Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

SoylentNews is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop. Only 12 submissions in the queue.
posted by Fnord666 on Saturday March 21 2020, @09:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the my-schoolboard-sucks... dept.

Some local schoolboards have already rolled out full remote learning curricula, starting Monday (seems to me there have been plans in the works for years to make something like this happen this fast.) Others appear flat-footed and clueless. We did some homeschooling with our kids a couple of years ago, and the one website that really clicked with us was (shameless plug) https://ixl.com .

I know we had a Soylent story just over a week ago asking for alternatives to the ubiquitous (and well deserved first place recommendation) Khan. Now that it's a little less abstract, and looking more certain that the kids won't be returning to physical school buildings until the fall... what do you look for in online learning services?

Our criteria were: easy for the kids to self-learn the material as presented, easy to track progress and identify areas where extra instruction might help, clear documentation of subjects covered and relative mastery of each, easy for kids to self-select appropriate subject areas to study, reasonable cost.

Khan certainly presents material clearly, and the cost can't be beat, but we found IXL to be superior in the other areas, and when you think about the tremendous number of hours invested by you and your kids in the learning system, the cost isn't really significant ($20/month for one, $24 for two).

Has anybody else taken a serious plunge into online learning and found something "better than Khan" for your purposes?

[Ed. addition follows. --martyb]

See our previous story: Student Privacy Laws Still Apply if Coronavirus Just Closed Your School and take a close look at future provider's security and privacy practices. From the article linked to in the previous story https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2020/03/watch-out-for-privacy-pitfalls-if-your-school-is-suddenly-online-only/:

Usually educational organizations—colleges, universities, or local K-12 districts—have agreements in place with certain dedicated educational software vendors such as Blackboard or Canvas to use their tools. Compliance with FERPA is ideally part of those agreements, although adherence can be somewhat hit and miss. But when everyone is suddenly scrambling for new tools as best they can in response to a pandemic, privacy considerations may fall by the wayside.

Software platforms allowing videoconferencing, recording, and screen sharing have all seen a massive spike in use in recent weeks. Microsoft, Google, Slack, and Zoom are all offering discounts or extra features to businesses, groups, and individuals to help with the everything from home era in which we (hopefully temporarily) find ourselves. Not all of those tools, many of which are designed for enterprise use, are necessarily going to be compliant with educational regulations.

Google, in particular, has been in hot water before. Neither schools nor individuals can sue for FERPA violations, as the Electronic Privacy Information Center explains, but both states and individuals have filed suit under different statutes alleging related violations.

In 2013, a group of students sued Google over its "creepy" data-mining from Google Apps for Education tools. Google ended the practice in 2014, only to be sued again in 2016 by a group of current and former university students alleging their data was collected and retained from their Google academic accounts in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Neither are all the lawsuits in the past. Just last month, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed suit against Google. That suit alleges the company's collection and use of data from schoolchildren in New Mexico violates both the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and New Mexico's Unfair Practices Act.


Original Submission

Related Stories

Ask Soylent: Online Learning for Quarantined Kids 50 comments

With Wuhan Coronavirus spreading in New York City, parents, Parent Teacher Associations, and schools seem to be inevitably headed for extended shutdowns and quarantines. The Department of Education is crossing its fingers, wiping down all surfaces, and hoping to avert the worst without closing schools, but parents are going to need contingency plans.

Do Soylentils have recommendations for online resources that members of NYC's school boards can share with the parent community to help kids keep up with their school work? Khan Academy is an excellent resource for math & science; it doesn't span every subject but something like it that grade school kids can understand would be ideal.


Original Submission

Student Privacy Laws Still Apply if Coronavirus Just Closed Your School 6 comments

Student privacy laws still apply if coronavirus just closed your school:

Hundreds of colleges and universities are suddenly shutting their doors and making a rapid switch to distance learning in an effort to slow the spread of novel coronavirus disease. Likewise, hundreds of K-12 districts nationwide have either already followed suit or are likely to in the coming days.

[...] Even when all of the immediate logistical and technical needs have been triaged and handled, though, there remains another complicating factor. While the United States doesn't have all that much in the way of privacy legislation, we do, in fact, have a law protecting some student educational data. It's called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA.

FERPA applies to both written and digital student records. For students under age 18, the provisions about what may (or must) be shared or not shared apply to their parents or guardians. Once a student turns 18, the protections transfer to them directly. The provisions also apply directly to any student enrolled in a college, even if that student is not yet 18 (such as in community college dual-enrollment programs for high school juniors and seniors).

