Sunday, November 14, 2010

Data Destruction

A friend & I have been engaging in a conversation the last couple of weeks about data, & have a few observations &/or questions.  Here is what's happening.  Teachers have become data managers.  They are being required to spend hours to...Create a test.  Teach to the test.  Give the test.  Score the test.  Enter the test scores.  Create small groups according to their test scores. 

It's the new way to track students.  Instead of students being placed in ability groups because of teacher intuition, they are being ability grouped because of standardized tests.  The data is reinforcing old habits.  Grouping is occurring younger & younger, in some instances as early as Kindergarten.

Data is deceitful. When data is used, typically only the numbers that support the point being made are used. none of the variables are included. Nor is the information that may disprove your point. It's an excuse to purchase technology.  Technology is not being purchased to engage students in 21st Century Skills, but instead to engage educators in pre-historic skills.  But, wait!  We want our teachers to work smarter, not harder.  So for them to work smarter we will purchase them an iPad or iPod or netbook or some program that will make either the data entry or data analysis easier.

Although data analysis is a higher level skill, everything else leading up to it (test creation, instruction, implementation, & scoring) are all lower level thinking.  When our students observe us consistently engaging in low-level thinking, will they be inspired to engage in high-level thinking?  NO.  They mimic us.  They will engage in exactly what they see.

We've tossed around a few theories about why technology is being used in this manner.  Is it a digital immigrant's way to become comfortable with technology?  Are the new generation of teachers enamored with data?  Are the elder generation of teachers seeking a 'back to basics' approach?  Has creativity gone to the wayside to the point where it is extinct in educators?  Has the business model fully hijacked education? 

It's hard to say.  But this I can say for certain.  When we are focused on a number, we loose sight of other things.  The most important being children.  Children who are people.  People who are individuals.  Individuals who will be required to stamp their unique qualities on the world at large.  Unique qualities that should encompass empathy, individuality, and thinking.
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