Big Data’s revolutionary potential

While local education officials have control over their students’ information, federal law does allow them to share their files with private companies in the education sector. These companies were excited by the opportunity presented by the database, but parents of students whose private information was out in the open protested.

There were concerns of leaks and abuse of this information. And now, Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to end New York’s relationship with inBloom, saying that increased data transparency and analytics are not the best way to achieve the state’s educational goals – especially in light of parental concerns.

But other developments show that big data truly can benefit schools, as explained in this recent Forbes piece featured on eSchool News, entitled “Big Data Goes to School.” It discusses the ways that public schools are now “harnessing” Big Data for purposes ranging from hiring to funding.

First among these major trends in Big Data use is adaptive learning, one example of which can be found in a product being developed by McGraw-Hill Education. “As a student reads and answers questions, the system tracks what the student doesn’t know and then presents that material. The system knows what questions to ask, and in what order, to maximize long-term retention,” the eSN article said.

Other important big data trends in the classroom include educational donations and the tracking of long-term outcomes. It is also suggested that big data could be used to predict teacher success. “Big Data has the potential to transform education from one-size-fits-all.”

While this is true, it is also important to tread carefully in the implementation of this revolutionary technology. There are risks involved with the exposure and analysis of this kind of information, but the innovations developed through this data processing could prove invaluable for education.

Carly Buchanan is an editorial intern at eSchool News.

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