Friday, June 14, 2019

Googling for "Amplify" and Seeing the Future From the Past

I was looking for some information about Amplify Science K-5 and I stumbled onto a report by one of the many public education coalition groups (Google "public education coalition groups" and see how many turn up).   This particular one is called America Forward.

What I found was a submission to the Office of Science and Technology Policy to comment on a Federal Register Notice regarding "High Impact Learning Technologies" from America Forward.  This was the focus for comments;
We are very supportive of OSTP developing policies related to high-impact learning technologies outlined in the notice, and are especially eager to comment on the use of Pay for Success (PFS) as a ‘pull mechanism’ to accelerate the development, rigorous evaluation, and widespread adoption of high impact learning technologies.
At first I was a bit puzzled how this pulled up for a search of Amplify.   I scrolled down to page 7 which had a list of the-then coalition members. No Amplify.  But I get to page eight and there's input from none other than Amplify Learning, dated March 7, 2014.

I think it's important in the context of the recent adoption of Amplify K-8 for SPS to consider these words carefully (color mine).

At Amplify, we believe that education will be a primarily digital endeavor in five years. Devices are becoming less expensive, connectivity investments are increasing, and a generation of breakthrough educational software is in development. Children will still read books and work with physical manipulatives, but the power of real time feedback, multimedia, personalization, coaching, social networking, and simulation will make it compelling to transition from print materials and traditional classroom teaching to networked digital collaborations. Today's students can only meet tomorrow's expectations armed with the complex knowledge and skills that are best developed via learning technologies.
 First, they were wrong on their timeline.  Education in 2019 is not primarily digital.

Second, I'm not sure I believe learning is necessarily more complex.  The methods may be and, from that list, so are the ways to gain knowledge.

They continue:
Over the next five years Amplify will build a comprehensive suite of instructional materials and tools in English language arts, Math and Science. We will also expand upon our tablet platform, which uniquely supports true one-to-one technology implementations. We believe Amplify is the largest concerted bet on digital technology in education. Original learning content, new digital learning tools, multiplayer games, device and classroom management software, and learning delivery platforms are part of this investment.
 And, coming to a district near you, a big investment to bring all that into the classroom.
The more digital the education system becomes, the more data-driven it will become, and the more it will be possible to use data-informed approaches to improve teacher-student interactions. With time, training, and practice, the technology will recede and those teacher-student interactions - both in- person and technology-mediated- will be more central and meaningful.
Let's unpack that paragraph because while they may seem to be talking about more informed teaching (based on their theory that education will be come more data-driven), do consider all that data.  We'll get to what they mean but parents, that's your kid's data they are talking about.  And it won't just stay with the district.  (See bottom of page for more info on Amplify and data.)

And, that idea that the technology will recede?  Not buying it.

We believe there are several key elements required to fully deploy high impact learning technologies in schools:
  1. Always connected devices that are "ready at hand" - immediately on, convenient, able to directly deliver a learning experience or to sit "on the corner of the desk" supporting students and teachers interacting directly.
  2. Platforms to manage, store, and deliver digital learning experiences, instructional materials, and tools to students and teachers. 
  3. A rich database of student information and an analytics engine that monitors student progress and ensures that students have the right learning experiences at the right time in the right groups.
  4. Great learning experiences and instructional materials, from traditional texts to advanced interactive games and simulations. The providers of these experiences and materials should be charged with demonstrating efficacy of their content with particular populations. 
  5. Learning Process Orchestration. This is our term for software that facilitates the intricate exchanges among teachers and students that shape good learning in the classroom. Tools that put students in the right place in a learning experience, that automate grouping, that provide differentiated feedback, that know when it is time to advise the teacher to move on and when it is time for the teacher to coach, and that support the social interactions of students.
Where to start?  
1)  Yes, in the classroom, all devices must be on the desk and ready to go at all times.  
2)  Yes, more spending to have platforms that not only deliver the content but store and manage it.  Is that part of the purchase price or an add-on?
3)  "Rich database of student information"  - that's gold, baby!
4)  Should we all laugh at this one because this is exactly what was fought against showing from the Amplify pilot program in many schools.
5)  Read that list again.  Next thing you know, all you need is a robot facilitator and you are good to go.
They answer some questions posed:

What learning outcomes would be good candidates for the focus of a pull mechanism to catalyze the creation and use of new learning technology? These outcomes could be relevant to early childhood education, K-20, life-long learning, workforce readiness and skills, etc.

