Smart Data Leads to Smart Solutions for Students

By Greg Whitby, 19 July 2017

Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

Search engines like Google, websites such as Amazon and social media platforms like Facebook all collect data. This data is used to gain greater insight into its users and then deliver a more personalised experience. In different ways, schools also collect student data with the goal of providing each student with a more personalised and meaningful learning experience.

Some data that schools collect like student attendance, demographics and performance on standardised assessments like NAPLAN is mandatory. But schools also collect data on student behaviour, their participation in the learning, interventions and the progress they are making with their learning.

So much of the data we need can now be captured in a digital format, enabling us to do more and much faster than before. School systems are increasingly relying on data to develop a more comprehensive understanding of where each child is at in their learning journey and how successful schools are in providing quality learning for their students.

In the past, a student may have had a learning issue that was only identified at half-yearly report or yearly report time. This means that any intervention strategy would be introduced six or even twelve months down the track. Now we have the ability to gain greater insights into the factors affecting student achieving, allowing teachers to intervene much faster and track whether those interventions are effective.

Despite technology helping teachers with the collection and storage of data, issues such as the confidentiality and privacy can never be taken for granted. Schools and school systems have a responsibility to ensure that any data collected is used for its intended purpose and is stored safely. Privacy and confidentiality legislation exists for very good reasons.

The real work of teachers is not crunching the data but using it to inform decisions on how to improve the learning outcomes for their students. The exciting news for parents is that eventually schools will be able to take the data and insights generated and provide them with real-time information that tracks their child’s progress in a visually meaningful way.

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta

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