Big Data and Little Kids

Data mining has reached schoolhouses where student learning, behaviors and lunch table preferences are captured, amid mounting concern for how the information will be used and by whom.

Data mining has reached schoolhouses where student learning, behaviors and lunch table preferences are captured, amid mounting concern for how the information will be used and by whom.

Children are the latest data-mining targets as software track student progress, learning skills, behaviors and even where they sit in the classroom and at lunch.

The data is viewed as necessary for an assessment-driven analysis of student and school performance. But since much of the information collected could leak into the hands of non-educators, it could become a treasure trove for companies seeking to gain a better understanding of their target market.

Marketplace Tech, a segment on NPR, is running a series of reports this week on what it calls the "Quantified Student."

"From the time they get on the school bus, until they close their laptops at night, there’s a good chance data are being collected on their whereabouts, their learning patterns, their classroom behavior, what they eat for lunch, the websites they browse on their school computers, and maybe even the amount of sleep they get," reports Adriene Hill.

"Schools have always gathered basic data on kids — attendance, grades, disciplinary actions — but now that those records are digital, a school can better spot trends and patterns," Hill adds. The operating principle is "better decisions require better information."

Date collected is used, Hill explains, to support concepts such as individualized learning, personalized learning and differentiated learning.

The rapid growth of data collection on schoolchildren may have escaped many parents, but now is giving rise to student privacy protection legislation around the country to regulate what data can be shared and with whom. Oregon and Washington legislatures considered such bills in 2014. Idaho has adopted a student data security measure.