We think the following key learning outcomes here can be grouped into leading and primary indicators. Growth and advancement in the primary indicators will follow progress on the leading indicators:

• Leading indicators would include those indicators that are key to ensuring a positive, well- functioning and successful learning environment. Improvement on these indicators will set the foundation of learning to allow for growth on the primary indicators. The leading indicators that we would expect to move based on learning technology deployment would be:
  • Student productivity;
  • Student behavior;
  • Student engagement; and 
  • Parent involvement
Parent involvement? I'd love for them to expand on that one.  Oh wait, they do.
How are these learning outcomes currently measured and assessed?
On the indicators described above, our experience is that these outcomes are currently measured and assessed as follows:

• Leading indicators:
  • Student productivity metrics are not generally collected today, but can and should be collected in one-to-one implementations. Measures could include, for example, amount of reading(measured by words,"pages," or time on task); words written; or time on task outside the school day. Our ELA curriculum is designed to triple the amount of reading and writing that middle school students complete in a year. Our tablet team monitors the amount of time students spend working on their devices as a measure of implementation fidelity.  
  • Student behavior is typically measured and monitored via two approaches: district- monitored statistics, such as suspension rates, disciplinary incident rates, etc; and school- level via formal methodologies for monitoring and improving in-class and in-school behavior.
  • Student engagement can be measured by means of classroom observations and surveys. Technology deployments also enable "collaboration" metrics- in-class or online academic contacts among students, between students and teachers, etc. Our ELA curriculum is designed to triple the amount of feedback that a student receives in a year, via in-person and online contact. 
  • Parent involvement can be measured by surveys of faculty and of parents.  Online metrics such as logins to a parent reporting portal, click-throughs on status emails, etc can also be monitored as a measure of the robustness of the school-to-home communications channel.
Again, parents, your child is going to be monitored while on the device, whether in school or at home.  And these student and parent and teacher surveys?  I'm sure teachers will be overjoyed as will busy parents.  Don't forget parents, the measure of YOU is if you participate in the surveys, "click-through" on "status email" etc. 
At the local level, we recommend that districts begin to collect and inspect program participation and implementation data more closely. For example, if several classrooms in a school are experimenting with one-to-one, or if a grade level is testing a new digital curriculum, the short-cycle analysis of these efforts would provide valuable insight into the same question - "what works well for whom."
 I agree with them on this one.  How this all works class to class, school to school, especially around fidelity of implementation, will be key data.

Here's a statement that jumped out at me - should make the Finance people at JSCEE happy.
Milestone-based payments- Establishing a milestone or learning outcome on which some part of payment is contingent effectively puts the client and vendor on the same side of the table. Both parties are able to collaboratively focus on implementation success and program results. As an example, Amplify has a state-level reading assessment contract that makes a percentage of the overall contract value dependent on the success of the implementation, including measurements of teacher satisfaction and of students' academic results.
 Amplify and data (This came via an anonymous reader but I checked it.)

One lesson learned from this Amplify process is that parents need to work together to protect their children's right to privacy by closing loopholes in ed tech contracts and the law.

Ed tech companies are able to circumvent some key student FERPA and COPPA data privacy protections through the loophole of being classified as a "school official" rather than a commercial provider or general audience website.

Under FERPA, 99.31, "an educational agency or institution may disclose personally identifiable information from an education record of a student without the consent required by 99.30 if the disclosure meets one or more of the following conditions:
(1)(i)(A) The disclosure is to other school officials..."

Once designated a "school official" by the educational agency, providers may be given access to student data such as personally identifiable information, academic progress, behavioral, disciplinary and medical information, web browsing history, student's geolocation, IP addresses and classroom activities.

