Big Data Part 2: Applications in Education

Big data in classrooms, schools, and districts are all about making sense of student information to drive better teaching. These data points may range from attendance to test scores to click rates and there’s technology to crunch these numbers for you. Once these tools tabulate this data, you have a quantitative story on each student. So while you know that Suzy is really good at math, now, you can actually point to her performance numbers when her parents come in for parent/teacher night.

What you’re using

Class blogs — Whether you’re using WordPress, Tumblr, or Blogspot, blogs these days have powerful analytics tools that let you know and how often students are checking in on your blog posts. Applied to a class blog, you can easily see what content and and post times are post effective and engaging for students.

Google — I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it infinity: GOOGLE IS THE MOST VERSATILE TOOL TO EVER HIT THE INTERNET. It’s one-stop connectivity to the online world. From one gmail account, you can email, share documents, and even make rubrics. For example, by making a rubric through Google Forms/Spreadsheets, you can see the performance of your students without any special software. The technology is available to you on a tab in your email. For the web savvy, there is Google Analytics for web-based classrooms. Applied to your class website, Google Analytics shows you how people interact with your website: how they access it, how long they stay, what they’re clicking on.

Digital gradebooks — Remember that book of graph paper looking stuff where the teacher put all your grades and attendance. I remember always wanted to get my hands on it to change my scores… but that’s another blog post all together. Well it’s 2013 now and that book has gone digital. Like a fancy Excel Spreadsheet, programs like GradeBook can be the home for all your students data. Since this data is digitized, it’s easily extractable to answer questions like how is my second period doing? Who is failing? How’s the history department doing?

Classroom dashboards — Is your school already using tools like Blackboard or TurnItIn? Well these dashboards have made analytics tools available for all the student data that its housing. For example, Blackboard Analytics can help you automatically give you a more thorough understanding of a student’s issues, needs, and achievements. TurnItIn’s Common Core Rubrics Reports can generate reports for all your assignments. Categories for these reports include average overall score by assignment and assignment score broken down by rubric criterion. Another cool thing about TurnItIn is its plagiarism prevention feature. Once assignments are uploaded and digitized, TurnItIn’s OriginalityCheck will match it up against a database of “24+ billion web pages, 300+ million student papers and leading library databases and publications.” Big data just got real.

What’s out there

Flipped/blended classrooms — Some educators have embraced a flipped or blended classroom model. In this practice, students watch lectures and read text at home, and in essence studying for the class. When they arrive at class, they take quizzes or do “homework” together and the teacher can use class time more effectively helping students work through problems. Edtech gets involved when students are answering quiz questions that the teacher can track live either through smartboards or small, game-show like clickers. Using the responses as a guide, the teacher can decide what to spend class time lecturing on.

inBloom — Launched in February, inBloom is a non-profit, student data warehousing service, funded by the Gates Foundation, which works with developers to create tools teachers can use for personalized instruction. Currently, districts in 3 states (New York, Colorado, Illinois) have signed up to pilot the program. The mission of inBloom is to consolidate all the student data into one format so developers, won’t have to draw from disjointed, incompatible programs storing one aspect of student data like state test scores or contact information. All the data is in one place, in one format. They can choose from the fields they need and apply it

Gradeable — Like digital gradebooks but on steriods, our product and others like it helps you to digitize your assessments, your students’ responses, and track the progress. Once the workflow goes digital, teachers, parents and administrators can pore over the data and discover new trends, challenges, and better engage the student as a result. One cool thing about our tool, as I discussed with Mikaila the other day, is that it is customizable. So if it works for you to print out a blank quiz and fill in the question later, depending on how your class is comprehending material, then by all means go for it! The QR code and we will be there to help you through the process.

What’s on it’s way

What on it’s way is in our hands. With a better understanding of the inner workings of education that a digitized database affords, it’s up to us to make the most of it. Technology will answer questions like what are we succeeding at? What are we failing at? It will give us insights on different demographics and how we can help teachers do more with less. But it’s all just information until it’s applied by teachers and administrators who have access to it.

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