Privacy policies and your kids
Big corporations are violating your kids privacy with Richardson Independent School District's permission and the district isn't telling you because they don't want to kill the golden goose and actually take responsibility. They'd rather exploit your kids -it's much cheaper than paying for the 'free' software they use.
To get an idea of just how absurd the idea is that parents or children of RISD could actually make an informed choice to agree or not to the privacy policies of the 198 ad partners of the learning tool, Live Worksheet that's used in the classroom, that no one can opt of, here's a link to just one of those privacy policies of just one those ad partners that Live Worksheets uses.
SALE OF INFORMATION. In order to accommodate changes in our business, we may sell, buy or otherwise transfer portions of our company or other companies or assets, including the information collected through this Site. In the event of a proposed or actual purchase, sale (including a liquidation, realization, foreclosure or repossession), lease, merger, amalgamation or any other type of acquisition, disposal, transfer, conveyance or financing of all or substantially all of the assets of Aarki, user information (including Personal Data) will be one of the assets transferred to the transferee.
So, in a nutshell they sell user data-they collect data on our kids and sell it. To whom? for what? Who knows, we don't have any control over that it's not our, or our kid's data any more it's Aarki's.
Well, OK, that horse will get out of the barn-what do they collect?
So, they automatically know-what browser you're using and IP-so where you are, the date, the time, and domain name so RISD.ORG-so they would know it's a school. In the US this information isn't treated as 'personal data' in Europe it is considered personal and protected.
Aarki gathers 'traffic data' which sounds innocuous. This is the network data generated when you go to a web site the IP packets necessary to transfer the data to and from the site. The network traffic. So it's the information about which sites the kids go to so the ads can be targeted appropriately.
Aarki analyzes network traffic within the site itself i.e., they note how how many page views the site has how many unique views a certain area has etc. There are probably other areas captured here as well but the do not appear to focus on anything outside of the site. They do know who is doing it though as they know it's the same IP throughout.
I'm not an attorney but the following paragraph doesn't square with with the previous one and, frankly, I'd be inclined to believe that they would indeed sell the data and then if asked simply say-'we told we would'!
This is 1 of 198 privacy policies of 198 ad partners of Live Worksheets. It is absurd to consider that the parents of the kids in RISD would review and 'agree' to each of these. Who on earth would agree to this with their kids???!! My kids are 13, 13, and 17. My bet is Live Worksheets are used with kids a lot younger and Richardson Independent School District is allowing their data to be sold and simply not alerting parents to this fact. It's unconscionable yet might makes right doesn't it? They are the biggest kid on the block so they'll do whatever they want with whatever kid is sent to them. For as long as they can get away with it.
A Quizlet By Any Other Name
For those of you that read my post regarding Quizlet and RISDs implementation of it this post will give you a wry smile-or not; you might get annoyed considering the stakes. Considering I have several kids that are actively being damaged by RISDs continuing, active, deliberate, sneaky behavior I'm on the annoyed side.
This was a couple of weeks ago and they obviously have learned from being ensconced in academia. They have outsmarted me! Obviously seeing me for the dullard I am they stopped using Quizlet, the app that served up ads to my daughter and now they use Live Worksheet a web page that serves up ads to my daughter. And because they had me pegged as such a rube I guess they thought I wouldn't know and wouldn't question their clever sleight of hand. Gotta hand it to my betters.
So, today my wife logged on to my daughter's French class via Google Classroom and lo and behold-no Quizlet! That's great but my daughter's watching an ad for a video game instead of paying attention to French-hmmm So, how's that?
Live Worksheets is another 'Free' product that's not actually 'Free' it's only 'Free' if every student that uses it submits to the individual privacy policies of 198 advertising partners that place cookies on their ChromeBooks.
What's on these 198 individual and separate privacy polices? That's a great question--go here to learn for yourself if you dare. First thing I can tell you is that I've been working in IT in schools for over 20 years and it is INFINITELY DIFFICULT to figure out EXACTLY what kind of data they are gathering, how long they are keeping it, when they are gathering it, when they stop gathering it, how you can stop them from gathering it etc. INFINITELY DIFFICULT. They will tell you 9 ways to Sunday what they do not gather before they tell you what they do gather. And they won't tell you what they'll display to you or your kids either so on the whole the exercise will be somewhat dispiriting. I mean, if they were proud of what they were doing they'd tell you directly and clearly, right?
