing software called WordPerfect, which has mysteriously disappeared. I had two TRS-80s, because one of them was always in repair. I love the computer for many reasons. I no longer had to white out my errors; I no longer had to retype an entire article because of errors. My handwriting is almost completely illegible. The computer is a godsend for a writer and editor.

I have seen teachers who use technology to inspire inquiry, research, creativity and excitement. I understand what a powerful tool it is.

But it is also fraught with risk, and the tech industry has not done enough to mitigate the risks.

Risk One: The Threat to Student Privacy

Risk one is the invasion of student privacy, utilizing data by tech companies collected when students are online. The story of inBloom is a cautionary tale. Funded in 2014 with $100 million from the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation, inBloom intended to collect massive amounts of personally identifiable student data and use it to “personalize” learning to each student.

Parents became alarmed by the plan to put their children’s data into a cloud and mobilized in communities and states to stop inBloom. They were not nearly as impressed by the possibilities of data-driven instruction as the entrepreneurs promoting inBloom. The parents won. State after state dropped out, and inBloom collapsed.

Though inBloom is dead, the threat to student privacy is not. Every time a student makes a keystroke, an algorithm somewhere is collecting information about that student. Will his or her data be sold? The benefit to entrepreneurs and corporations is clear; the benefit to students is not at all clear.

Risk Two: The Proliferation of ‘Personalized Learning’

Personalized learning, or “competency-based education,” are both euphemisms for computer adaptive instruction. Again, a parent rebellion is brewing, because parents want their children taught by a human being, not a computer. They fear that their children will be mechanized, standardized, subjected to depersonalized instruction, not “personalized learning.” While many entrepreneurs are investing in software to capture this burgeoning industry, there is still no solid evidence that students learn more or better when taught by a computer.

Risk Three: The Extensive Use of Technology for Assessment.

Technology is highly compatible with standardized testing, which encourages standardized questions and standardized answers. If the goal of learning is to teach creativity, imagination, and risk-taking, assessment should encourage students to be critical thinkers, not accepting the conventional wisdom, not checking off the right answer. Furthermore, the ability of computers to judge essays is still undeveloped and may remain so. Professor Les Perelman at MIT demonstrated that computer-graded essays can get high scores for gibberish and that computers lack the “intelligence” to reason or understand what matters most in writing.

Risk four: The Cyber Charter School

Most such virtual schools, or cyber charters, are operated for profit; the largest of them is a chain called K12 Inc., which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Its executives are paid millions of dollars each year. Its biggest initial investor was the junk bond king Michael Milken. Numerous articles in publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post have documented high student attrition, low teacher wages, low student test scores and low graduation rates. Yet the company is profitable.

The most controversial school in Ohio is the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), whose owner makes political contributions to office-holders and has collected about $1 billion in taxpayer dollars since 2000. ECOT reputedly has the lowest graduation rate in the nation. The state of Ohio recently won a lawsuit requiring ECOT to return $60 million because of inflated enrollment figures. Studies of cyber charters have concluded that students learn very little when enrolled in them. There may be students who have legitimate reasons to learn at home online, but these “schools” should not receive the same tuition as brick-and-mortar schools that have certified teachers, custodians, libraries, the costs of physical maintenance, playgrounds, teams, school nurses and other necessities.

Risk Five: Money in Edtech

The tech industry wields its money in dubious ways to peddle its product. The market for technology is burgeoning, and a large industry is hovering around the schools, eager for their business. In November 2017, the New York Times published an expose of the business practices of the tech industry in Baltimore County. It documented payola, influence peddling and expensive wining and dining of school officials, which resulted in nearly $300 million of spending on computers that received low ratings by evaluators and that were soon obsolescent. This, in a district that has neglected the basic maintenance of some of its buildings.

The greatest fear of parents and teachers is that the tech industry wants to replace teachers with computers. They fear that the business leaders want to cut costs by replacing expensive humans with inexpensive machines, that never require health care or a pension. They believe that education requires human interaction. They prefer experience, wisdom, judgment, sensibility, sensitivity and compassion in the classroom to the cold, static excellence of a machine.

I agree with them.


