Data mining is simply part of modern life. Every one of us leaves an electronic trail of when, how and where we do things that provide financial institutions, advertisers, stores, health care professions insight into how we behave.
Could an electronic trail in the classroom improve student learning?
Our friends at collegestats.org produced an infographic that lays out the arrival of data mining in the classroom. Individual and aggregate data mining of students has the potential to provide teachers and professors with insight into how and why a student might be struggling and, then, what, practices or interventions might work best to remedy the situation.
It’s not much different from what the best teachers do, individually, each day- continually assessing their students, looking at the how’s and why’s a particular student might be having trouble, and then applying a practice or approach that might help improve the student’s work.
Great teachers are good at this continual assessment, but it takes an enormous amount of time and energy.
Data mining might have great potential to help teachers become more effective with individual students, but it seems to me that we might be some distance off in terms of infrastructure and practice. Gross data mining is certainly with us through standardized testing, but taking data mining down to the individual student, I think, is going to take some time.
I don’t exactly live in the country, but I don’t live in an urban or suburban setting either (the official census term for the kind of town we live in is a micropolitan area).
We have good schools, but they’re not wealthy; they don’t have a deep, or wide, technological infrastructure; nor, do they have the money to install one. So money is an object.
Teachers will need to immerse themselves in, and own, the process.
Data mining will have to become a natural piece of a teacher’s work rather than something layered on.
Teachers will need to see how data mining improves their effectiveness.
I suspect there will have to be some norming of content and assessment.
Beyond mechanics and knowledge assessment, I’m not exactly sure how data mining will work in the humanities. Someone will have to help me on this one.
The infographic raises some basic technological challenges like integrating different data systems and choosing which data to mine and analyze.
Bringing data mining to education reminds me of when reading a patient’s EKG and deciding whether, or not, to administer a defibrillation shock to a patient’s heart passed from Dr. to computer.
Once loaded with all the permutations of heart rhythms, the computer more accurately read, and assessed, abnormal rhythms in need of defibrillating shock more accurately than the Dr. This development makes possible via the AED’s (Automated External Defibrillators) in your local shopping mall.
I see where data mining has the potential to free teachers from some aspects of their work to focus and improve effectiveness in other areas. Like the Doctors, teachers will need to see and understand, how data mining can help them become more accurate and more effective.
But, man, do I see the need for an infrastructure and the training to use it, that, at least from my vantage point, is nowhere near close.