Mark Zuckerberg says he’s learned from his school reform mistakes. Has he really?

9 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s tax-dodging philanthropy adds fuel to firestorm of scepticism.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, recently announced to the world, on the occasion of the birth of their daughter Max, that would, over time, donate 99 percent of their Facebook stock they own — worth many billions of dollars — to “advance human potential and promote equality for all children. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been ordered to depose in an intellectual property dispute between Oculus and ZeniMax Media, as he has “unique knowledge” of his decision to buy and his valuation of the wearable virtual reality technology company.It used to be rather simple and maybe it still is in Hong Kong but elsewhere there is something of a backlash against very rich people and their companies making donations designed to give something back to the community but that end up being criticised as ego trips for the donors. ZeniMax sued Oculus in May 2014 for exploiting commercially intellectual property the games publisher allegedly shared under a non-disclosure agreement with Oculus, which enabled it to improve on its “crude prototype” of a virtual reality headset.

Here’s a piece raising these issues, from Leonie Haimson, a leader in national efforts among advocates to protect student data as well as founder of the group Class Size Matters. It’s been a startling time for parents concerned about children’s data privacy and the outsourcing of instruction to education technology companies. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas division to rule that Zuckerberg should not be asked to depose as the plaintiffs had demanded to depose him before taking a single deposition in the case. First was the recent news that the V-tech breach had exposed the personal data of more than 6.3 million children – rather than the 200,000 that was first described.

A deposition is the recording of oral testimony from a witness outside a courtroom, usually used to discover the facts before the trial. “This is clearly improper under the apex doctrine, which requires a party to demonstrate that a high-ranking corporate executive has unique, relevant personal knowledge before attempting to take their deposition,” according to the Facebook filing. The letter discussed the challenges facing her generation; frankly, its unoriginal thinking would have been largely ignored were it not for the letter’s provenance.

Security experts who have reviewed the data say that it is possible to link children’s information with their parents’ data, thereby revealing the kids’ full addresses and other information. This money will not go to a charity but to a limited liability corporation free to make investments at will and able not to distribute its funds on an annual basis, something charities are obliged to do. Zuckerberg’s defenders argue that this is a shrewd way of giving that not only allows more risky investments for noble ends but may also provide the means to grow its assets more successfully than a typical charity.

Then the Electronic Frontier Federation filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Google for violating the student privacy pledge the company signed the year before. The complaint alleges that Google is collecting and data-mining the information of students while logged into their Google Apps for Education accounts at school: While Google does not use student data for targeted advertising within a subset of Google sites, EFF found that Google’s “Sync” feature for the Chrome browser is enabled by default on Chromebooks sold to schools.

Magistrate Judge Paul Stickney ruled this week that Zuckerberg’s deposition should be conducted after other depositions so that “less intrusive discovery” can be completed and information that can be obtained from lesser ranking employees is acquired before the CEO’s deposition. This allows Google to track, store on its servers, and data mine for non-advertising purposes, records of every Internet site students visit, every search term they use, the results they click on, videos they look for and watch on YouTube, and their saved passwords. Google, it is alleged, is using children’s browsing history to improve their products, and not for any educational purposes, as the privacy pledge specifies. This is why Warren Buffett, a highly active charity donor, advocates the need for the very rich to pay their fair share of taxes while also giving away a significant proportion of their wealth. Luckey formed Oculus to commercialize the Rift after a successful demo of the technology at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (“E3″) industry convention in Los Angeles in June 2012, it added.

When a student goes to a different Google service, however, and they’re still logged in under their educational account, Google associates their activity on that service with their educational account, and then serves them ads on at least some of those non-GAFE services based on that activity. Facebook said in a recent filing that Zuckerberg had “nothing whatsoever to do with the technology that is the heart of Plaintiffs’ complaint—because he had no relationship with Oculus (nor, for that matter, Plaintiffs) during the development of that technology.” The social networking company could not be immediately reached for comment on the decision this week by the judge. “Litigants often demand Mr. Zuckerberg’s deposition, not to uncover discoverable information, but as a tactic to put pressure on Facebook and harass its most senior executive,” it had said earlier in a filing. The cash was paid for major renovations to the Avery Fisher Hall, named after its original donor, however the deal involved the renaming of the hall as the David Geffen Hall.

Comment reached a rather more acrimonious level at the Upstate New York Paul Smith’s College where Joan Weill, wife of the former Citi-group CEO Stanford Weill, offered the college $20m on condition that it changed its name to her own. The technology and teaching will rapidly improve every year you’re in school.” To explore a little further what this means, witness Zuckerberg’s current investments, including in a $100 million fund to create a for-profit chain of private schools called the Alt Schools, located in the Bay Area and New York City.

