Education Week - June 20, 2018 - 14
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS > TRACKING NEWS AND IDEAS IN EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY
Tech to Understand the 'Whole Child' Sparks Privacy Fears
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believe such efforts shouldn't be limited to determining
how well individual kids spell or subtract. To be effective,
the thinking goes, schools also need to know when students
are distracted, whether they're willing to embrace new challenges, and if they can control their impulses and empathize
with the emotions of those around them.
To describe this constellation of traits and abilities, education experts use a host of often-overlapping terms, such
as social-emotional skills, non-cognitive abilities, character
traits, and executive functions.
For many parents and teachers, it's common sense: Kids
do well when they pay attention, work hard, and get along
An emerging body of research backs that intuition, tying
these non-academic factors to improved school achievement,
future workplace success, and long-term well-being. Learning scientists are also increasingly convinced these traits and
abilities can be improved with practice.
The result has been a groundswell of interest. A major
international test of students' social-emotional skills will
be unveiled in 2019. The recently passed federal education
law, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, tried to push
states and schools to broaden their definition of success. And
major philanthropies and venture-capital firms are lining
up to support the movement with hundreds of millions of
Sensing opportunity, a fresh crop of companies has
sprouted up, promising to help schools better understand
and respond to the "whole child" via online surveys, video
games, mobile apps, eye-trackers, facial recognition, wearable
devices, and virtual reality.
Proponents see a promising path to dramatically improve
student learning-and an antidote to the K-12 world's longstanding focus on standardized tests.
"Kids have physical development, mental health development, identity development, cognitive skills development,
and social-emotional skills development, as well as academic
skill development," said Jim Shelton, the president of education at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative."Unless you understand how they are relating to each other, it is very difficult
to optimize any of them."
Critics, however, fear a creepy surveillance state, based on
"Sorry, but I don't want the government knowing how my
child's mind works," said Jane Robbins, an attorney and senior fellow with the American Principles Project Foundation,
a think tank that promotes individual liberty.
Following are three examples that illustrate the
variety of educational technologies being used to
track or respond to student emotions-and the
range of reactions they are provoking:
administrators and educators via customized dashboards.
In Spokane this school year, a small group of teachers was able
to see how each child in their classrooms scored on a 0-5 scale
for each social-emotional domain.
Founded in 2012, the data-analytics company administers
Principals and counselors also analyzed the Panorama data
mostly online surveys to students in roughly 8,500 schools
alongside other information, such as class rosters, to identify
students with an attitude that might help them thrive in
Among the company's power users is the 29,000-student
Advanced Placement courses, even if they didn't have the highest
Spokane, Wash., district.
In addition to questions about school safety and their
And district leaders examined how their schools
relationships with teachers, all of Spokane's 4th to
compared with others across the country.
12th graders are now asked things like:
Plenty of schools are embracing social* In school, how possible is it for you to
emotional learning without using
change how easily you give up?
technology or trying to measure
* How often do you stay focused
individual students' development;
on the same goal for several
new research has raised questions
months at a time?
about whether classroom-based
* During the past 30 days,
interventions around concepts like
how carefully did you listen to
growth mindset are likely to have
other people's points of view?
a significant impact; and some
Panorama stores the
of the leading pioneers in the field
responses from Spokane and
have warned about the limits of
more than 500 other districts in
using surveys and questionnaires to
a central database, creating a
measure social-emotional skills.
massive repository of information
Director of assessment and
Regardless, Spokane is just one of
about the grit, growth mindset,
hundreds of districts embracing the digital
Spokane, Wash., schools
and social awareness of millions of
tools and data they're being offered.
"We have a bigger responsibility than just
The company analyzes an anonymous version
cranking out kids who can pass tests," said Travis
of the data to develop national benchmarks and look
Schulhauser, Spokane's director of assessment and instructional
for trends over time.
Panorama also feeds each district's information back to
"We have a bigger
responsibility than just
cranking out kids who
can pass tests."
Shayna Thomas, left, and Kenna Wioncek,
8th graders at Polo Park Middle School in
Wellington, Fla., are among the 200,000
students whose clicks and keystrokes
have been collected as part of an effort by
researchers to teach a software platform
called Algebra Nation how to pinpoint
student emotions and engagement.
14 | EDUCATION WEEK | June 20, 2018 | www.edweek.org