Will Big Data Have Big Benefits for Educators?

At AEP’s 2012 CEO Roundtable, Big Data Leadership Day, three educators offered their insights on what Big Data means at the school, district, and state levels. Each presenter talked about the pain points of trying make sense of the data as well as the ultimate benefits of truly understanding a student’s learning path.

  • Massachusetts middle school math teacher Cristin Sauca described how she got a new student last week. Along with that student came a file folder with a single sheet of information about attendance records at his previous school—not much help in determining that student’s math skills. What does Big Data mean to Sauca? “Every piece of data is big,” she said during the panel discussion. Describing herself as a “selfish data person,” Sauca believes that, if used effectively, Big Data can help teachers sift through oceans of test results to access the information that can best help their students.
  • Jim Peterson handles IT for a school district in Illinois as well as the IlliniCloud —a cooperative of school districts, which provide low cost options for disaster recovery, IaaS, SaaS and Data as a Service for K12 or non-profits. He feels confident that his district’s work with the Shared Learning Collaborative will help create a system whereby rich student data can be leveraged effectively by the district, schools, and teachers. “We have all this data that is very valuable,” he said during the discussion. The key is using it in the most effective manner.
  • Amrit Singh considers the implications of Big Data every day in his role as project director for New York State’s Education Data Portal. Currently, he and others are wrestling with how to create student learning maps showing what mastery looks like across standards—no small task in a state with over 120 approved benchmark assessments currently in use. Still, according to Singh, “The biggest challenge is not on the technology side, but being able to effectively build a culture for using that data in the best way.”

“We need to separate the data that are pertinent to a teacher and data that are pertinent to the state or district,” Sauca concluded. “My job is to educate, and my time is best spent doing that.”

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Data & Privacy