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13 responses to “5 Risks Posed by the Increasing Misuse of Technology in Schools (Diane Ravitch)

  1. Thanks, Larry,


    On Fri, Jan 5, 2018 at 4:01 AM Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice wrote:

    > larrycuban posted: ” “Diane Ravitch is a Research Professor of Education > at New York University and a historian of education. She is the Founder and > President of the Network for Public Education (NPE) and blogs at > dianeravitch.net.” This appeared in EdSurge, December 29, 20″ >

  2. Larry, el personalized learning no va de eso, si que es cierto que es necesario la intervencion de la inteligencia artificial por medio de algoritmos, pero personalizados, no estandarizados:

    “El aprendizaje personalizado”, propio e implícito en nuestros estudios y prácticas reales, se puede llevar a cabo donde, cuando y cómo se quiera, por lo que las modalidades formales, no formales, informales, en vez de estar segmentadas como hasta ahora, ya se “mezclan” entre si, con lo que el concepto de lo que conocemos por EDUCACIÓN, cambia radicalmente (germen de la Educación Disruptiva).

    No concibo el Social learning sin el personalized learning, así como la educación inclusiva, el cambio de roles y la ayuda de las TIC, Internet, AI…Si abogamos por un aprendizaje donde el responsable sea el aprendiz, que no es lo mismo que se suele afirmas “el aprendizaje es el centro del aprendizaje, ya que estos postulados solo se contempla las fortalezas del mismo y se sigue sin tener en cuenta el cambio de roles” (Juan Domingo Farnós)

    La definición de aprendizaje personalizado está evolucionando rápidamente y su diferencia con respecto a otros temas de la próxima generación, como el aprendizaje de la próxima generación y el aprendizaje combinado, puede que no esté claro. El aprendizaje personalizado puede tener lugar en entornos digitalmente mejorados o no.
    Incluso la confusión que tienen muchos entre personalized learning y personal learning, ya que el segundo no es más que un aprendizaje individualizado, nos proporciona varias dimensiones a través de las cuales se puede definir el aprendizaje personal, pero nunca el personalizado (Stephen Downes) en http://www.downes.ca/post/65065 “Personal and personalized learning” (https://juandomingofarnos.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/el-personalized-learningsocial-learning-dejan-atras-el-personal-learning/)

    Una cosa que me parece fascinante la idea de que se podrá crear un “perfil de aprendizaje”, una identidad que es esencialmente un paquete digital de nuestras preferencias de aprendizaje y los contenidos del aprendizaje del pasado, que se podrá acceder por las máquina (PERSONALIZED LEARNING + MACHINE LEARNING. by Juan Domingo Farnos)

    Esto permitirá que la “máquina” en realidad adapte sus interfaces de usuario, el contenido de aprendizaje y la experiencia en sí misma, y presentar información de una manera que se adapte a las preferencias de los humanos….eso sin duda nos lleva a la VERDADERA SOCIEDAD INTELIGENTE.

    Todo ello ocasionará un Aprendizaje integrado – aprendizaje en red que estará integrado en cada dispositivo, cada herramienta, cada recurso físico de LAS PERSONAS, no hay necesidad de una formación específica, la información más reciente estará disponible sólo en el tiempo, de fuentes auténticas COMPUTACIÓN UBÍCUA E I-BICUA, a juzgar por el valioso análisis de la red, siempre con el contexto y que las personas prestemos nuestra ayuda.

    Una manera de explicar las posibilidades de la Internet como medio de comunicación es conceptualizarla como un conjunto de “herramientas” y de “espacios” y “tiempos” en los que comunidades de seres humanos con intereses comunes interactúan e intercambian información :
    * Espacios para la comunicación síncrona y asíncrona individuo-individuo o individuo-grupo.
    * Espacios para la interacción y la actividad social.
    * Espacios para la información, para la distribución, búsqueda y recuperación de información en cualquier formato digital.
    * Espacios para la educación y la formación.
    Como afirman Hiltz y Turoff (1993), no es la tecnología hardware y software la que proporciona el potencial de mejora del proceso educativo. Los entresijos de estos mecanismos de comunicación deben llegar a ser lo más invisibles posible para los participantes.

