For the past few years, businesses, corporations, and even political bloggers have made efforts to harness big data to better inform themselves (and the world) of trends, interests, and predictive actions.
The big data movement is now making its way into the education field. Much like data allows websites, search engines, and even brick-and-mortar stores to figure out who you are and what you like, schools are realizing that large student data sets and analytics can help educators provide customized and personalized education paths.
Don’t get mired in numbers, instead focus on student learning
Unless your title is Educational Data Scientist, the massive amount of numbers, data points, and spreadsheets synonymous with big data is most likely a bit overwhelming and frankly a bit over your head.
And, that’s totally fine! The following sections detail how educational technology resources help you avoid the crunching of numbers, and instead offer more valuable instructional time utilizing data analysis to improve individual student achievement.
Leveraging educational data in today’s classroom
In a general sense, the ability to use data to offer true personalized learning experiences based in interest, learning goals, and pacing is a welcome progression. The idea of inputting student "symptoms" and immediately receiving real-time feedback on the best approach for a student or group of students is beyond encouraging.
However, the validity of big data in schools is directly tied to proper and efficient application. Predictive tools that enhance learning for individual students are readily available, but they must work well and they must be easy for educators to use.
Seek tools and resources that help educators design a blended learning curriculum that collects data at every step of the learning process, but also quickly interpolates the data for easy educator use. Doing so allows the educator to adjust a student’s learning path at the click of a mouse without getting mired in the depth of numbers and data points.
To achieve this, the personalized learning EdTech resources you seek out should include:
- Easily accessible progress reports
- Descriptive usage reports
- Curriculum customization ability at the teacher and administrative level
- Customized learning activities and interactions, based on difficulty and pace
Effective EdTech Data Tools are readily available
The great thing is, implementing personalized learning through data sharing is already possible. Big data and big analytics can be brought into the K-12 classroom on a useful scale with online services including learning management systems, student information systems, and valuable EdTech resources that collect and return useful analytics for all educational stakeholders (teachers, students, administrators, parents, etc.).
These resources are all designed to meet needs of learning standards and individual learning goals, while also providing teachers with tools to deliver personalized education to each and every student.
Quickly identifying areas of needed reinforcement and/or enrichment also provides more time for valuable one-to-one instruction and the scaffolding of needed critical thinking and analysis skills in collaborative settings.
Don’t throw Big Data caution to the wind
Certainly, new technology needs to be applied carefully, checked and adjusted at every step. We’d be remiss to not be cautious with the technological potential of educational big data, specifically the chance that the technology is simply wrong about a student’s projected learning path.
"I wouldn't want to be limited only to what a machine suggests for me. If it's central to my experience, if I'm categorized in a certain way and pushed down a certain path, it could make a much worse experience for me. The machine could have students avoid things they might have been interested in."
The key is to view the benefits of big data and prescriptive educational technology as a “jumping-off point” for the personalized learning process, instead of the end-all-be-all. Big data and big analytics – combined properly with the solid instincts of the classroom teacher's experience, talents, and instincts-- can give educators an unprecedented means to combine educator intuition and understanding with suggestions from technology to create an effective and efficient learning experience.
Share your experiences with Educational Data in your classroom or school
Has your leveraged educational data to enhance personalized learning? What are some of your limits or blockers when it comes to your ability to utilize the data on a student-to-student basis? We'd love to hear your stories and successes!