US Secretary of Ed Question #2: Educational Data and Decisions

2. Based on your role (administrator, parent, teacher, student, entrepreneur, business leader), how have you used educational data to make better decisions or be more successful?

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Note: This is the second of four questions being posted. For those in the U.S., Secretary Spellings has asked for ideas on the integration of technology in education. There is a form on the ed.gov site, but no ability to dialog or even leave your contact information if you fill it out. Therefore, I have created a forum thread for each of Secretary Spellings' questions, and propose that we discuss them here and invite her office to view the dialog on this website and even participate. This is a terrific opportunity to not only respond but to also show the benefit of Web 2.0 technology in addressing this kind of issue.

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Today, data is used primarily to compare schools, not to compare what our students have learned to what we’d hoped they had learned. When I taught, I gave tests and adapted my teaching to what I learned from those tests. I do not see much evidence of technology being used to these ends in the schools I come in contact with as a parent.

Again, a long way to go yet before we can answer this question in any meaningful way.
As a teacher, I find educational data useful in determining current knowledge of course content and background knowledge. I also am able to put some data to use in connecting students with scholarships or other post-secondary ventures.
What I like about this question is that it recognizes the that use of computing in technology is not just in the classroom. The computer, in particular, is a tool that can be used in many different ways for very different and valuable outcomes

Using this as a starting point, here are my first thoughts at categorizing those uses--which might then lead to better dialog about each one. (I'm sure this is not new ground, and I am *NOT* an expert, so refinement is welcome.) I do think that once there is good categorization, dialog based on the categories might make a lot of sense--as there are likely to be different opinions about technology depending on the intended outcome.

Categories for beneficial uses of technology in education:

Administrative (traditional: accounting, attendance, scheduling, etc.)
Administrative (progressive: "data mining," student trends, early problem detection, etc.)
Teacher Use
* Preparation
* In-class (projector, whiteboard, etc.)
* Professional Development
Student Productivity
* Writing Tool (descendant of pencil and typewriter, keyboarding)
* Business Analysis Tool (spreadsheets, databases, presentation programs)
Instructional
* Computer-aided Instruction (software to aid in teaching existing material)
* Programming (Logo, logic training)
Professional Training
* Programming
* Computer administration
* Design and manufacture
Learning Enhancement (probably the main focus of this Classroom 2.0 network)
* Writing (blogging)
* Communication (email, video-conferencing, internal and external communication)
* Self-study
* Distance education
* Collaboration (messaging, wikis, web 2.0)
* Customized Learning Platform
Future / Unknown / Transformational (uses of the computer that we cannot predict, but which will come just from having the technology available)
What is meant by educational data? The only data I receive is a report from the state that tells us what questions our kids missed the most and how they scored against other schools. This data is essential to any teacher that administers a standardized test. The data allows us to adjust teaching to better teach to the test (sarcasm). Having to compile the data myself would be an unbearable task. Every state should provide the same data to any school they expect to administer a standardized test and then make their AYP the next year.
As a teacher I use a Classroom Performance System from EduTEk. I asked students to answer questions on the content I just taught eg: Graphing. using their blue clickers. I discover in real time that many of my students did not understand some key concepts so I reteach only those concepts I do that the same day, not after going through a whole week, or end of unit, or semester quiz. The same day. I save a ton of time which I as a teacher I frequently say I don't have enough of to do anything new. This real time assessment strategy gives me lots of time to teach what I should be teaching.

Another example is I was considering in one of my classes how much time do I need to spend on certain concepts so I give a pretest on those concepts in general terms, I discover within minutes that I don't need to teach "graphing with calculators" because my students display a deeper understanding of that concept that I thought they had...or at least I won't spend as much time on it as other concepts that showed a lack of knowledge. Tons of time saved here.

My point is using educational data to make decisions doesn't have to be complicated, data warehoused, extra duty, time waster, consultant driven issue. Keep it simple and it works. We see the district integrated systems as THE model for the data driven concept. and that is all well and good but it is so "big" that teachers can't get their head around that idea. My opinion is to start using data at the classroom level first and use the simplest and cheapest models you can find and create a data driven culture at the building level. Bottom up change rather than top down change, its an old story.
In my role as a professional developer I have found that the absolute best professional development I have had for myself is reading and writing blogs. The blogs that I read keep me informed about the recent trends in my field. The blog that I write (http://malahinitx.blogspot.com) helps me to reflect on what I am learning and apply it to my experience.

Educational Data??? hmmmm I am not sure what that means besides test scores, attendance, etc... I guess I could use surveys to help guide me when I work with other teachers to find out what they know and want to learn and to get feedback for how my training went.

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