PROCESS POST: Dreaming about learning apps that use data collection and dashboard displays

I love dreaming about the future of education. From dreams come possibilities and innovations. To stretch my own thinking, I seek inspiration from a number of sources. Frog design and TED are two of my favorites.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve thought more about data collection and dashboard display, all in the service of continuing to develop systems that visualize and enhance individual student learning. Recent inspirations for this dreaming have come from:

  • Advancing the Future of Healthcare: frog’s Connected Care Solution. I particularly love the images and visuals of the individual health dashboard. Where frog is showing dashboard items for blood pressure, BMI, physical activity, etc., I see a translation to education that could be dashboard items for oral communication, collaborative problem solving, and project management success.
  • Matt Killingsworth: Want to be happier? Stay in the moment (TED talk). In the talk, Killingsworth describes his app that collects information from a huge data set of people. In translation to education, I could see such an app being used on student smart phones, so that learners could real-time report on what they’re doing in class or at home to learn, if they are enjoying and/or benefiting from what they are doing, if they feel deeply engaged or confused or bored. That individual data could be aggregated to see a clearer picture of an individual learner’s preferences, proficiencies, etc. That data could also be aggregated on a larger set to see what types of activities are working best for various learner profiles, age groups, etc. And all of this data could feed into the dashboards imagined above.

Does any such app, data collection, and dash boarding already exist? If so, I would love for you to leave a comment and a link about what’s already out there. The closest thing I have seen personally is the data tool being developed with Khan Academy that provides individual and class data sets of learning targets, time spent on modules, etc.

Just like frog design’s CCS could reveal what’s working and what to address with a person’s health, and just like Matt Killingsworth’s app could reveal what is leading to greater happiness for folks, a comparable learning app could make tangible so much about what is working and what to address with individual learners and groups of learners.

If we can dream it, we can build it.

App-etizer: This American Life

During my sabbatical, when I was working as “the 40-year-old intern” at Unboundary, Alex asked me if I listened to This American Life on NPR. Even as a big fan of NPR, I had never heard of This American Life. Alex sent me a link to an episode, and I stored the link in a note-taking app.

Months later, I am now a regular listener and huge fan of This American Life. On November 5, 2011, my family adopted a rescue dog from Lookout Mountain, TN. As best as we can tell, Lucy is a cross between some kind of hound and some kind of pointer – maybe a German Short Hair. On November 6, my morning routine changed appreciably, as Lucy likes to walk near 5:30 a.m. each day.

I love walking with Lucy. Nevertheless, I was a bit reticent to give up the time that I use in the morning to read and write. So, Lucy and I walk with Ira Glass many mornings. After hooking up Lucy to her leash, I use the This American Life app to select an episode to which to listen during our walk.

The show has become a great “school” for me, and I am learning a great deal about P.I. Moms, Amusement Parks, Middle Schools, etc. What’s more, I am connecting a great deal of what I hear to other things about which I am thinking. For example, in a recent listen about a library program that puts students through a simulation of Reagan’s decision to invade Grenada, I was able to think considerably about the spectrum of project-based learning that exists. Additionally, I am also thinking a lot about the communication format of podcasting. That might be my next creative communication venture. How interesting it could be for a tribe of reporters at our school newspaper to post a series of podcasts…This Wildcat Life.

On to walk. Lucy and Ira are calling.

App-etizer: Wildlab Birds


I may play around with a series of posts about apps for iPhone and iPad. Calling the series “app-etizer” for now. Cute, huh?! When I attended ASCD, I went to a session about apps. More than anything, the session got me thinking about a series of posts like this for sharing an app and an idea for how to use in “21C learning.” Also, my iPad 2 has arrived…I migrated without a hitch, and I am just playing to learn…and learning to play.

So, I downloaded “Wildlab Birds.” It is free…I am cheap. We have a bird feeder outside our dining room French doors, and we have gotten into some very novice bird watching. Because we live on campus, the only house we own is at a Georgia lake, and it provides some superb birding as well. Third, I am a big fan of Clark Meyer, and he can make birding seem pretty cool. Anyway, we bought a book for bird identification. But, we cannot figure out how to get the book to play audio (sorry…couldn’t resist).

But Wildlab Birds has easy ID capabilities, and the birds’ songs are available. Also, through GPS, my sons and I can submit that we saw a particular bird, and we contribute to a scientific community tracking bird range and sightings. Last night, in Augusta, I played the song of a tufted titmouse, and three called back to the iPad. I am already dreaming of a naturalist outing at Westminster. We have almost 200 acres, and Clark assures me we have some interesting species and migrations across campus. Oh the places we could go…and the field studies we could explore and create!