Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Data Mining our kids– with a added twist, part I

For the most part this is going to be a repost of Sandra in Brevard’s Grumpy Educator Post Data Mining: An Education Reform Strategy with me sticking my two or three cents worth into her report. 

The short version is the Federal Government is going to start compiling an electronic dossier on every child in the country, starting the second they enroll in school. There are some at the department of education that believe it should start at birth. This is part of Obama’s idea of Education Reform. 

I’m reposting it now because I got a pleasant letter from my grandsons schools. The program is more extensive than I thought when I read this.. and this didn’t make me happy. Tomorrow I’ll tell you what the letter said, and what I discovered with just a little bit of research. For now some back ground from Sandra..

 If you buy a book through Amazon, rent a movie through Netflix, or have a Facebook account, your information and choices are "mined" to market new products catered to what the data reveals about you. In these large databases, your choices are compared with others and a book you liked might be offered to others who seem to have similar tastes or interests. Specialized algorithms are developed that "mine" in an effective process to sell products.

Wikipedia defines algorithms in part this way:
"Algorithms are essential to the way computers process information. Many computer programs contain algorithms that specify the specific instructions a computer should perform (in a specific order) to carry out a specified task, such as calculating employees' paychecks or printing students' report cards."

NY Times contributor Seth Freeman wrote this week a clever article this week titled "Me and My Algorithm" of which he said:

If this is a case of my algorithm, my cyber personal shopper, coach, guardian angel and avatar, knowing me better than I know myself, I really do need to figure out why I, a guy, get repeated offers — tied to a e-mails on vastly different subjects — for mastectomy bras and for something called a vaginal ring. Is the idea that these items make lovely gifts? Since articles I have written have circulated through the Internet by e-mail, it could easily turn out that my algorithm will soon get the opportunity to read what I have had to say about it here. What, I wonder, will it think?” (1)

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