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.

Contrarians and rebels in your organization – are you nurturing them or neglecting them?

For schools that aim to innovate and improve, the people who work in such schools will have to grow comfortable with internal opposition. Schools live at an interesting and paradoxical intersection. All at once, schools tend to be excellent at building conformity, while functioning in such a way that breeds sub-system metamorphosis.

Much of the structure of traditional school exists to create conformity. Bells, dress codes, grading systems, faculty induction, etc. – they function to establish standardization and uniformity. However, most schools continue to practice a brand of professional development that breeds “rebels.” We send faculty to conferences, and the faculty return with great excitement to try something new and relatively non-conventional. Just yesterday, I attended an SAIS (Southern Association of Independent Schools) event on flipping the classroom. A few teachers from a smattering of schools attended, and they will return to their hives to disrupt the norm.

How might schools better create honey-production systems for these worker bees that return to the hive with new pollen? How might we grow more accepting and even promoting of internal opposition?

A recent article on Fast Company’s Co-Design,  “How To Nurture Your Company’s Rebels, And Unlock Their Innovative Might” by , offers great insights in this regard.

Similarly, I would argue, the contrarians and rebels, the people on the fringes of organizations who question and deviate from the status quo, which so often leads to inertia and inflexibility, are huge assets for any organization. Those who disagree with the present often see the future more clearly.

How are you nurturing the contrarians and rebels? How are you tapping into the future seers within your organization? Are you feeding their curiosity and factoring in their ideas to your pedagogical master plan, or are you intentionally or unintentionally squashing their experimental energy and enthusiasm?