    Los objetivos de estos procesos pretenden hacer frente a las necesidades actuales y las oportunidades de aprendizaje, mediante esta analítica recogiendo los enfoques multidisciplinares pero complementarios de diferentes campos, tales como Ciencias de la Computación, Ciencias de datos, Matemáticas, Educación, Sociología…, eso si, deben ser siempre personalizados y con la responsabilidad de los propios aprendices.
    Necesitamos por tanto:
    1–Análizar el aprendizaje basado en competencias, lo que nos llevará…
    2–Aprender y por tanto a realizar la propia evaluación (recordemos que cada aprendizaje lleva impreso consigo la evaluación, ya no como una medición, si no como parte del mismo) con los procesos de aprendizaje de los demás mediante el análisis de ruta de aprendizaje personal y social. Al mismo tiempo, el mecanismo de aprendizaje tecno-social personalizado nos permite que el aprendiz aprenda de acuerdo a su situación y objetivos.
    3–Establecer una ruta de aprendizaje individual lo podemos modelar para registrar su proceso de aprendizaje. Por tanto, el espacio de aprendizaje personal (PLE), sera siempre un espacio no lineal…, es en esta situación donde el pensamiento crítico actua de manera determianante, para manifestarse capaz de deducir las consecuencias de lo que cada uno sabe, y sabe cómo hacer uso de la información para resolver problemas, y buscar fuentes de información pertinentes para aprender más…
    4-Realizar un análisis de aprendizaje para la evaluación de las competencias genéricas y específicas:
    a-La integración de la analítica de investigación y aprendizajes educativos.
    b-Analíticas de aprendizaje y el aprendizaje autorregulado.
    c-Intervenciones y análisis de los diferentes aprendizajes, estudio de casos…
    d-Implementaciones de la analítica de aprendizaje.
    e-Analíticas de aprendizaje y efectos a largo plazo (estudios sobre la analítica de aprendizaje).
    f-Los avances teóricos en la analítica de aprendizaje.
    g-Replicación y validación cruzada de las investigaciones existentes.
    h-Aspectos éticos de la analítica de aprendizaje.
    i-Analíticas de aprendizaje y formulación de políticas (policy makers)
    j–Interoperabilidad para la analítica de aprendizaje.

    La personalización por las tecnologías digitales sólo libera los seres humanos para personalizar mejor nuestra vida (es decir, encontrar nuestras propias maneras), lo demás deben hacerlo las tecnologías y e aquí mi insistencia en conseguir un ALGORITMO, el cual pueda facilitar la recepción de DATOS, pasarlos por un proceso de ANALISIS Y CRITICA, lo que los transformará en APRENDIZAJES. Si todo el proceso esta evaluado, necesitaremos el algoritmo para que nos realice la retroalimentación. Lo cual hará que todo nuestro proceso de aprendizaje este ayudado por este proceso tecnológico, pero siempre seremos nosotros quienes elijamos en última instancia el camino que vamos a seguir, frente a las múltiples propuestas en “beta” que nos presentará la tecnología..

    • larrycuban

      Thanks, Juan, for the comment on personalized learning. Up to Diane on any reply.

      • El futuro de la Educacion Larry, Diane, está en el personalized learning de manera inclusiva y para ello necesitamos del machine learning y de algorotmos, eso si, como hablamos con Pierre Lévy, Algoritmos que nos lleven a aplicaciones personalizadas, no a patrones estandarizados.

        Todo ello evidentemente dentro de un nuevo paradigma, en el actual es imposible y con un cambio de roles= el alumno pasa a ser el responsable de su aprendizaje=evaluación y el sistema queda como su auxiliar para sin duda dejar las connotaciones jerarquizadas del propio sistema por una educación abierta, inclusiva y ubicua (Farnos 2000-2004 y …


      • larrycuban

        Thank you again, Juan, for your comments on personalized learning and its importance.

  3. Jim Masters

    While thirty-three years of service to students, parents, and educators has most assuredly shaped my perspective, what are your thoughts as to why it is so easy to put our faith, relative to improved educational outcomes, in structures, materials, and things as opposed to understanding student needs, the critical nature of student engagement with a capable teacher, and the impact of our instruction. May have tipped my hand a bit, but always willing to consider another’s point of view. Thank you for prompting my thinking and taking the time to respond.

    • larrycuban

      I find the answer to your question in both the history of education and the nation’s history, that is, a few centuries of great affection for technologies and their application to existing problems. Thanks for comment and question, Jim.

  4. EB

    “Personalized learning” is a response to a specific issue within K-12 education (namely, that it’s not a good use of time for students to practice skills/knowledge that they are not ready for, or have already mastered) and then trying to use the technology for purposes other than practice. We have long used technology to differentiate practice — ranging from flash cards to language labs. The problem comes when the technology starts to infringe on actual teaching.

  5. Laura H. Chapman

    I read the comments at the EdSurge version of this. I do not Facebook and so was excluded from the comment section. In itself, that is a lesson in the tech-centric world–play by the rules of the tech platform or be forgotten.
    Tech in education is a big business. Selling hardware and software, and promoting open-source software, is only a small part of the business. Profits everywhere in online and mobile tech are with the data gathered and the secondary use of the data. Data brokers are cashing in. Now the data gold is mined at the moment you connect to your ISP. Thanks to Trump, net neutrality is dead, and with it any presence of internet privacy. Why is there so little serious discussion of that loss or the influence of this new environment on policies surrounding e-rates for schools and libraries?

  6. Pingback: The risks of increasing misuse of technology in school – Education: Essays and Articles

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