5 Data Myths in Education

Access to data is getting easier then ever for staff at every level from teacher to superintendent. However, access doesn’t necessarily lead to positive learning outcomes because many districts have an immature data culture. Here are the five data myths I’ve seen that can destroy a data initiative.

#1 Analyzing our data will solve all of our problems.

We must never confuse analyzing the data with solving a problem. Many times organizations use data to identify problems, but then never take the appropriate actions to solve the problem. We cannot analyze our way to learning.

#2 Data in the analytics system is the most important data we have.

It is human nature to over emphasize the value of data we have. This often leads us to frame our problems around the existing data without regard to whether or not it has a direct relationship to learning. We must always ask ourselves if the data we have is relevant to the problem we are trying to solve. If it is not then look for new data that would be more relevant.

#3 The more data I use, the stronger my analysis will be.

We often think that more is better. If we have a strong predictive model with three data points, then it will definitely be better with six data points. This isn’t the case. Adding additional data often creates a greater burden on the data collectors and complicates the data analysis. A quality data system will identify the smallest number of high impact data points that can be used.

#4 Our data looks horrible, we better not share this.

Many times data will reveal unfavorable details about a school or program. This often results in a gut reaction to hide the data or discredit the data system. Instead we must acknowledge the data and own it. We are responsible for the data in our systems and only we have the power to change what that data looks like in the future.

#5 The more disaggregated our data the better.

Most modern data system allow you to drill deep into your data. This can lead to data sets that are searching for a problem and “interesting but useless” insights that offer no actionable solution. Be wary of over analysis.

The Case Against Average

Todd Rose, in a recent Tedx Talk, summarized something that has been fluttering around the edges of my thinking for a while. He makes a strong case against teaching to the average and puts forth the idea that a learner’s profile is jagged, in other words some areas are above average and some are below. This jagged profile means an averaged learning environment will be either too easy or too difficult for virtually every student. Take 20 minutes to watch, it is worth it.

Original found via http://www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk

Cognitive Surplus and “Truthiness”

There have been two posts in the blogs I read that have been creating a lot of thought.

The first article is from Will Richardson at Weblogg-ed. The basic premise of the post is a review of a book, “True Enough”, by Farhad Manjoo. Manjoo suggests that Stephen Colbert’s ideas about “truthiness” have some merit, and that technologies are making it easier than ever for individuals to connect with others whom share views. This has the paradoxical effect of narrowing our world view, because it is easier than ever to narrow our information stream to just others who think like us.

This is scary and has a huge negative potential. It also helps explain why our society has such a fragmented feeling these days. I also can’t help but notice how this book as not been mentioned on any of the other blog sites that I normally read. It would seem that edubloggers are ignoring an important ethical conversation that is lingering in the wings.

The next article appeared in some form in nearly every blog I read, the Gin, Television, and Social Surplus talk by Clay Shirky. The catch phrase of “Cognitive Surplus” is the talk of the town. Personally, I think it is a brilliantly simple idea to explain a complex event. And while a agree with everything he said about TV, I can’t help but wonder about the societal ramifications when you think about Manjoo’s paradoxical effect. TV, while a colossal waste of time gives many people something in common. Of course, this is kinda sad but the truth never the less.

I worry that the majority of “cognitive surplus” will be squandered in activities that are no better than television and in some cases worse (i.e. the search for “truthiness”).

As educators, we are doing a lousy job at preparing students to leverage the power of social technologies. In most cases it is feared and downright banned (i.e. MySpace). So, I just wonder what are the new literacies or ethics we need to acknowledge so students are cognizant of developing a balanced information? Are we (educators) developing a balanced informational stream for ourselves? And finally, as Web 2.0 technologies diminish the expert in favor of the folksonomy, how do we judge what if true and what is “truthiness”?