Big Mother?


Web companies, marketers and governments sifting through our digital behaviors and actions, tracking where we go and what we do.   People like to get indignant about invasions of privacy, but we happily trade our privacy every day when we use “free” online software, pay using customer rewards cards and use GPS to avoid getting lost.

Orwell thought the government was Big Brother.  We’re still trying to figure out if Google will truly “do no evil” as it accumulates mountains of data on what people like us choose to do and buy.  Online shops and bookstores can make helpful recommendations based on our past purchases.  What if schools took the lead, rather than simply comply with what tech companies and our culture demand?

In another vein, parents worry that their teens are becoming addicted to online games, share too much of themselves on social networks or are exploring a range of interests from pornography to self-harm to cyber bullying. Many parents realise the difference between trust and parental responsibility and use online monitors like FamilyOnline from Norton or SpectorPro so that they know everything their children do online.  They recognize that developing integrity of character is one of life’s main challenges and rewards, so enabling their children to cultivate a hidden life actually undermines their well-being. This is more akin to:

Our Challenge

What policies and approaches should schools have in place so that students know they are
supported by “Big Mother,” not snooped on by “Big Brother”?

When students conduct much of their learning online, a smart system with a fraction of Google’s power  would reveal a lot about the way students learn.  When students do a lot of their playing online, wouldn’t a school with pastoral duties want to have systems and policies in place to nurture students’ budding self-management, not prevent them from ever making mistakes?

Extra Links for Exploration

Below are some links that show the kind of data mining that is currently available to schools.

How about sharing your thoughts?