Data can seem like a frightening proposition in our age of instantly obtainable digital information, and when the term is prefixed with a ‘Big’, it can become even more daunting. But the way in which data is disseminated and used has changed rapidly in a competitive landscape of technological advancement. It’s had to adapt.
In a broader business sense, for example, companies are increasingly coming under perpetual scrutiny – held to account to deliver greater transparency and safety measures for how they possess and manage data. It’s certainly not unreasonable now for the average consumer to expect complete compliance when it comes to personal information, and it’s a trend largely unique to 21st Century living.
But data, big or not, needn’t conjure up legislative boogeymen like GDPR or the Personal Data Privacy Act. Its collection and use needn’t be of a personal nature either, nor analysed to influence what we see or what we buy online (though it often is). Instead, try to think of Big Data in an educational sense and the possibilities it can offer to learning and teaching. What if Big Data is repurposed and repackaged to serve attainment and instruction – to help struggling readers fully comprehend, or budding writers reach a little bit further in their work. Well, data is beginning to do so in a big way (no pun intended).
In classrooms around the world, data is being used as a tool for true pedagogical insight and progress, empowering educators to understand where a student’s learning is and how to target supports to get them to where they need to be. One of our own first-hand experiences so far has been through developing our literacy product, Read&Write, which now has over 16 million users worldwide. It’s a statistic we are proud of, but what really counts is what it offers and how we improve the way users engage with the software in their learning.
Educators might guide students towards features that offer them the best support for their individual needs, but it’s the learners that are taking it one step further by embedding the technology into their everyday classroom routines. Because of data, we’re able to see which tools within Read&Write are the most popular or offer the best support, and spend time refining them. It also offers us an opportunity to see what we can do better in other areas.
Diving deeper still, we have been working hard to connect Big Data and Personalised Learning in a way that’s meaningful, practical, and widely available. WriQ, our latest innovation, is our mission to develop a tangible metric for writing, and a management system that allows educators to track progress, encouraging students to express their ideas and thoughts in written form.
As WriQ gains more and more users, we’re able to create an enormous data set to robustly establish the WriQ score as a standardised norm for assessing writing. Ultimately, it allows teachers to understand, improve and progress the written communication skills of their learners, while also taking away the manual time-consuming work involved with scoring things like punctuation, grammar, text maturity, and correct word sequences.
Specifically, we are assessing four aspects of writing, and have been able to establish National Norms for grades 3 through 12. The quantitative assessment that we are making include:
- Quantity – how much did they write
- Pace – how quickly did they write it
- Accuracy – how many spelling, punctuation and grammar errors are there
- Maturity – what is the “writing age” of the content
Once scores are calculated automatically within WriQ, students receive immediate feedback directly embedded into their writing, closing the feedback loop. This enables students to know how they did, and what they can do to improve next time, fostering a personalised approach to their own learning that can be shared with parents, and evolve the experience of learning beyond the walls of the classroom into confidence and independence.
If you’d like to further explore the mechanisms and motivations behind our pursuit of Big Data and Personalised Learning, watch this recent webinar where we discuss the goals, frameworks, and methods of application that can have a positive impact in every classroom.