The act prohibits "improper disclosure" to third parties of personally identifiable information (PII) derived from student records. Schools are not prohibited from allowing vendors access to information for the purpose of providing services—you can use third-party digital tools for administrative and educational purposes without being in violation of the law. But the school may then be held responsible if the vendors then do shady things with student data.

[...] Software platforms allowing videoconferencing, recording, and screen sharing have all seen a massive spike in use in recent weeks. Microsoft, Google, Slack, and Zoom are all offering discounts or extra features to businesses, groups, and individuals to help with the everything from home era in which we (hopefully temporarily) find ourselves. Not all of those tools, many of which are designed for enterprise use, are necessarily going to be compliant with educational regulations.

[...] In 2013, a group of students sued Google over its "creepy" data-mining from Google Apps for Education tools. Google ended the practice in 2014, only to be sued again in 2016 by a group of current and former university students alleging their data was collected and retained from their Google academic accounts in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.


Original Submission

Security and Privacy Implications of Zoom 28 comments

Security and Privacy Implications of Zoom - Schneier on Security:

Over the past few weeks, Zoom's use has exploded since it became the video conferencing platform of choice in today's COVID-19 world. (My own university, Harvard, uses it for all of its classes. Boris Johnson had a cabinet meeting over Zoom.) Over that same period, the company has been exposed for having both lousy privacy and lousy security. My goal here is to summarize all of the problems and talk about solutions and workarounds.

In general, Zoom's problems fall into three broad buckets: (1) bad privacy practices, (2) bad security practices, and (3) bad user configurations.

Privacy first: Zoom spies on its users for personal profit. It seems to have cleaned this up somewhat since everyone started paying attention, but it still does it.

Now security: Zoom's security is at best sloppy, and malicious at worst. Motherboard reported that Zoom's iPhone app was sending user data to Facebook, even if the user didn't have a Facebook account. Zoom removed the feature, but its response should worry you about its sloppy coding practices in general:

"We originally implemented the 'Login with Facebook' feature using the Facebook SDK in order to provide our users with another convenient way to access our platform. However, we were recently made aware that the Facebook SDK was collecting unnecessary device data," Zoom told Motherboard in a statement on Friday.

Finally, bad user configuration. Zoom has a lot of options. The defaults aren't great, and if you don't configure your meetings right you're leaving yourself open to all sort of mischief.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
(1)
  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @10:07PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @10:07PM (#973944)

    Our local HS District here in Cali closed last Monday and was supposed to reopen April 14th. No school from home was given. Now they're saying it's closed for the rest of the school year and whatever grade they had on the last day of school is your final grade. Seniors may not even get a graduation ceremony. As my senior daughter said... "My diploma is a PDF"

    • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @10:14PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @10:14PM (#973947)

      Why doesn't your daughter enter the growing field of climate activism? No school education needed, willingness to travel and grumble a plus.

  • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @10:10PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @10:10PM (#973945)

    The kids gotta learn their biology.

  • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @10:37PM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @10:37PM (#973955)

    St Greta the Grumpy will have about 10 million fewer boomers to whine about, although the CO2 released by their rotting corpses might screw up the numbers for a year or two.

    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @10:56PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @10:56PM (#973960)

      And with oil at twenty year lows, millennials can finally afford a nice vacation to Italy.

    • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @11:03PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @11:03PM (#973961)

      Why isn't anyone calling it "Chinese flu"? SJW fodder?

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @11:22PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21 2020, @11:22PM (#973965)

        GOP Flu

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 22 2020, @09:00AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 22 2020, @09:00AM (#974068)

          The "Trump Plague"? The "Donald Virus"? Or a great opportunity for Republican Senators to dump stocks and make a killing?

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 22 2020, @02:20PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 22 2020, @02:20PM (#974135)

            There is another wealth inequality factor. They are making million dollar market moves while i consider a $3000 move big. They have market advisors who keep an eye on things, I have to be content with buy and hold with a sluggish mutual fund. And yet I’m still better off than all those people with no IRA.

