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.

A dashboard for the 7C’s – metrics for pedagogical master planning

I’m just playing with strands of ideas here…imagining one possible weave or braid.

Strand 1: 10,000 Hours

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, as well as in earlier work by Howard Gardner, the 10,000-hour rule is posited. Essentially, to become expert, or deeply disciplined and proficient, one typically must commit to at least 10,000 hours of dedicated practice. Hold that thought for a minute…like you’re holding one strand between your fingers.

Strand 2: Tracking Time

Not too long ago, I wrote about tracking my time at Unboundary, and I imagined what a similar practice of tracking time might be like in schools. Now, hold this second strand between another set of mental fingers.

Strand 3: The 7 C’s

In Trilling and Fadel’s 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, the authors advocate for the traditional 3 R’s (reading, writing, and arithmetic), as well as 7 C’s:

  1. Critical thinking and problem solving
  2. Communications, information, and media literacy
  3. Collaboration, teamwork, and leadership
  4. Creativity and innovation
  5. Computing and ICT literacy
  6. Career and learning self-reliance
  7. Cross-cultural understanding

Now, we can braid and weave.

Do we know how much time our students – the individual students – spend engaged in these seven activities? If a parent asked me, “Bo, I’ve been reading and listening about 21st C education. Can you tell me how much time your students spend in the 7 C’s? Can you explain some examples of how they might engage in the 7 C’s?”

I think I could knock the second question out of the park. I would totally strike out on the first question.

What if we had some sort of “dashboard” that could show us how much time our students are spending in these various C’s? Yes, you know…like the dashboards in our cars.

In our cars, the dashboards give us real-time feedback on speed, oil pressure, engine temperature, fuel remaining, battery voltage, etc. In 2012, couldn’t we have some sort of tech-enabled dashboard for how much time students are actually getting to immerse themselves in and practice the 7 C’s? It’s so easy now for me to examine how I spend my time at work by using the time tracker. I can see what projects I am working on, I can review what and how I am researching, and I can understand where I might need to rebalance my time allotments.

Wouldn’t it be insightful and informative to know, even if just for one day or one week or one month, how much time a student…

  • sits in lecture passively listening
  • practices communicating with an authentic audience
  • engages in collaborative problem-solving for a real-world problem (like a school’s recycling versus trash quandary)
  • participates in 3D printer activity to create something useful via Maker methods

By looking at the dashboard, I could see how close my son PJ is getting to 10,000 hours in “Creativity and innovation.” I could review how much time he is getting to engage in “Communications, information, and media literacy.” We could make some great, informed adjustments with this information. Just like we know when to stop for gas, when to adjust our speed, when to add oil to our car.

As a school we could examine aggregates and grouped data. We could look at departments to see if one department contributes more to certain C’s and another department contributes more to a different sub-set of C’s. We could see our bright spots and our areas for growth.

There could even be an app for that!

Driving without those gauges and instrument panels on the dashboard could cause a disaster! Using our dashboard makes us a better driver…and helps us get to where we are trying to go with greater success.

Developing and utilizing such tools could really help a school trying to create its finely tuned pedagogical master plan!

CHANGEd: What if we disaggregated the single score? 60-60-60 #24

Imagine climbing into your car, turning the ignition, and seeing a single number on the dashboard. Baked into that solitary number is your gasoline gauge, speedometer, oil gauge, RPMs, trip counter, etc. The engineers simply programmed some formula or average to get a single number to your dash. We’d be in a mess!

Why do so many schools continue to use a single number for a course grade or report card? Why do we bake in effort, participation, homework, quizzes, tests, projects, collaboration, etc.? What if we disaggregated the single score and utilized a more detailed dashboard?!

CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60 Project Explained