Rankin: When technology meets academics | AspenTimes.com

Rankin: When technology meets academics

Joyce Rankin
Across the Street

Technology is being touted as a pathway to education for the future. It can facilitate incremental learning and allow for a curriculum tailored to the individual students' needs. Technology can give students access to online courses and expanded learning opportunities. However, along with advancement of learning opportunities come privacy concerns. What is the appropriate amount of data being collected, and is it secure?

Should pupil-identified information be used exclusively for the immediate needs of the classroom teacher or available to the state and possibly the federal government for further analysis to determine how our students compare with students throughout the United States? The data, when aggregated, also can be used to determine program and cost-effectiveness.

Our personal data are being collected and stored all the time. Cellphones and computers can save millions of pieces of personal data on every user every day. These devices make our lives easier, so we seldom consider this fact. Have you ever shopped on the Internet and then noticed online advertising for items of your interest? Did it feel creepy?

What happens to all of this stored information? Nothing — until someone analyzes it. This is a tedious task for an analyst; however, new analytical tools (software) are being created that can sort through past data and make predictions or draw conclusions. A simple example is when police solve a cold case file involving blood samples collected at the crime scene. It wasn't until DNA testing that the sample could be connected to the criminal, sometimes 40 years after the crime. This, we agree, is a good use of technology.

There are many examples of technology where stored data isn't always a good thing. Recall recently the high school students in Canon City who were texting nude photos of themselves. Some of the students were as young as eighth grade; however, some were 18 and can be legally charged with a felony sex crime. There have been numerous examples of social media where photos or written statements have not been removed from the Internet and have been maliciously reposted at a later date.

Technology is here to stay. We can embrace it, learn from it and educate ourselves and our children, or we can trust others to do it for us.

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Joyce Rankin is on the Colorado State Board of Education for the 3rd Congressional District.