Big Data in primary education

Today more and more classrooms are equipped with interactive whiteboards and computers. Teachers and learners use online services and different tools or applications for computer-aided instruction. I just finished, for example, the project “connected-kids” with my 3rd grade elementary school, where my class was equipped with mobile internet and a suitcase full of iPads for our individual use. It was a great experience to discover the possibilities of digitalization in school in this way. I would say, the digital transformation in school has just begun. But how does the much-discussed digitization change learning? And which opportunities and risks are associated with growing amounts of data in education?

The use of digital learning tools makes it possible to collect lots of data. Computers can store much larger amounts of data than teachers and easily find relationships between these data. But the real challenge is the ability to extract wisdom from them. Educational Data Mining (EDM) and Learning Analytics (LA) are two opportunities to link and analyze this largely unstructured data. The aim is to use datasets to identify relationships for predictions to optimize the individual learning process. The benefit is that EDM and LA can help to analyze pupil´s learning difficulties and assist individualized learning. (More in: Why Learning Analytics For Primary Education Matters!)

Fig.: Learning Analytics Life Cycle (Kahil, M. & Ebner, M.: Learning Analytics: Principles &Constraints, in Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunication, 2015, Fig. 3, p. 1333)

Although this all sounds good, I think, these methods haven´t yet been implemented at elementary school now, the development is in its infancy. In many schools the digital equipment is still inadequate and teachers have to be trained for digitalization and Big Data to feel more secure about dealing with it. Which data are stored, where are the stored and how can they be interpreted? Questions like these should be clarified and basic safety standards must be defined to ensure that personal data cannot be misused.

I hope we can break down the barriers in the near future and take advantage of big data also in elementary school.

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