Archive for January 18, 2011

Especially In Computing: ‘Trust Us’ Won’t Cut It Anymore – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Given that we have a track record of being unable to measure accurately our students’ achievement, I suspect that those of us in Computing are particularly susceptible to this criticism.

“Trust us.”

That’s the only answer colleges ever provide when asked how much their students learn.

Sure, they acknowledge, it’s hard for students to find out what material individual courses will cover. So most students choose their courses based on a paragraph in the catalog and whatever secondhand information they can gather.

No, there’s isn’t an independent evaluation process. No standardized tests, no external audits, no publicly available learning evidence of any kind.

Yes, there’s been grade inflation. A-minus is the new C. Granted, faculty have every incentive to neglect their teaching duties while chasing tenure—if they’re lucky enough to be in the chase at all. Meanwhile the steady adjunctification of the professoriate proceeds.

via ‘Trust Us’ Won’t Cut It Anymore – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

January 18, 2011 at 12:51 pm 8 comments

Can standardization and innovation coexist in education?

Thanks to Greg Wilson for pointing this out.  The technical challenge that this piece is addressing is how to gather and communicate the data for personalization of educational technology.  The larger issue being explored here is how creating technical standards may enable educational innovation.

From my perspective, placing the data in a different place solves a research problem, too.  There’s an advantage of a “digital backpack” (that goes with the student, under the student’s control) versus a “digital locker” (that is somehow stored at the institution) that I didn’t really see discussed in this piece, and that’s FERPA.  We’re really stymied in how much tracking and personalizing we can do because we can’t see the data about a student without the student’s permission.

For example, we’d love to know which CS students have had summer camps or workshops from “Georgia Computes!” in the past — we can’t do this look-up without lots of approvals.  Right now, we have to get permission from each student, and even if all students agree, we then have to go to the Registrar to show we have permission, and now can we get the data we need.  But if it’s a “backpack” that the student can offer access to, the only approval we need is the student’s.

Personalization is the holy grail of education technology, but it can’t be achieved without mechanisms for rich data about each student’s learning. And that data must be persistently stored and appropriately accessible. Matthew neatly turns the traditional metaphor of a “digital locker” on its head by replacing it with the “data backpack” — a container that goes everywhere the student goes.

Matthew’s insights led me to Wireless Generation’s white paper on “An American Examination System.” The paper outlines a platform for using technology to collect and store data on individual student performance. With this rich data following students, teachers will have the data available to know what students need to work on or learn next. The data can become the basis for “adaptive mass personalization.”

via Can standardization and innovation coexist in education? – O’Reilly Radar.

January 18, 2011 at 9:46 am Leave a comment


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