As we’ve developed a growing capacity for gathering and analyzing data, there’s been a proliferation of ideas, products, and services aiming to improve the way we experience things. iTunes and Spotify gather information about our listening preferences to offer better ways of listening to music. Online retailers hope to expand our shopping experiences with the promise, “If you liked this, you might also like…”
By extension, a considerable amount of energy and resources have recently gone into finding ways to apply technology and big data in education. For instance, two companies are claiming predictive analytics can determine a teacher’s success before he or she teaches a single lesson. Similarly, some college administrators claim that by using big data algorithms, they can predict which applicants will be “high yield” students before they’ve even been accepted. And, most notably, Common Core uses big data to standardize curriculum across all socioeconomic levels.
These examples point to some exciting applications for big data and technology in education, but focusing on bigger data and more metrics may not always be the right approach. More than big picture objectives, trends, or data points, students are unique individuals with varying strengths and weaknesses. As such, they deserve support at a personal, individual level. When technology is applied in ways that can focus on a unique individual over a large group, a teacher can monitor student understanding in real time — and that’s the personalized approach to instruction our education system should strive for.