Tracking PD

or should that be PD Tracking?

For years, the ISTE Conference or, before that, the NECC Conference was the place to see and to be seen in education.  I’ve been to many and have presented at many as well.

There was a new wrinkle this year – being tracked.

Now, in the beginning of Social Media, we were all worried and concerned that by tweeting from a conference, we were advertising to the whole world that we weren’t at home – help yourself.  I don’t actually recall any incidents.

I find it very interesting that there would have been sessions about student privacy and safety in an event that unveiled a new and controversial concept this year – the Smart Badge.  Details, from the ISTE perspective can be found here.  You’ll notice that there is a rationale for the Badge – to provide a better conference experience and to provide you with a “Journey” summary after the event.

I think it’s interesting that we blissfully go around with our Smartphones relying in the fact that our location data is gathered anonymously and we see purposeful use for it when looking at traffic maps to see where congestion and slow downs are located.

In this particular case, a Smart Badge is part of your registration which means that a specific identifier would be attached to your name.  When I first got a sense of this from folks attending talking about it on Twitter, red flags went up immediately.

Now, of course, the FAQs above indicate that you can have the opportunity to “opt out” and get a non-tracking badge.  It sounded good although Gary Stager indicated that he wasn’t given that option.

And yet, David Thornburg indicated that he was successful.  Interesting anecdote included about European attendees.

Both gentlemen obviously had their antenna up about things.  There was a good rationale – by monitoring traffic patterns, the organizers could help with traffic blocks.  Do you remember the old days when there were people with coloured shirts and walkie-talkies?

This certainly didn’t pass quietly.  Just take a look at this Twitter conversation.

Is it time to blissfully accept that this is the future?  Here are a couple of hacking articles that will get you thinking.

Beyond the promise of a better traffic experience at the conference and the ISTE 2018 Journey, other possibilities for this data come to mind.

  • track how many people walk out of a session
  • find out which exhibitors had the most visitors
  • track which restaurants were frequented the most
  • see who met up with whom
  • count the numbers of people who left the conference centre
  • a report summary of activity to be sent to your employer

This technology is young.  We read about hacks on data centres on a regular basis.  What do we know about the data procedures of the company that was sourced to provide the service?

I suppose that this sort of thing was inevitable in our “always on” world.  I think the same thing could be accomplished with a conference application although the Smart Badge has the advantage that you can ensure that everyone has one.  Well, except for David Thornburg and those attending from Europe.

What are your thoughts about the concept of a Smart Badge and being tracked while at a PD Conference?

3 thoughts on “Tracking PD

  1. Morning Doug, this brought to mind attendance tracking of students and how if they are going to leave or walk out consequnces mean nothing. The reason you give them to stay is far more powerful. I think folks need to understand the purpose but more importantly if you leave the impression, regardless of this is it’s purpose that people’s whereabouts are what we are starting with and not the culture of a welcoming, inclusive and non intrusive learning environment, the same thing will happen as it does in a secondary school…they opt out as it is no longer about the them but the system they exist within.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been thinking about his a bit lately. Not just the ISTE thing though Gary’s post got me thinking about that and how it might apply at CSTA. I even blogged about using facial recognition for tracking in the classroom recently.

    My thinking is far from settled though. I can see the potential for good and for bad. On the plus I can see conference organizers using real data to see how many people “vote with their feet” and leave a session early. That might be more accurate in some ways than just survey data. On the down side, imagine who ever is funding your trip (assuming not self funded) getting an email saying that you spent all your time in the hallways or outside the venue and not any or much in actual sessions? Where you having valuable side conversations (a highlight of many conferences for many of us) or just vacationing on someone else’s money?

    SO much depends on who the data are shared with and how it is used. I also think that opt in is the way to go and not opt out. At CSTA I might opt in – I have a lot of trust in CSTA. At ISTE I might opt out – getting very commercial.

    This may be an issue to have my students think about this fall.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Given that I don’t even allow location tags in my photographs and I turn off my GPS almost all of the time, you can guess how I feel about this.
    I’d much prefer if they asked, “Would you be willing to wear a conference tracker to help us gather data about traffic patterns?” and then also explained who got to access the data and how it would be handled. Definitely NOT cool.

    Liked by 1 person

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