Digital Identity and the ‘Gamification’ of Education
by Michael Kane
Fulgent Genetics billionaire CEO and founder Ming Hsieh also founded Cogent Systems, a biometric identification company eventually acquired by 3M. Fulgent is one of the laboratories under contract with NYC Schools to conduct in-school COVID testing. The agreement governing this testing between Fulgent and NYC Health + Hospitals was secret for over 5 months, and only became public when the powerful law firm Siri & Glimstad filed an administrative appeal to their previously ignored freedom of information request.
Does Hsieh’s past involvement with biometric identification products and services, as well as his ability to ink contracts with NYC health officials who try to keep those contracts secret, hint at a possible future of biometric digital passports for NYC students?
“The folks at Global Education Futures specifically say that by 2035 there will be digital biometric passports for all students. This is the future they see for everyone,” said education researcher and activist Alison McDowell during a phone interview. Such a passport would take a biometric identifier from a student such as a retina scan or thumbprint, and digitally link it to access the student’s records from academics, health, vaccination status, history of COVID test results, and much more. McDowell points out that the website for Global Education Futures has been pulled off of the web, but was captured by the Way Back Machine.
If digital biometric passports are the future of education, here-&-now there is resistance.
The NAACP passed a resolution (see page 64) against requiring a blockchain digital identification to have access to public benefits back in July of 2019. This means that the most prominent African American civil rights organization in the country does not believe it is moral or legal to force the neediest people in our country to have a digital identity to access life saving food stamps, section-8 housing, Medicaid or education services.
There was opposition to this resolution as it was challenged on the floor of the national NAACP conference by a delegation out of Brooklyn. Frank Lieberman, who works full time for the educational technology (ed-tech) company KneoWorld, and also works closely with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), was present at the conference and affiliated with the Brooklyn delegation. An amendment was proposed by a member from the Brooklyn delegation that would have allowed ed-tech companies (like Lieberman’s) to utilize blockchain digital identities for students. KneoWorld has a partnership with the NAACP and the digital gamified platform is being rolled out to special education students in NYC. This partnership dates back to June of 2018.
The efforts to dilute the resolution were not successful as the debate included the need to protect against wider forms of data exploitation and over 2000 NAACP delegates from all across America voted to accept the resolution as written with no changes.
‘Gamification’ of Education
Frank Lieberman’s KneoWorld represents the “gamification” of education as children are presented with various video game platforms as substitutes for traditional in-person education. With all of the knowledge and data we now have proving how addictive screen-time and video games are, especially for children, the motives behind education gamification must be questioned and closely examined.
Frank Lieberman is a media and PR specialist. He was a marketing consultant for Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, two companies currently manufacturing COVID vaccines. Many decades ago he was involved in the initial rollout, sales programs and promotion of the drug valium (according to his bio on Linkedin). To see Lieberman now rolling out what many view as an extremely addictive new-age drug in the form of a gamified digital education platform is certainly eyebrow-raising, to say the least.
“The Digital Vaccine Project from Carnegie Mellon talks about ‘persuasive computing’ and neuropsychological physiological programming of a person’s mind. There is something in these digital interfaces that can wire your brain, and the scientists that are informing this come from all across the globe,” said McDowell.
It appears the initial rollout of KneoWorld in NYC will be in District-75 (D-75) schools. These schools strictly enroll students with the most severe disabilities. One key person involved in getting KneoWorld into D-75 schools is Jeff Huart, who worked as an NYC special education teacher for 8 years. After that he became a Special Representative for the UFT for 25 years. Huart maintains close ties to both the UFT and AFT, is a member of the NAACP, and is on KneoWorld’s advisory board.
Despite special education students being the first to utilize KneoWorld in NYC, McDowell states that the long-term plan for this technology is not solely special needs populations.
“KneoWorld has a ‘home based learning’ division for home schoolers and learning badges, which has a chat room on Facebook for students. I find this extremely problematic, ” said McDowell.
Lieberman and KneoWorld are perfectly positioned for the new “reimagined,” isolated, segregated on-line remote education dystopia that is being forced down the throat of the nation, especially in big cities with large Black and Brown communities. Unfortunately it seems as though the largest teacher unions in the country have given their approval to this new “reimagined”remote school system.
Check out Alison McDowell’s fascinating Littlesis map of the people connected to KneoWorld https://web.archive.org/web/20210104142455/https://littlesis.org/oligrapher/6018-kneomedia-gamified-edu-tainment
Learn more about McDowell’s work at her website ohttps://wrenchinthegears.com/