How to Integrate Big Data in the Classroom and Keep It Private

When you were in school, did you ever look up at your teacher and think, “There’s someone who knows data analytics?”

Sure, teachers somehow manage to size people and situations up pretty quickly. So maybe you looked at your teacher and thought, “How did she figure out who shot the rubber band into the ceiling tile?” or “How did he know Bill and Marco were chewing gum?”

   Click to enlarge

But you probably didn’t associate your teacher with big data and analytics.

3 ways to integrate big data into the K-12 classroom

In my last post, I mentioned that education generates mountains of data, but teachers rarely have the analytical tools to work with the variety and volume of that data. That’s changing with the advent of learning analytics, which applies predictive analytics to improve education for all students.

A new report from THE Journal, called Game Changer: How Predictive Analytics is Transforming K-12 Education, highlights three tips from the New American Foundation for successfully integrating big data into the K-12 classroom:

  1. Provide professional learning opportunities during the normal workday. This is the only way to keep up with the students, who learn more about technology while gabbing with friends during recess than most teachers learn in a week.
  2. Select trainers who are both knowledgeable data analysts and effective, capable coaches. That may be a tough combination to find, but the ability to convey techniques is as important as the techniques themselves.
  3. Embrace the power of data from the top down. Teachers using analytics is good; teachers and administrators using analytics is better. Data analytics has the potential to fit smoothly with the overall culture of the school or district.

5 ways to manage student information in the classroom

If you’ve been in school recently or have children there, have you thought about the amount of data that a student generates? Assignments, grades, standardized test scores, attendance, health, financials and personal data are just the start. Then there’s the student’s online footprint: websites, passwords, posts, comments and uploaded/downloaded documents.

Who’s protecting all of that information and keeping it private? Big data shapes the way in which students look at privacy. As they generate, capture and interact with data, they begin to recognize the importance of privacy and data security.

The Game Changer report I mentioned includes five suggestions from the National Center for Education Statistics for managing information in student education records:

  1. Identify the elements of personally identifiable information (PII) that need to be protected; for example, student’s Social Security number, date of birth and mother’s maiden name.
  2. Confirm the need to maintain PII, then collect only relevant, necessary PII.
  3. Ensure that PII is accurate, timely and complete.
  4. Identify the risk level associated with different types of PII.
  5. Implement internal procedural controls to protect the PII.

Breaches of financial, commercial, medical and government data grab the headlines, but there is plenty of big data in education, too. How do you think it’s affecting student privacy? Let me know in the comments below.