Here is a description of the Brooklyn school: Every pupil gets their own tablet or Chromebook; wall-mounted video cameras called “superpowers” record children’s learning moments and kiddie confessionals for teachers to review…kids sign in via an app on an iPad at the entry. In large part the controversy arising over gifts of this kind is part of the backlash against the power of the rich, particularly in North America and Europe. Closer to home there is a deeply ingrained Chinese tradition for charitable donation, which matches that of other cultures where giving is regarded as a duty and a blessing.

The schedule changes daily, but midmorning on a recent Wednesday, some 6- to 8-year-olds studied Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” on their Chromebooks in one corner, while others engaged in writing lessons. … AltSchool, which costs $27,500 a year, operates on the traditional school calendar, but parents are encouraged to take family vacations when it’s convenient for them — perfect for a jaunt to Kyota[sic], Japan, in time for cherry-blossom season or a family trip to Austin for South by Southwest. This tradition is most evident among immigrant communities which, by their very nature, are dynamic and where transformation is faster than among long-established communities. The proximity of previous poverty and sudden wealth makes the new rich far more conscious of their good fortune and more likely to incline towards charitable thinking. Rupert Murdoch was so enthralled by this model of education that he featured it in a speech to the G8 in May 2011, while rhapsodizing on its profit potential: “In Sweden, I visited an innovative school known as the “IKEA school.” Learning is supported by a “knowledge portal” that contains the entire syllabus. But this view is fading as the original wealth creators give way to their heirs, who by accident of birth are now taking over these influential corporate roles.

This school is possible because of a system that encourages competition by letting parents use public money to choose what schools they think work best for their children. Doors that were once open now appear to be shut and a perception is growing of collusion between the rich and the governing class to shut out new entrants. Indeed, many tech-focused schools initially promoted as having found the “secret sauce” to revolutionize education, have been followed by disappointment.

First, the Rocketship charter schools using the Dreambox Learning system were immensely praised, before the software and learning lab model were exposed as ineffective. Amplify tablets were publicized aggressively by Joel Klein and Rupert Murdoch until they turned out to be a failure; in September, Murdoch sold the company to a group of private investors, at a huge loss. Summit charters were highly regarded by Bill Gates and portrayed as transformational; only now these schools are introducing a whole new suite of software products designed with the help of Facebook engineers, because as it turns out, the previous “blended” technology did not work so well. More and more teachers are saying, as this one has, “I gave my students iPads — then wished I could take them back.” As Virginia educator Launa Hall points out, “teachers of young children know that the chatter in a typical elementary classroom is what makes it a good place to learn. …. My lively little kids stopped talking and adopted the bent-neck, plugged-in posture of tap, tap, swipe.” And the need to converse and discuss is not true merely of young students.

Department of Education, a vigorous supporter of online learning, had to conclude this in its meta-analysis: “Few rigorous research studies of the effectiveness of online learning for K-12 12 students have been published.” A study released in September by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development concluded, “Students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in most learning outcomes, even after accounting for social background and student demographics.” The truth is there are NO good studies that show that online or blended instruction helps kids learn, and the whole notion of “personalized” learning is a misnomer, as what it usually signifies is depersonalized machine-based learning. It cannot encourage students to confront all the various angles in a controversy, as happens through debate and discussion with teachers and classmates. In fact, learning through computers reduces contextualization and conceptualization to stale pre-determined ideas, the opposite of the creative and critical thinking that we are supposed to be aiming for in the 21st century. Moreover, Zuckerberg makes assorted unsubstantiated claims related to equity: “Of course it will take more than technology to give everyone a fair start in life, but personalized learning can be one scalable way to give all children a better education and more equal opportunity,” he writes.

Max’s generation will create a more just and equitable society. “ Contrary to these statements, a growing number of studies suggest that a shift to more online learning will likely widen rather narrow the achievement gap – and those children without strong support or direction at home or fairly advanced skills will fall further behind. As the class size research shows, while all kids benefit from lots of feedback from their teachers, disadvantaged students most need this support and interaction to thrive. His conclusion suggests the latter: “In our ongoing focus on personalized learning, our goal is to work with everyone — district schools, charters, private schools, teachers, parents, unions and other philanthropists. Everyone benefits from personalized learning and we’ll serve students best if everyone is behind the effort.” This doesn’t sound like a man who has humbly learned from his mistakes.

Is he referring to public school parents, who are understandably apprehensive about having their children spend more time in front of screens, and averse to ceding control of their most personal information to data-mining companies? As the school still puts it, “The Harkness table places students at the center of the learning process and encourages them to learn from one another.” This is opposite to the computerized instruction that Zuckerberg now proselytizes for and intends to disseminate. He apparently did not take the right lessons from his Exeter education about what enlarging human potential through philanthropy and “personalized” learning really requires.

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