Blog Post #10: Who Owns Your Education Data?

In a webinar she gave for #ETMOOC, a connectivist massively open online course, Audrey Watters proclaimed that the statement, "I have read and agree to the Terms of Service," is the biggest lie on the internet. How many times do we "click through" this question when downloading and installing or updating the latest web app? How many times do we actually take the time to stop and read the terms of service?

In April of 2013, the New York Times ran a story titled, “Teacher Knows if You’ve Done the E-Reading.” In the article David Streitfeld describes digital texts that track “when students are skipping pages, failing to highlight significant passages, not bothering to take notes — or simply not opening the book at all.” The data collected isn’t just made available to the teacher in the course, however. As Streitfeld later points out, “Eventually, the data will flow back to the publishers, to help prepare new editions.”

The development of new teaching technologies that allow schools and teachers to track student data presents significant opportunities to improve teaching and learning at every level. It also, as Watters pointed out in her webinar, raises concerns about what happens to student and instructor data and intellectual property once the course is over.

The “defaults” in place under federal law give students control over the intellectual property you create and your educational data. When we use systems like Desire2Learn , however, your rights may be governed by terms of service we, as individuals never even see, and might not understand even if we had the opportunity and time to read them. In the best of circumstances, where we freely decide to “click the box” in order to download iTunes or use Google Apps, the terms of service are a contract of adhesion, in which one party–not us–has all the power to decide its terms and conditions. In an educational setting, where use of the technology is a condition of participation in the class, the situation is even more coercive.

One crowdsourced project TOS;DR (stands for "Terms of Service, didn't read) is trying to make the terms of service for commonly used web applications easier to understand. This information could be useful as we attempt to make what Rheingold might call more "mindful" choices about the tools we use to engage with digital culture. Should schools have an obligation to ensure that the terms of service for education technologies such as D2L/Brightspace respect students privacy and intellectual property rights? Should schools have an obligation to involve students in the negotiations regarding those terms of service? Should schools be obligated to provide TOS;DR-style explanations of the terms of service for required educational technologies? Should we enact laws to set limits on what terms of service educational technology providers can require? Should such laws perhaps extend even to providers of all web apps, social media, and "cloud computing" services?

Posting: Group 3

Commenting: Group 1

Taking a Break: Group 2

Category: "Who Owns Your Education Data?"

Read through some of the linked resources in this post, and take some time to do some research of your own on the web. Then, in your Blog #10 post, take a position that attempts to answer the questions presented in this prompt. Remember, rather than simply answering a series of questions in order, use the questions as a starting point for constructing a brief essay organized around your own thesis about attention, technology, and how the internet is affecting our thinking and learning. Please carefully read and follow the guidelines and posting information for this blog.

Image Credit: "Sayings of DonkeyHotey #9: 'When do citizens get to write the terms of service?'" by DonkeyHotey on Flickr.

One thought on “Blog Post #10: Who Owns Your Education Data?”

  1. Yes, I do believe that schools should offer TOS:DR and not only offer but ensure that it used and understood. Navigating online sites may not be so easy for all that use the site. I believe within the first few weeks of introducing a course the instructors should make sure students have an understanding on what their rights are within the site and understand what they are and aren’t allowed to do.

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