July 3, 2023

Thomas Ultican: Cradle to Grave Surveillance

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Thomas Ultican observes some disturbing trends in the world of education surveillance. Reposted with permission.

Global Silicon Valley (GSV) has taken point of an effort to digitize life with crypto-world tools.

At the recent ASU+GSV conference, Carnegie and ETS announced a new partnership to create functional testing for competency based education (CBE). That was a big deal because CBE is central to what amounts to a cradle to grave surveillance. In this scheme, a new birth starts the initial record in an inerasable history of education, work and economic activity.

Edtech leaders are creating a dystopian system of education and career tracking that makes Orwell look optimistic. With this, every American’s history will be held in his or her unalterable blockchain which needs CBE as the education method.

GSV is a venture capital firm founded in 2010 by Michael Moe. Like NewSchools Venture Fund, it focuses on edtech. GSV differs by being a private company with an even more radical libertarian ideology. In 2012, Moe and colleagues published American Revolution 2.0; How Education Innovation is Going to Revitalize America and Transform the U.S. Economy, a manifesto for turning kindergarten through university and beyond into a tokenized existence. Graduate kindergarten token, hospitalized token, immunized token, C in reading token and so on will be saved forever.

The chart above is from American Revolution 2.0 (page 292). Added annotations in red, point out key developments on this road map to a 100% tokenized and badged education system by 2027. Their 2013 call for “No Child Left Behind 2.0” looked suspiciously similar to Obama’s “Race to the Top.” “Marketplace for education information” by 2014 fitted right in with Killswitch’s claim“Information is the new gold – it’s the new oil.” 

Several organizations fall under the main GSV group, including GSV Labs, GSV Asset Management and GSV Tomorrow, a commentary arm where investing trends and stories are disseminated. All stories link readers to the GSV landing page for the annual ASU+GSV Summit, claimed to be the “most impactful convening of leaders in education and talent tech” with over 5,000 attendees and 1,000 speakers from 45 different participating countries.

The annual American Educational Research Association conference and the ASU+GSV Summit take place at the same time.

Technology critic Audrey Watters noted,

“It’s hardly an insignificant scheduling gaffe. If nothing else, the dueling conference schedules tap into a powerful cultural trope, one that’s particularly resonant among Silicon Valley and education reform types: that education experts and expertise aren’t to be trusted, that research is less important than politics, that the “peer review” that matters isn’t the academic version, but rather the sort that drives a typical VC [venture capital] roadshow.”

Organizing Crypto-Education

1edtech was until recently known as IMS Global. They are a non-profit 501 c6 organization (TIN: 04-3489277), meaning only membership fees are tax deductible. However, recently it created a work-around for parties that want to give money and get a tax break. The new 1edtech Foundation is a 501 C3 organization (TIN: 83-1489371) which will gladly take your tax free donations and pass them along.

If a company’s new product is compliant with established technology protocols and able to communicate effectively with other certified products 1edtech will certify it. The organization also offers standards and frameworks around content integration, credentialing, analytics, and assessments. Major standards developed include:

  • LTI: The Learning Tools Interoperability standard provides a method for applications to integrate with learning management systems (LMSs).
  • OneRoster: A standard for sharing class rosters, course materials, and grades between a school’s student information system and edtech applications.
  • Open Badging: A type of digital badge that is verifiable, portable, and packed with information about skills and achievements.
  • Caliper Analytics: Enables institutions to collect learning data from digital resources.

The Wellspring Project is a major focus going forward for 1edtech. In this new learning model, digital credentials are valuable assets for institutions, individuals and employers. Wellspring seeks to build infrastructure that leverages these assets to help companies identify candidates for hiring. A Cision PRWeb report states,

“The first phase of the Wellspring Project, led by IMS and funded by the Charles Koch Foundation, explored the feasibility of dynamic, shared competency frameworks for curriculum aligned to workforce needs. Partnering with Education Design Lab and the Council for Adult and Continuing Education (CAEL), IMS organized cohorts of education providers and employers by common disciplines and related skills. Using learning tools that leverage the IMS Competencies and Academic Standards Exchange® (CASE®) standard, the cohorts mapped co-developed frameworks, digitally linking the data to connect educational program offerings with employer talent needs.”

