Professor Vinny Cho studies leadership practices and technologies that support data use in education. As an assistant professor at Boston College, his aim is to help educators make the most out of their information on students.
Since Gradeable’s aim is to make information on student learning more accessible and useful for educators, I interviewed Dr. Cho for his thoughts on how data is shaping education, and how it starts with communication from the top down.
Looking at the “whole kid”
Schools are starting to collect more emotional data on students (how they feel about school, if they feel safe, what they aspire to be) to try to draw connections/predictions in conjunction with standard data points like state test scores and attendance.
Also, as data collection and analysis gets more sophisticated, Cho is starting to see more proactive analysis. For example, if you know a student was out the majority of the days you taught fractions, maybe you can give him/her a little more attention before the test. Or, say the system picks up that a student was out three days in a row; an automated phone call goes out to the home.
IT needs a seat at the table
What drives results effectively is when administration acknowledges the need for a person or persons to oversee the rollout of technologies. Leaders should recognize the job to be done (say, by a liaison between tech, teachers, admin) and organize toward that goal. IT people need to have a seat at the table when schools are discussing instruction/curriculum. In addition, administration must provide support, training, and setup help as people get acclimated to the technology.
Decide what information you want
Leaders must set expectations for what they want technology to show them. Cho says that if leaders don’t have the conversation with community members to decide what they want for students, they’re passing the buck to tech designers who literally shape what someone sees about the kid. A bad scenario is profile of a student that features his worst Facebook photo and all disciplinary records.
We still don’t know what we’re looking at
Data and technology has changed so much that we’re only starting to realize what’s possible. Even with all this information on a student, we don’t have to use it. At this point, data checks in, but it doesn’t check out. So again, it remains to be seen how all this information will be utilized.
In conclusion, Dr. Cho’s suggestion for success is communication. Educators must create a common language where everyone understands what the school wants for a student.
For Professor Cho’s latest, visit his blog.