A compelling vision of the data-driven future of K-12 schooling? Or a chilling description of a brave new educational world in which even students' smallest actions are converted to digital data and used to build permanent "learner profiles"?
A new report from London- and New York City-based educational publishing powerhouse Pearson is likely to generate both reactions, depending on whom you ask.
Released this week, "Impacts of the Digital Ocean on Education" is intended as "an aspirational vision of what success might look like" in the rapidly changing world of "big" educational data and personalized learning.
Report authors Kristen DiCerbo and John Behrens of Pearson's Center for Digital Data, Analytics, and Adaptive Learning sketch out a vision in which end-of-year, summative tests of narrowly defined skills and content knowledge are replaced by a constant stream of digital data generated by "in vivo naturalistic tasks" that thoroughly blur the line between assessment and instruction.
Such data—generated from a variety of sources and activities, and focusing on students' social connections and interactions, rather than just their isolated individual experiences—would be constantly tracked and used to update profiles that follow each student across classrooms, grades, and schools, helping facilitate more customized learning experiences for each.
"The devices and digital environments with which we interact are designed to record and store experiences, thereby creating a slowly rising ocean of digital data," DiCerbo and Behrens write in the report. "We believe the ability to capture data from everyday formal and informal learning activity should fundamentally change how we think about education."
Just as big data and analytics have transformed finance, insurance, retail, and professional sports, the report says, they will change education. Until recently, the authors write, data collection and storage was expensive, limited, and isolated, and students' educational records were not portable, easy to share, or able to be quickly analyzed.
But the digital revolution has changed that reality, DiCerbo and Behrens contend. They argue that the abundance of increasingly fine-grained data available to educators "can help pinpoint the moments when learning occurs or a learner's approach to a problem changes" and then be used to help tailor suggestions or recommendations to help each student's learning continue.
'Ocean' of Digital Data to Reshape Education, Pearson Report Predicts
By Benjamin Herold on March 19, 2014 11:24 AM
A tidal wave of data could personalize learning