A Primer on What 'Big Data' Really Means

Concerned that your digital footprints are the foundation for all online “personalized” services, including your favorite math app? A new report from MindCET, an Israeli edtech accelerator and research group, is hoping to demystify some of the wild assumptions and fantasies about what we can currently achieve with education data.

Articles like this recent Quartz piece stoke thoughtful fears about how Big Data could “haunt” students and set them on “fixed futures” based on the “permanence of the past.” But neither learning scientists nor data systems mentioned in the report would suggest that we’re currently headed in such a nefarious direction–or capable of such a Gattaca-level of automation.

At 84 pages, the report offers a comprehensive look at the latest promises and claims put forth about Big Data. Covering everything from the adaptive learning and data interoperability standards to privacy concerns, it’s a useful primer for anyone looking to get up to date with the debate. One of the first myths it attempts to debunk is our tendency to frame data in terms of size: “Big Data is one of the worst industry terms ever invented…it has created an obsession with the exact wrong parameter: volume of data.”

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