© 2019 by Daisy Ng

Big Data & Education: There Should Be No Dark Horse.

July 5, 2017

 

There has been lots of talk on big data and disruption to industries. The education industry is one that has been resistant to changes. 

 

What we have experienced and are perpetuating - mass learning of a fixed set of outcomes for an average child - has been going on for centuries. Decisions are decided at a top down level, from government to schools to teachers before it reaches the parent and the child. 

 

A parent's voice is limited. Our child's voice is smaller.

 

Schools produce grades from a test that is designed by the school. The eventual grade should measure if the content selected for the topic is appropriate and if the questions constructed are well structured to help a child comprehend.

 

The grades of the child may not reflect how well the child comprehends the subject matter. A child with good grade reflects how well the child understands or follows the system. 

 

Despite the importance of data, data gathering and analysis is modest in a conventional school setting. But this would hopefully change with the growing plethora of online learning platforms.

 

In Viktor Mayer-Schonberger & Kenneth Cukier's book 'Big Data', one story stood out.

 

There was a little girl who was learning a math session with her class through Khan Academy. Khan Academy allows each child to learn at his/her own pace with interactive feedback. The teacher could see through the heat map of how well her class was comprehending the topic. At the start of the session, the little girl scored poorly and she was near the bottom of the class. 

 

She was mocked by the better students in her class. But she persevered. As the learning system was adaptive, it started offering simpler questions. The girl's results remained poor and in the bottom percentile.

 

However, the penny seemed to drop 3/4 way through and something began to click. Suddenly, she had a better grasp of the subject matter. Her results started climbing and her pace began picking up. Eventually, she completed the session by being second of her class.

 

This story warms my heart. 

 

Not because it's a dark horse story. This child is reflective of many, many of our children. Each child is unique and learns each topic at his/her own pace. 

 

Who is that fictitious average child that our government have in mind in determining the national curriculum and outcomes? That child doesn't represent you, me and many of our children.

 

There isn't that many differentiated learning styles. We have one universal learning style. But what we need is room for deviation and individualisation, i.e. let our child learn at his/her own pace.

 

Most importantly, feedbacks should be constructive and interactive to help our child. Not affix a permanent label to a child and sentence her to a lifelong status 'I'm just not a math person.'

 

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