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Open Dialogue

Evan Selinger in conversation with Chris Gilliard

This is Open Dialogue, an interview series from OneZero about technology and ethics.

During the pandemic, educational technology companies experienced a 900% increase in business once schools started shutting down campuses and restricting visitors. These companies swooped in with A.I.-infused software designed to prevent students from cheating. These proctoring algorithms can verify who is taking an exam through facial verification. They can also monitor test-takers, scrutinizing their behavior for signs of irregularities that might indicate cheating, like looking away from the screen.

Critics contend the software promotes unfairness, invasions of privacy, and unduly inflicted anxiety. The situation is so dire…

‘Just as we had to shrink our lives by living inside, we also need to expand how we define public education.’

This op-ed was written by Rory Selinger, a 14-year-old high school student in New York State.

There are many things I miss about my pre-pandemic life. Attending school in person is not one of them.

I’m a very motivated high school student. I like school. But switching to online learning has been the best thing to happen to my education. It’s reduced the social pressure I feel taking exams, allowed me to get immediate feedback from teachers, and given me the freedom to embrace my own unique learning style.

One thing I hope people now realize is that education is…

All virtual classroom monitoring apps are not created equal

I can see everything that my students do on their Google Chrome browsers.

At first, it felt extremely intrusive. When I first read 1984, I never imagined I would be Big Brother, but now I’ve decided to use an app called GoGuardian: It lets me block sites, open and close tabs, and monitor anything that’s happening on my 9th grade students’ Chrome browsers.

It’s not all dystopic, of course. GoGuardian does serve as an excellent instructional tool, the same way screen sharing helps tech support diagnose certain problems. When a student has trouble with their login information, I can see…

From simple location-tracking apps to buttons that measure biometrics, college campuses have amped up surveillance in response to Covid-19

Vassar College student E.L. received a notification on his phone this month with a gentle reminder to turn on his device’s location tracking. The junior, who asked that only his initials be used, is one of the 2,120 students who returned to Vassar’s campus for in-person instruction this fall semester. The message, which came from the school’s official app, referred to PathCheck GPS+, a contact-tracing app created at MIT that is now being piloted at colleges around the country.

“If you download the PathCheck app (iOs/Android), make sure to fully enable location services when it asks, or make the change…

But other school districts across the country continue to use the platform

Hawaiʻi is the first state expected to drop the controversial online learning platform, Acellus, following a OneZero investigation into the product and its creator, Roger Billings. But while hundreds of schools across the islands will likely stop using Acellus, countless other school districts in the United States continue to use the platform, a OneZero review found.

On Friday, OneZero published findings that Acellus was connected to a religious “cult” where Billings reportedly perpetrated and encouraged physical and emotional violence, unpaid labor, and child sexualization. …

The creator of Acellus and the ‘cult’s leader has been accused of violence and abuse

It was summer when Mark Mauikānehoalani Lovell, a teacher at Palolo Elementary on Oahu, logged into Acellus Learning Accelerator, a remote education platform the school had planned to use as the pandemic shuttered classrooms for the foreseeable future. Unfamiliar with the product, Lovell scrolled through what seemed to be hundreds of its lessons. He eventually settled on humanities subjects, hoping to find something like his own class — a course called Hawaiiana and Pasifika — but quickly fell down a rabbit hole of disbelief. One minute turned into 10, and then an hour had gone by on the platform.


The Digital Service Academy would compete with Stanford and MIT

The U.S. government’s approach of letting Silicon Valley drive the country’s technological boom has left the government itself scrambling for tech talent.

Now, a federal commission led by ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work wants to create a university to train new government coders.

The school would be called the U.S. Digital Service Academy, and it would be an accredited, degree-awarding university that trains students in digital skills like cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. Students would get a traditional school year of coursework, with internships in the public and private sector during summers.


Five tech companies use nearly 30,000 H1-B visas, while over 50% of graduate STEM degrees are earned by international students

On July 6, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced a rule change that would have barred international students from staying in the country if their classes moved entirely online due to the coronavirus. Shortly later, MIT and Harvard University sued the agency and the Department of Homeland Security in federal court, seeking to prevent the government from enforcing the policy.

Tech companies joined the fight a few days later. In an amicus brief supporting MIT and Harvard’s case, 19 tech organizations and companies, including Google, Facebook, and Twitter, argued that they would be “harmed substantially” if international students were…

‘Students are already one of the most surveilled demographics in the country’

This op-ed was written by Albert Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a New York–based civil rights and police accountability organization.

For American colleges, Covid-19 has brought an existential crisis. They have wrestled for months with the question of reopening in the fall, balancing the benefits of in-person instruction against the deadly threat of the pandemic. But for many, the hemming and hawing may be for naught: The Trump administration has said it will pressure schools to reopen, and a heartless new ruling from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Monday may strip international students of…


Pandemic or no, virtual study abroad programs are here to stay

It’s 9 a.m. in New York , and you log onto your study abroad program’s learning module to check in with your cohorts in Cape Town, South Africa. You agree to hop onto a call in half an hour — 3:30 p.m. local time in Cape Town — to touch base on a project you’re working on together. Your mission: create a mock-up of a small, high-end textile business with storefronts in both cities. Next week, you’ll present your part of the project — an e-commerce website — that you’ve created with your partner more than 7,800 miles away.


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