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Type the misspelled word "educaton" into Google. The search engine instantly anticipates that you really meant to search for “education” and redirects you accordingly. In fact, it is almost entirely as a by-product of this data created by billions of mistyped searches that Google has created what may be the world's best spell-checker.
As computer power has increased, the bits of data generated by ordinary activities—from buying clothes to paying subway fares—have become increasingly valuable and useful. Electronic health data—such as the information the U.S. Veterans Health Administration has from 8 million patients—allows researchers to augment formal clinical trials by generating and testing hypotheses around treatments. These stores of data create natural experiments, says Chris Anderson, Wired magazine's editor-in-chief. He speculates that they could someday make theoretical models obsolete: "This is a world where massive amounts of data and applied mathematics replace every other tool that might be brought to bear."
In education, the new assessment consortia, virtual schools, and digital instructional materials will create a torrent of new and different educational data. Some of these new data applications and their implications for education are discussed in Bill Tucker's new paper, Putting Data Into Practice. Just as Google constantly improves its spell-checker, a math tutorial could use real-time data—such as how long it takes students to respond to tasks, what actions enable students to persist through a set of questions, what sorts of errors do students make and when do students ask for help—to learn exactly which problem sets, tutorials, and processes lead to better outcomes. Educators could also capitalize on findings from social networking companies like Zynga, the creator of FarmVille, which tracks 40 billion player actions per day and conducts 1,000 experiments on new features every three months. Zynga constantly adjusts its games to prolong play, increase purchases, or motivate users to publicize the game among friends.
Join Education Sector December 7, 2010, for a look into the future, as experts discuss their vision for how the next decade of educational data could help to create much smarter, more actionable, and real-time information to improve student outcomes. The event will begin with a keynote address, highlighting examples from fields such as health care, by Aneesh Chopra, United States chief technology officer. A panel discussion on current practices, possibilities, and challenges will follow.
Featured panelists include:
- Sharren Bates, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Beverly Donohue, Vice President for Policy and Research at New Visions for Public Schools
- Lynn M. Etheredge, Consultant, Rapid Learning Project at George Washington University
- Bror Saxberg, Chief Learning Officer at Kaplan, Inc.
- Bill Tucker, Managing Director, Education Sector
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