In Amplify's case, their Privacy Policy also adds the ability to collect the following student information:

- Photos, videos and audio files if devices have image, video and audio recording capabilities uses by students and educators for learning

- Online forum and community features that capture student and teacher information on message boards, online forums, chats, etc.

In their Privacy policy, Amplify provides an example that "when a teacher logs into an Amplify application that provides student assessment results, a list of students associated with that teacher may be displayed in the application. Amplify’s software looks this information up in a database that contains roster information (e.g. name, grade level, school ID numbers) that the School District supplied to Amplify".

To make matters worse, under their Privacy Policy "Disclosure of Information", Amplify explicitly retains the right to sell student data as an asset in the event of a bankruptcy or if the company is sold. While the rules for disclosure sound promising at first ("We will only share personal information stored on behalf of our customers with third parties if authorized by the relevant School District or SEA customer"), the true degree of self-accorded latitude is revealed at the end, "...or appropriate and and permitted by law".

Amplify grants additional liberties to their third party providers and affiliated education companies, who are contracted with Amplify, not SPS, who they "may also share personal information collected or stored in Amplify systems including "operating system providers, social media platforms, wireless service providers, device manufacturers and other application or service providers".

Furthermore, Amplify disavows any responsibility for student data privacy as it pertains to their third party providers: "this policy does not address, and Amplify is not responsible for, the privacy, information or other practices of such third parties, including any third party operating any service to which Amplify product or service links".









Anonymous said...

Parents need to WAKE UP! This push towards online learning WILL be detrimental. I have extensive education and professional experience in child development. Never in human history have we set children passively in front of screens for so much of their day. We are just starting to see the ramifications of so much solo time not interacting with the natural world. Ask any teacher about kids coming in with decreased fine and gross motor skills, inability to focus, difficulty with social interactions, etc

Sure even if you conclude screen time at school is not the same as screen time at home the question that still needs to be asked is is it the BEST way to learn. I believe no, hands on learning with a quality teacher is best. Research on handwriting for example shows that the physical act of handwriting (vs. typing) increases overall literacy and retention of concepts and ideas.

And there is the question of all the data privacy and costs associated with technology. Is this the best use of our money? I say no. Personal relationships with teachers is the most important factor in education. It’s a very sad state of affairs when people are ok with sending young people with still developing brains to school to sit in front of screens for a big part of the day.

I saw this on a Facebook post from a teacher leaving the profession: “In the midst of all of this... our response is we need to be "21st Century" schools. 1 to 1 student to technology. Oh. Okay. So forget the basics of relationship building and hands on learning. Kids already can't read social cues and conduct themselves appropriately in social settings... let's toss more devices at them because it looks good on our website. During an interview, one division asked me "how are you with technology? That's important to us". Uhhh... I hear Bobo the chimpanzee is pretty tech savvy... I consider myself pretty great with kids”.

I do see increased opportunities for private elementary school with no technology.

NW Parent

Middle Mom said...

I posted a link to this same document in a comment on your "Science Adoption Updates" post on Friday, April 19, 2019. See comment by Middle Mom on 4/22/19, 8:48 PM.

I also happened to notice this 2014 Amplify response to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) (see pages 8-14 for Amplify's responses).

This information clearly didn't bother the district.

There are a lot of ways this could be used AGAINST education equity in the future. Students whose productivity metrics are too low can be blamed for their own failures. Or tracked into groups based on student engagement or parent involvement. Students who aren't engaged enough could be required to take double science or summer school. Nothing breeds a love of science more than having to sit in some kind of supervised detention room for students who didn't engage enough times with their iPad during science class. Click more! With every click, you learn! You can almost hear Dolores Umbridge saying it, can't you?

Who do you think would want to know how quickly a student mastered new science concepts? What their reading level was? How quickly it progressed? How distractable they seemed? How many times they interacted with other students in class and with which students? What were the interactions about? Would colleges like to know that information? Sure. Would potential employers? Sure. Would potential landlords or moneylenders? I bet. Amplify or whoever they sell the info to or the district will probably be able to diagnose ADHD or dyslexia or neglect remotely without anyone even knowing they were looking.

Our students deserve better. Especially the ones the furthest from educational justice who are the most vulnerable to suffering from systemic abuses.