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 22 2020, @02:19AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 22 2020, @02:19AM (#974001)

    But no progress tracking or quizzes
    http://www.bozemanscience.com/ [bozemanscience.com]

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Phoenix666 on Sunday March 22 2020, @03:42AM (2 children)

    by Phoenix666 (552) on Sunday March 22 2020, @03:42AM (#974012) Journal

    In the wake of the soylent article I went ahead and set up virtual classrooms for my two kids, 5th and 4th grade, respectively, and assigned them coursework in math, ELA, biology, physics, chemistry, grammar, computer science, and a couple other subjects. It's free, instant, and works well. The kids understand the videos and are able to manage the work well. They tried to slack off the first two days but Khan Academy gives you a fine-grained view of what they're reviewed and how they've done on everything, so I could tell when they weren't watching the videos all the way through or at all. Now they don't cheat. To get them to work even harder, I tell them that if they finish their lessons early and get over 95% they can take the rest of the day off.

    When I compare what they've done with what NYC public schools managed, they've covered in a week what the public schools took half a semester to do. That pace is great, because they soak the material right up. I also like it because it opens opportunities in the schedule to weave in Korean lessons (so they can talk to grandpa) and insert the computer science that I wish the public schools would teach as a core subject.

    The one irritant is that the New York City Department of Education, which, having nuked its own relevance a week ago, is desperate to do something with online learning. Their solution? A static PDF that amounts to a big homework packet. Oh, and they've also been ragging on the parents to sign their kids up for Google Classroom, which the teachers don't know how to use and are treating like a superchat. Because that's the most phenomenal fucking way to use time efficiently with kids who'd rather fuck off and play video games. My wife and I are doing their jobs, doing it better, and they still expect to be the ones that get paid for it.

    The experiment is ongoing, but I'm already mostly convinced that the haphazard and mostly non-functional teacher's union in NYC has rendered their mode of pedagogy and their very existence obsolete at a stroke.

    --
    Washington DC delenda est.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Sunday March 22 2020, @03:38PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday March 22 2020, @03:38PM (#974150)

      What we've found with our kids is that any major (positive) shift in educational approach initially has a big ramp up of highly visible progress, but sooner or later it plateaus and you're back to the more usual slow progress. This happened when we shifted to home schooling, and again two years later when we shifted back from home schooling to regular school, and other times with major changes of in-classroom situations.

      Work-at-your-own-pace is almost always faster to cover material than the classroom of 30 kids moving at a pace ideally suited for the bottom quintile (and usually not that well tuned.) Kids that get it quickly are bored, kids that don't get it as quickly as presented are lost. If you can keep your kids motivated / interested and progressing through Khan, and other online resources, they'll learn more than any classroom could ever teach them.

      Our kids are "lexically challenged" - so while the Khan presentations are excellent, they tend to be really talky, which doesn't help our kids a lot. The IXL exercises do a ramp up of difficulty, if you really know the material you can get through an exercise with 25 short answers, if you have trouble you can repeat until you see the pattern for yourself (works best for our kids), or you can go to the "talky" explanation of what you did wrong and then try again. Getting to 100% in an exercise by guessing is virtually impossible (something like 10,000 guesses required due to they way a wrong answer makes you repeat multiple questions...) The great thing is after several months you can look back at hundreds of little mini-topics 100% achieved, which seems so much more satisfying than a slip of paper from the county with an 8 entirely arbitrary letters on it.

      --
      🌻🌻 [google.com]
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 22 2020, @07:55PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 22 2020, @07:55PM (#974221)

      The schooling system is insanely inefficient, lackluster, and focuses far too much on rote memorization over understanding, but somehow that still doesn't stop people from claiming that anyone who is not one of its victims is inherently less educated and maladjusted. It's truly bizarre.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Phoenix666 on Sunday March 22 2020, @03:43AM

    by Phoenix666 (552) on Sunday March 22 2020, @03:43AM (#974013) Journal

    I found another online, free site that teaches basic geography: seterra.com. They have quizzes on countries, capitals, flags, geological features, and so on. The kids seem to like it.

    --
    Washington DC delenda est.
  • (Score: 1) by TomTheFighter on Sunday March 22 2020, @03:26PM

    by TomTheFighter (9781) on Sunday March 22 2020, @03:26PM (#974148)

    I've stumbled across a number of sites that looked interesting - can't vouch for 'm YMMV

    https://www.linuxlinks.com/award-winning-open-source-software/ [linuxlinks.com]

    (From Above - We cover 14 different types of educational software in the pages below.
    Click the links to find out the medal winners. )

    and some of these looked fun:

    http://einsteinworld.com/home/ [einsteinworld.com]

    https://www.ck12.org/student/ [ck12.org]

    https://www.thepocketlab.com/ [thepocketlab.com]

(1)