‘A tidal wave of data could personalise learning’
It can hardly be denied that technology is fast becoming the fabric of our lives in more ways than one. It is ubiquitous and pervasive, and by the same token, the technology is capturing numerous aspects of our lives ready to be recalled, analysed, and used.
Authors Kristen DiCerbo and John Behrens argue that this transformation from ‘digital desert to digital ocean’ has the potential to help decipher how students learn and to help them succeed. According to a study by John Hattie in which he analysed 800 studies about factors that influenced students’ achievement, the most important factor was when teachers use information about their students’ learning.1 The report sets out the ways in which the variety and abundance of data captured when students carry out their school work could provide teachers with the key to help students learn.
'Impacts of the Digital Ocean on Education' highlights the many possibilities and challenges that technology presents in capturing relevant data and turning it into meaningful information that teachers can use to assist their students. More research also needs to be carried out to determine how the data relates to student achievement, problem-solving ability, and other skills developed in learning. For example, is a student who spends longer on a problem necessarily struggling with a particular concept? DiCerbo and Behrens themselves state that "the data itself is only a starting point that is necessary, but not sufficient to transform education”.2 They stipulate that there is a long process that the data needs to go through for it to be applied successfully including its analysis, interpretation, communication, and use in decision-making.
However, one of the immediate advantages of data is that it can provide immediate feedback to students on their progress, making the feedback instantly relevant and usable. Instead of waiting a week for teachers to mark assignments in an exercise book, and the student not reading the feedback, or re-doing the problem to fix the errors, work completed on a computer can tell a student when they have done something wrong and provide helpful hints on how to correct it immediately.
The tidal wave of data seems inevitable, but educators and policy-makers will need to understand how to take advantage of it, as well as embrace the new technology, before learners will fully benefit.
1 Hattie, J. (2009). 'Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement'. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.
2 DiCerbo & Behrens, 'Impacts of the Digital Ocean on Education', i, 10.