The Driving Forces in Education & Data
Recently, education has seen an enormous demand for being able to quantify and support their progress and decisions from every facet of stakeholder. This includes government, administrators, parents, educators, and even students. Education has largely been conducted in the United States by a prescribed measure and ritual that has gone largely unchanged since this country was founded. Content, agendas, and expectations have all changed, but our delivery method and how we assess progress has morphed very little. In fact, it is very interesting to see how little the education industry has changed from 1800 to 2000 given our advances in technology, how we live and work, our medical treatment, and our means of transportation have all rapidly evolved and dramatically changed.
Since roughly 2008, there has been an increasing demand from forces outside the education industry to modernize how education is operated, conducted, delivered and measured. There have been many influencing factors, and it’s hard, if not impossible, to pinpoint any singular responsible event. However, the fact that the major leading U.S. technology companies leverage large amounts of data to optimize their business, train employees, improve products, and target customers on scales of both volume and success that have never before been approached is a compelling starting point. It is also important to note that the hands these successful companies were created from and rose to success by were not over-educated academics, geniuses, or possessed some special power the rest of us mortals can only dream about. They were mostly self taught, hardworking, driven problem solvers who were not afraid to fail.
It is also very interesting that many of these companies had to invent the tools and technologies to be able to leverage large amounts of data for their success, something that has now been coined as Big Data. That type of innovation is really exciting and inspiration, but the greatest benefit to our way of life is many of these technologies have been Open Sourced, meaning they are FREE for almost anyone to use to build their own solution, product, and/or company on top of it all. This type of innovation should have drastically lowered the development, research, and implementation costs of a new wave of products that leverage data in new and exciting ways.
Let’s get away from averages, standard deviations, and grading scales based on accuracy now that we have the technology to deliver deeper, more actionable and meaningful insight. These new innovations produced a dipole effect in that between 2008 and present day we have seen many companies in many industries take advantage of these innovations and at the same time we have seen industries ignore these advances like they are insulated from the ever changing world around them. It is upsetting to say the education industry is a very late adopter.
Buzz Words To Not Practice
Many companies have that sell education software solutions, especially LMS type products, learned these buzzwords and have plastered them in all their marketing materials. “Analytics this; analytics that,” the translation is averages, standard deviations, norms, etc… not to innovative.
I want to see education companies leverage these innovations to reduce cost and improve student outcomes and teaching methodologies. Not to just use this data in a routine feedback loop to measure or penalize students, but to teach students. Identify their strengths and improve their weaknesses. If you are an educator reading this, ask yourself the following question:
How often do I identify what a student is good at and what are they struggling with, and how often to I change my instruction in response to this?
Idealistically, isn’t this why you assess a student? Not to give them a grade, but to identify what they didn’t master and help them. If you know their strengths, you can help foster a more productive learning environment that builds on self learning and confidence. Instead, we have become a culture of penalization and not encouragement.
It’s difficult to adjust delivery to student to teacher ratio of thirty to one whilst abiding all the restrictions and regulations imposed on GREAT EDUCATORS throughout this country. It is an unrealistic expectation given our current technology, but who knows what the future can bring. For now, we do have the technology to assist educators to improve this process when it has the chances of making the most impact.
Greplytix & LearningInsight Analytics
Clearly, I am opinionated and very passionate about educating and inspiring, which is one of the reasons Greplytix exists. We are trying to move that needle ever so slightly in favor of great educators becoming better and more effective at what they already do. Identifying what works, what doesn’t, for whom and when. We nurture a proactive state in education instead of a reactive (I will leave my rant for RTI another day).
At Greplytix, we leverage these innovative data tools I have been preaching about in an effort to empower all the stakeholders, we give them cost effective power tools that deliver deep insight into learning patterns and trends.