Big Data in Education: Helpful or Profitable?

The goal of mining student data is to learn how each student thinks in order to offer help and resources to overcome their difficulties, or challenge them when they’ve excelled. However, opponents of student data mining say the practice opens up opportunities for private company to leverage the data to make a sale to students.

According to POLITICO’s study of hundreds of pages of privacy policies, terms and conditions, and district contracts—in conjunction with interviews with industry and legal experts—there are big holes in the protection of our children’s privacy. FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which is the law protecting student privacy, was written in 1974. The law explicitly gives private companies the right to share student personal information to “further education goals. ” While the law states that companies must keep “standardized test scores, disciplinary history and other official student records confidential,” it does not say anything about records on how students are navigating through education websites, text, products, etc.

Still, districts have the option of writing privacy protection into their contracts with edtech companies, but few actually do. A recent Fordham University study said that only 7 percent of contracts between schools and edtech companies barred the companies from selling student data for profit.

Right now, there have been no proven cases of student data or meta-data having been exploited, but there is nothing stoping companies from doing so.

“We’re really just at the beginning of truly leveraging the power of data to transform the process of teaching and learning,” said Aimee Rogstad Guidera, executive director of the Data Quality Campaign, which urges states to develop responsible policies for data-driven education.

For full story, see Politico.

Yvonne Chan

Yvonne Chan

Yvonne is a writer for Edtech Times who is most interested in technology's role in culture. When she is not combing the web for the latest in educational technology, she is reading classic literature or watching the game on TV. You may know her from Gradeable,, Emerson College, Busa Wine & Spirits, UMass Dartmouth, or Burlington High School.