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Big Data Applications in Education

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
Education offers a number of applications for the use of big data. While many of these remain rather cutting edge, a number of them have found their way into the classroom and onto your phone.

Big Data & Education

Education is one of the first places that we're exposed to the idea of data. After all, our performance through school is in large part based on the data that our teachers keep on us throughout the school year, known as our grades. However, with the rise of big data, the blanket term given to the ability to gather massive amounts of digital information and interact with it, schools may find themselves in a position to implement a great deal of big data-motivated changes. In this lesson, we'll look at some hypothetical uses for big data in education as well as some ways that it's being used right now.

Capturing Attention

As someone who has spent more than a little time at the head of a classroom, one of the worst things you can do for student achievement is start to lose a child's attention. However, when you've got a large number of faces behind those desks, it may not always be apparent who's still focused on your lesson. That's why some big data advocates want to start to apply biometric data to students. By tracking things like heart rate, facial expressions, and even other objects that are touched, the data can be analyzed in real time and sent back to the teacher so that he or she can do something to regain engagement. The really interesting thing is that these measurements can be taken via a camera on the ceiling or a watch-like device, so if you've got a mental image of each student wearing a bunch of electrodes, you can be relieved!

Intercepting Confusion

Many of these same measurements can be applied to not only maintaining engagement, but also finding confusion. Think about it - if a teacher had a bookmark indicating when a student's biometric data indicated confusion, the teacher could then review that particular part of the lesson. There's no need to try to figure out where a child was lost because the information is staring right back at the instructor. While this use of biometric data as a real-time classroom tool for the individual teacher is interesting by itself, the far-reaching benefits can really come into play when this and other information is gathered and analyzed as big data.

Important Conclusions

With the advent of big data, schools can effectively classify students' responses, habits, and performances to use as reference points for evaluating big policy changes. Are customized lesson plans increasing student engagement across a entire school district, or does allowing students more freedom to customize their schedules really lead to higher test scores? Big data can help provide answers to big questions in education.

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