This new vision of education dictates a kind of student transcript tied to credential accumulation, instead of earned units from graded classes. Roman Sterns, founder and executive director of Scaling Student Success, is all in for credentialing. He says the present high school transcript is a relic of the past, describes a new transcript type and excitedly announces,

“Fortunately, a version of this new kind of transcript has been developed and is being piloted now by schools affiliated with the Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC). Launched in March 2017, membership has grown to over 300 schools. Most are independent schools, both in the U.S. and overseas, but increasingly public schools are opting in. The new transcript has no grades or numerical ratings, is customizable to align with school or district outcomes, and includes links to artifacts that demonstrate the level of student proficiency reported. The transcript’s consistent format allows for easy interpretation by colleges and universities.”

For 50 years, mastery-based education now called CBE has been a major flop. It is a piece of the crypto-education infrastructure, calling for bad pedagogy. Established on the mind-numbing drill and skill approach, CBE undermines authentic learning. A major glitch in edtech badging is mastery-style learning online becomes necessary for the credentialing process to function.

Internet of Education 3.0

An EdSurge posting reports,

“In the area of lifelong learning, the Learning Economy Foundation (LEF) aims to create a decentralized, blockchain-based network where skills and credentials are stored within a digital identity that follows the learner. Recently, LEF partnered with LEGO Foundation to create a gamified learning experience, called SuperSkills!, where elementary school students can select adventures and collect gifts as a result of learning core skills. Under the hood, the app uses the W3C’s Universal Wallet, a framework developed by MIT and LEF to store credentials within a blockchain-based identity. This identity is not locked down to one app or company, allowing learners to own their data and use it as they wish across their academic and professional lifetimes.”

The statement “allowing learners to own their data” is misleading. They do not have exclusive access to the data and cannot delete entries or correct errors. It is only personally useful for academic and job applications.

Last year, more than 1500 data scientists signed a letter to the US Senate, warning about the dangers of blockchains and their flaws. They stated in part,

“As software engineers and technologists with deep expertise in our fields, we dispute the claims made in recent years about the novelty and potential of blockchain technology. Blockchain technology cannot, and will not, have transaction reversal or data privacy mechanisms because they are antithetical to its base design. Financial technologies that serve the public must always have mechanisms for fraud mitigation and allow a human-in-the-loop to reverse transactions; blockchain permits neither.”

Blockchains are fundamental to the new edtech, described in Greg Nadeau’s slide presentation Internet of Education 3.0.” He is an edtech/blockchain enthusiast but some of his slides are both illuminating and troubling.

The cartoon above (slide 30) describes the complicated and opaque method needed to update blockchain data bases. A lot of work is done by the SSI/DID block. SSI or Self-sovereign identity summarizes all components of the decentralized identity model: digital wallets, digital credentials, and digital connections. Decentralized identifiers (DIDs) are a type of identifier enabling verifiable, decentralized digital identity. A DID refers to any subject (e.g., a person, organization, thing, data model, abstract entity, etc.) as determined by the controller of the DID.

Once the data is published by an application or agency, it is there forever and cannot be altered.

Slide 78 in Nadeau’s presentation follows. It gives a frighteningly clear view of the extent of the surveillance being envisioned.

Final Thoughts

It appears that many brilliant mostly young technologists are working on the tools for crypto-world. How exhilarating to think you are developing a new realm full of promise and possibilities! I am reminded of the youthful physicists who gave us nuclear power and the bomb. Like the way atomic weapons have given man the frightening ability to end our species, crypto brings the possibility of human bondage and tyranny.

Serially failed CBE style of pedagogy is harmful education. The new worse idea, actively pursued, is putting children at computer screens and logging their every event in a permanent and inalterable record. It promises a dystopian future.

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