Robert Atkinson on Minimizing Fears of New Technology

This year at AAP’s PreK-12 Learning Group’s Fall Policy Exchange (#FPE15), two leaders in technology information and education will share their expert insights on what learning resource developers need to know about the current legislative landscape. Mike Trucano, the World Bank’s education technology expert, and Robert Atkinson, Founder and President of Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), will talk about their views on technology policy, digital innovation, and learning environments across the globe. Below Robert Atkinson answers questions about data privacy and public concern over new technologies.

1. How has the rapid change in new tech added to the public’s fears about technology, especially in education? 

Throughout the last century, whenever new technology emerges, it is only natural that many people react with fear and concern, rather than optimism and excitement.  Today is no different, including in ed tech, where innovations are enabling much more data-driven analysis about what works in education. Clearly there are privacy risks here, but with the right policies and frameworks, these risks can be minimized while the advantages to our nation of significantly improved education can be maximized.

2. Are some of the concerns about data and tracking valid for students? How can we balance the needs of education with the broader digital world? 

These concerns largely are not valid, if by valid you mean likely to happen. It is possible to design ed tech systems that respect privacy and rely on de-identified data sets for analysis, while at the same time ensuring that PII data is treated appropriately.

3. The prevailing attitude among many online users is that content should be free—even in regards to educational content. How can we help our users understand the need to charge for premium, expert content?

No content is really free. Someone pays. In the case of free content, it is the advertiser. Yet, educational tech skeptics and regulators want to limit advertising for ed tech, and want it free at the same time. As they say, you can have one of these, but not both. Without a robust and sustainable revenue stream, high quality educational content simply won’t be created.

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Digital Issues
Education Policy