Frank Pasquale on data and education

Frank Pasquale’s 2020 book   ‘New laws of robotics: defending human expertise in the age of AI’  has some great discussions of the changing nature of education and education work in light of data-driven classroom technologies. Pertinent issues to our own DSS research include:


The importance of informed procurement of new technologies

“Administrators at all levels of education need to be much savvier about how they contract with edtech firms. They need to negotiate for control of data and for notice about revisions to programs. Without such safeguards, the ethical standards of educators will give way to the rough and tumble ‘whatever works’ ethos of tech firms” (Pasquale 2020, p.72)

“At present, we don’t have nearly the insight we need into the collection, analysis, and use of data by firms developing educational software” (Pasquale 2020, p.73)


Data profiling in schools as a continuity of established forms of grading

“Grades have become a near-universal disciplinary mechanism; soon, a ‘total behaviour record’, measuring students along axes of friendliness, attentiveness, and more, could easily be developed” (Pasquale 2020, p.75)


The tough choice of pushing for either ‘mending’ or ‘ending’ the datafication of schools

“Mending surveillance edtech means giving it more data, more attention, more human devotion to tweaking its algorithmic core. Ending it would reorient education reform toward more human-centred models. To decide between the two paths requires deeper examination of both these projects” (Pasquale 2020, p.75)

Striving for ‘better’ forms of data-driven technologies in education “would double down on the quest for data, looping in unorthodox data sources, such as constant self-monitoring and self-reporting of emotional states by data subjects” (Pasquale 2020, p.76)

“The datafication of teaching and learning has contributed to many troubling trends. And yet it would be foolish to dismiss AI in education wholesale” (Pasquale 2020, p.85)



Pasquale, F. (2020)   ‘New laws of robotics: defending human expertise in the age of AI’  Belkap