May 5, 2018
I watched Nova’s “School of the Future” when it premiered in the fall of 2016. The vision of education it promotes, one steeped in rapid innovation and technology, was profoundly disturbing. Funded by the David H. Koch Science Fund and the Carnegie Corporation, a powerful advocate for digital education and competency-based learning, the episode tried to normalize the use of MRIs as a tool for evaluating learning. At the time, I found the producer’s repeated references to MRIs strange. Now, seeing how social emotional learning, ed-tech, gamification, brain science, impact investing, behavioral economics, and digital medicine are beginning to intersect, everything is starting to click.
Reformers hope to convince the public that education is a science that should be evaluated using quantitative measures. As they work on this front, they are also expanding cyber education nationally, not just 100% virtual schooling but also blended/hybrid “personalized learning” programs like Mark Zuckerberg’s Summit Basecamp. Such models demand hardware, software, telecommunications, and cloud-computing contracts that divert public funds from paid human staff into corporate accounts. It also creates favorable conditions for ed-tech and digital therapeutic “interventions” venture capitalists plan to use to gamble on early-childhood, literacy and workforce outcomes via Pay for Success contracts.
As anyone who has been following Cambridge Analytica knows, digital platforms generate extraordinarily rich data profiles on individuals. And it’s not just academic data that is captured. Industry is now demanding metrics on “soft skills” and “mindsets.” Adoption of biometric monitoring and video games with embedded psychometrics has vastly expanded the amount of data being aggregated on children. See this video promoting BrainCo’s brain wave monitoring classroom wearables created in 2015 by Harvard’s innovation lab.