Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gamers as a model for real learning?

What do you think of when you think of a gamer?

A slacker?

A basement dweller who can't relate to the real world?

How about . . .

A person with a questioning disposition?

A person with curiosity?

A person, who as part of a community, transforms and shapes their own learning?

A model for what real learning looks like?

Look at this video in which John Seely Brown talks about motivating learners. He paints an interesting and provocative picture of today's learners. It is a picture that those of us in education need to embrace but clearly have not.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Data, sports, and schools: What's the connection?

An article appeared on how statistics and data can be used to improve outcomes. The author said:
  • analytics are advancing and changing everything
  • access to previously unimaginable information and statistics
  • various software programs can break down in breath taking detail . . .
Yet the author continued and said:
  • Many people are still fighting back against the numbers
  • The numbers are the the numbers. But you better know your [people]
  • Even at a conference about using the numbers and analytics in new ways, there is significant backlash against using the numbers in the current ways.
The author concludes with:
  • You can understand those under the microscope being dismissive of those people calculating odds and percentages and best practices while sitting far away from the fray
And there you have it.

On the one hand you have those who advocate for the use of data. Numbers. Statistics. Quantifiable outcomes.

Then you have those in the trenches, those on the field, those doing the work that have a different perspective than those in the offices calculating performance who have never been in the trenches, on the field, or doing the work.

That is the world of education. 

Except this article was about the use of data in sports not the use of data in schools. 

It was interesting to see the similarities between those in sports and those in schools.

Both have data.

There is some skepticism in some quarters about the importance of data.

A big difference is that in sports one can define success. A team wins or loses. Inquiring minds can ask why "Team A" did better than "Team B"? Those who advocate using data in new ways will argue that it is using the data in new ways that is making the difference for those teams that win.

Think "Moneyball."

But in education is the use of data that clear cut?

Do we see winners and losers just based on data?

Some data points seem more important to some people than other data points.

Test scores? Important.

Poverty rates? Not so important to some.

Grade points? Viewed with skepticism by some.

The outcome in education is learning. We need to use all of the available data that we have to try and figure out if students are learning.

But we also need to look at the human factor. How do we quantify the importance of a teacher who cares? Of a teacher who connects with students?

The conversation surrounding the use of data is critical.

Monday, March 4, 2013

When data conflicts with a political agenda, who wins?

On January 16, 2013, Governor Snyder, in his state of the state address, said the following:

Only 17 percent of our kids are college ready.

This is a consistent message that the Governor gives. He hammers again and again that only 17% of Michigan's high school seniors are college ready. He has said it many times.

But it is just not true.

No matter how many times he says it, the Governor is wrong.

On the Governor's dashboard - MI School Data (www.mischooldata.org) - 75% of the 2010 graduates - the latest year for which numbers are available - enrolled in college within 16 months of graduation. (Here's a link that shows the numbers - click on the "percentage" link.)

On the Governor's dashboard - MI School Data - the latest figures show that less than 30% need remedial courses in college in any subject. Indeed, the numbers show that less than 8% need remedial courses in reading, less than 13% need remedial courses in writing, and less than 22% need remedial courses in math.

If Governor Snyder's numbers were accurate then fully 83% of students would need remedial work.

Why would the Governor try to sell an idea that clearly is not true?

He has a political agenda that requires him to try and show that public schools are not doing the job. This would allow him to sell his idea that other forms of education - commercialized, for-profit companies and his Educational Achievement Authority - are needed to provide the kind of education that Michigan students need.

But the data refute the Governor. It appears that the Governor is not looking at the data or is choosing to ignore the data.

What happens when data conflicts with a political agenda? It appears that the political agenda wins.

The Governor could be selling that Michigan's public schools do a great job of educating students. The Governor could be trumpeting than businesses should invest in Michigan because we have an educated population that would help businesses succeed.

But the Governor is not doing that.

That is - to put it mildly - unfortunate.