Who's the most straight forward? The Europeans because their laws are much more detailed than ours and while data may flow from individuals here in the United States it doesn't belong to individuals in the United States-it belongs to corporations.
There are performative opt out clauses here that do nothing but give cover to corporations because in this instance parents don't even KNOW about the use of the product. Don't even KNOW their kid is being used to fund RISDs desire to save a buck and fake education. When attention is attenuated with ads attention isn't being used on education. RISD knows that. They are using the students that parents unwarily send to them on a daily basis and degrading these student's ability to learn. They are hurting these students. These products aren't 'free' the cost is our student's attention and RISD doesn't seem to care.
I get it-I have no clue what I'm talking about-these ads are no problem-kids are exposed to ads all the time why not during the school day as well. Schools have tight budgets this is a way to provide more products to students.
Look, all of these arguments simply overlook that chipping away at our kid's ability to pay attention is wrong. It's wrong to on one hand ask a child to focus and then simultaneously make it more difficult. It's diabolical. And when they're in their 504s and all of the dewey eyed fake concern is trotted out with the wise chin stroking and somber suggestions of medication absolutely no one will mention 'free' software.
Don't Waste Time
As I've gotten older this maxim means more and more to me. It's not just about getting more done or being more productive it's often about futility of life vs. the doable of life.
I've heard the serenity prayer for ever. In fact I've heard it so much I don't really hear it anymore. By now when I hear it all I hear is "Don't waste time"
If God is going to grant me the wisdom to accept the things I can't change; the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference I need to get to work.
Don't waste time worrying about how others think about you. Their definition of you is an external fragment of themselves; something over which you have no control: don't waste time worrying about that or attempting to change their opinion. It won't work. This is part of what lives in the futile category.
By the same token don't allow that externalized fragment to define your internal world; the world over which you have complete control.
You are the only person who has the opportunity and the duty to take full control of and full responsibility for you. Never put this off and never give the job to anyone else.
If I can do something about it I need to get to it. Now. I may be too old. That doesn't matter. I should have done it in my 20s. That doesn't matter. It might not work (probably won't) that doesn't matter. Can I do something about it? Yes. Does it need doing? Yes. Do it. Don't. Waste. Time. There's something in process that is important-more important than outcome. Outcome is in the future. The future is speculative. Don't trade speculative for now; don't waste time.
The nature of life boils down to what you can control vs. what you can't. Those items that are futile that have been ripping your insides out? Let those go. Don't waste time.
What is sChool For?
I've worked in IT in schools for decades and the question about what schools are for rarely gets asked. Probably because most folks who work in schools believe they already know the answer but fundamentally it's a good question because as I watch my 3 kids go through the system I see how flawed the process is and how few people ask themselves this question. What's clear is that the majority of the folks in authority in primary and secondary schools don't know what schools are really for. Or maybe they think they do-Maybe they believe the 'traditional' version: that schools are there to train kids to fit into the industrial model-round off those edges kid. Fit in. Obey and give me repeatable results.
I got into IT because I loved to solve problems and god knows IT has problems. But I got into IT in schools b/c I had a passion for learning. Learning was cool-learning is cool. To see it dismissed or outsourced to apps pains me to no end. Kids have a limited time to learn-and they depend on us to do our best for them. They don't know any better so when we mail it in they get short changed. They don't know it right away but they'll know it soon enough.
The video below is a quick one so I'd certainly endorse watching it but if you don't have the time skip to the very end. In a nutshell: Grades are an illusion; passion and insight are reality and real teaching happens when kids are put into situations where they can fail. Persistence in the face of a skeptical authority figure is priceless. All of this happens around 15:20 BTW so you can cut to the chase if you choose! Real teachers find ways to make this happen within the structure given to them, and, while I'm all for IT in education, you can see that not a whole lot of what Godin is talking about lives in an app.
I'm posting a letter I sent to the Board of Trustees of my local School District of Richardson TX, where all 3 of my kids go to school. It's generally considered a good district but they've thoughtlessly implemented Quizlet, a gamified piece of ed tech, thinking learning would magically happen once they put this 'free' piece of software in front of students. Instead they've actually damaged students' ability to pay attention and in doing so have become a de facto drug pusher and are now offering ADHD meds to 13 year olds (with no notice to the parents) to ameliorate this dismal situation that they created in the first place.
