Listening to the Public’s Concerns About Big Data

In the next two years, the future of truly personalized learning and student achievement outcomes will largely be determined on how effectively data is used. Success depends on addressing fast growing issues of how data is collected and maintaining student privacy. Right now the issues are largely being defined by reaction to public concerns — some well-founded and some unfounded — as opposed to a full discussion of what student data is necessary, for what it should be used, and what policies are necessary to ensure appropriate use and protection.

Make no mistake; failure to address these issues now in an active and transparent manner may well set back the promise of technology enabling teachers to achieve the learning outcomes for all students that we fervently seek.

With the advent and implementation of new technology comes the natural gathering of larger amounts of data, literally from each key stroke. Applied well, data transforms education from a standardized, one-size-fits-all approach to a true personalized learning experience for every student. Digital learning — the effective use of technology to enhance teaching and learning — and data do not diminish the role of the teacher; rather, the teacher now becomes an “educational designer,” working with each student to maximize his or her learning opportunities.

Think about the student who was truly struggling and at risk of dropping out of high school. Perhaps the quick detection of a change in his/her performance in math led to a conversation with other teachers who saw similar trends, which led to the filling-in of learning gaps.

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