How our personal data is used by social media companies, and how this trend affects education.
Humanity has traversed quite a few eras and ages to reach where it is today. From the stone-age to the bronze-age, across a few dark-ages we reached the agricultural era. From there we progressed even further and were ushered into the industrial era through the industrial revolution. We are no longer living in the industrial age. It has been a while since we leapt up from the industrial age to be where we are: this is the information age.
It is easy to understand why this era is being called the information age. On our computers and through the internet, we can store and access an unbelievable amount of information. This fact even surprises our parents; their generation had very limited access to knowledge, with all information existing on paper and in the corners of dingy unequipped libraries. Now, all of that information, and far more, is available to us at a flick of our thumbs across our cell phones and tablets.
As we flick our thumbs across our devices and carry on clicking our mouses on our computers, we ourselves are creating a huge amount of data. Every website we access, every video we watch on YouTube, every page and post we like on Facebook, every search we make on Google, every celebrity we follow on Instagram: all of this creates invaluable data for these big companies.
These companies use our data to transform our experiences. If I search how to fix a broken pair of headphones on Google, it will give me the results but for the next few days or weeks I will be shown ads to buy headphones even though I never showed any interest in buying new headphones. If I watch a few videos on YouTube of my choice, it will start recommending videos based on the data it got about my taste in videos through my earlier choices. If I like a page on Facebook about Islam, it will start showing me more pages related to Islam. If I like a page about atheism, it will start showing me more pages that talk about atheism.
These companies go through all our data and make recommendations that we would like to hook us to their platforms and then they run adverts specifically targeted at us to make money. On the one hand, such actions based on our data provide us with customised and personalised experiences. On the other hand, we have no privacy left. Anything that we search for is going to go into their database and they will use that information without any regards to our privacy.
Using data in such a way has also infiltrated into education. But in education, it plays a very positive role. Knowledge Platform has millions of students across multiple countries who use the platform for their studies. It has mechanisms in place that track students’ performances and recommend additional studying content based on the weaknesses and strengths of the students. While a teacher who teaches 2 or 3 classes of 40 students each cannot be expected to remember and cater to the weaknesses and strengths of each student, the services provided by Knowledge Platform have the capacity to monitor and engage each student based on their academic situation. It provides a personalised learning experienced to each student, such as the one that could only be provided by a one-on-one expensive tutor. Their artificial intelligence algorithm can very easily pick the weaknesses of a student and recommend practice or further studying for a particular concept so that the student can be prepared in every way for his/her exams.
Data-driven personalised experiences can be alarming when the companies that provide them invade our privacy. But in education and academics, this is precisely what the world needs. The world needs academic and pedagogic resources, such as Knowledge Platform, to recognise the individual brilliance of each student and to provide them with the education that will help them reach the top of their abilities. If we stick to our current academic methods, we will just be churning out more of the same: a standardised worker with no exceptional talents, just rote-learned knowledge.