It's a good example of how well meaning people damage children's ability to learn by putting too much faith in ed tech and by taking short cuts in 'free' software they know they shouldn't be taking but they do anyway b/c, hey, everyone's doing it.
Here's the letter.
Thank you for taking the time to read this note. I’m grateful for your efforts in working with our kids in Richardson.
Attention is a limited resource. It takes effort and intention to focus one’s resources on a specific topic for any length of time. It’s a skill that many of us take years to develop. And with current technology in specific it can be so difficult to build up the attention muscles necessary to focus. It seems as though there’s always something else vying for our limited resources. It’s in this environment that the Richardson Independent School District introduces a tool called Quizlet in an attempt to help the students of the district learn.
I was introduced to Quizlet when my daughter was taking French in 7th grade. I had heard of the product before but had not paid too much attention to the details. Well, now Claire really needed some help in French so I was digging into the tool with her because it was the sole resource she had-no book, nothing else, just this app on her RISD provided Chromebook. Which, as it turns out, per my kids is common in classes 1 through 12.
The first thing that was apparent to me as I began to understand the app was that it was distracting as all get out. Just as soon as one ad for, say, Spotify would fully load the page would halt and redraw to another ad, say for Kohls or Sams or something. What really started me down the rat hole, however, was the ad for Vyvanse which was obviously a pharma ad. You may have never heard of it-I certainly hadn’t.
It turns out Vyvanse is a drug for ADHD. So, if you, or more specifically your kid, has trouble maintaining the level of attention necessary to successfully learn in school, then perhaps you, or they, should consider Vyvanse, with a dr.’s recommendation of course.
In the beginning, while I didn’t particularly like it I didn’t think too much about it. I mean, how different was this arrangement from many of the freemium software models that are ad supported. However, the more I considered it and not too long at that it was clear to me that this arrangement was wrong on a few levels.
Just to be crystal clear: while diluting the student’s ability to focus on the lesson at hand RISD is then using this ‘tool’ to present ADHD medication ads to students to help these same students improve their ability to focus. I hope the absurd and malevolent nature of this process isn’t lost on the reader.
In talking to the teacher she noted that she paid for the ‘pro’ version out of her own pocket. She doesn’t want the kids to be ‘bombarded with ads’ while she’s giving her lessons in class.
When I raised my concerns to the administration of the school Micah Armstrong the Assistant Principal noted he found ‘nothing inappropriate’ in the ads and if I found anything inappropriate I could report it to him but as things stood the tool was RISD approved and the school would keep using it in its current form.
So, at least at the school level it’s clear that actually degrading a student’s ability to focus and then offering a pharmaceutical solution to improve that situation is fine-it’s fully appropriate. It begs the question as to what might be ‘inappropriate’ and the only thing I can think of is it has to be nudity, right? I mean what else can it possibly be? Alcohol I suppose might push them over the edge. We know drugs are allowed.
The absurdity of the situation is remarkable. We send our kids to learn challenging subjects knowing that focus and attention is hard and the school either doesn’t know this or knows and chooses to look the other way because the value of the kids’ attention isn’t better spent on learning. It’s better spent on some tool to pretend that learning is happening-which seems…inappropriate.
The cost of this product is certainly a piece of the puzzle. I have no idea how much it is. The teacher pays for it out of her own pocket and Mr. Armstrong noted the school simply has no money to pay for the product. In other words not spoken they simply must use the attention of the students sent to them on a daily basis to pay for the product. But is that really the case?
From my kitchen window I have seen over the past 3 years a multi-purpose activity center; a softball field; a baseball field; and an additional wing to an elementary school constructed-all things that I’m assuming the district had to use dollars to pay for vs. ads students watched. So, it seems like they were able to find the money for these things-perhaps it’s a matter of values and prioritization.
I have recently heard from Robin Gunter, RISDs Executive Director of Instructional Technology, who ultimately responded to my concerns saying Quizlet wouldn’t be used with my kid. While that’s great there are 50k other kids whose attention is being trampled on and used as chits to pay for something the RISD should pony up for if they think it’s a worthwhile tool vs. forcing students to comply with a tracking policy (https://quizlet.com/cookies) that, among other noxious behavior sends them ads long after they’re off the site. In Claire’s case she has no other options, there is no text book; she must comply with this autocratic behavior. It is shameful and I’m bringing it to your attention because I’m positive that you as a board member are unaware of what is being carried out in your names on a daily basis.
Iain Michie, AKA Earnest Grasshopper.