Monday, June 1, 2015

Crystal Knows, Digital Footprints, and Personalized Learning

Last week on WNYC's Note to Self podcast (Formerly the New Tech City Podcast), host Manoush Zomorodi focused on a service called Crystal Knows, which I found pretty fascinating. Crystal Knows is an email "coach" that (who?) gives you suggestions on how to best respond to an individual based on their personality type. It determines this by scanning the Internet to look at public profiles and other online content. It then uses algorithms to determine that individual's personality type. This data is then shown to you as you are composing your email, and Crystal also coaches you as you write your response, letting you know whether or not your email is being written in the best possible way to have the biggest impact, make the sale, get your point across, etc.   

On the podcast, one of the individuals Manoush interviews mentions that a similar proprietary personal detection technology is used by some banks to determine whether or not to give an individual mortgage. Manoush observes that 
"every footprint we leave online is like a note in a dossier about us." 
This is yet another great example of why we all need to leave positive footprints online and think before we digitize anything.  When I speak to students about this, I always tell them to only post things their grandma would approve.  

Cyrstal Knows is using information it finds to automatically determine an individual's personality.  I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before there are other programs out that that will determine an individual's likely success in a college for admissions, employability for an HR department, or determine our medical and life insurance rates based on our profiles- where we eat, what our friends do, etc. Of course, all of this probably exists and is already in use, I just haven't heard of it yet!

They discuss how this sort of technology can be creepy to some, as well as whether or not an individual using Crystal Knows should be required to disclose this fact to a recipient. These are certainly intriguing questions to ponder... 

I'm optimistic that as more algorithms are created to categorize humans in all areas, we will better be able to personalize learning in education, too. The more a computer knows about an individual, the better it can target and tailor the instruction to each specific learner.  Already we have the seen the benefits of tutoring programs that can adjust the level of the content and questions to each individual learner.  I'm sure that programs like Crystal Knows can also be used to aid the method of instructional delivery to better know how to reach and encourage each student. It will be exciting to see the next tech thing in this area!

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