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Monday, July 27, 2015

Lessons from the Digital Classroom

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Nanette Byrnes, Senior Editor writes, "Technologists and venture capitalists are betting that the data online learning generates will reshape education."

Photo: MIT Technology Review

In four small schools scattered across San Francisco, a data experiment is under way. That is where AltSchool is testing how technology can help teachers maximize their students’ learning.
 
Founded two years ago by Max ­Ventilla, a data expert and former head of personalization at Google, AltSchool runs schools filled with data-gathering technology.
Information is captured from the moment each student arrives at school and checks in on an attendance app. For part of the day, students work independently, using iPads and Chromebooks, on “playlists” of activities that teachers have selected to match their personal goals. Data about each student’s progress is captured for teachers’ later review. Classrooms are recorded, and teachers can flag important moments by pressing a button, as you might TiVo your favorite television show.
 
The idea is that all the data from this network of schools will be woven into a smart centralized operating system that teachers will be able to use to design effective and personalized instruction. There is even a recommendation engine built in.
 
While most schools don’t have the type of technology AltSchool is developing, classrooms are increasingly filled with laptops and other digital teaching aids. This year U.S. elementary, middle, and high schools are expected to spend $4.7 billion on information technology. What is new is that many of the technologies are capturing expansive amounts of data, enough of it to search for meaningful patterns and insight into how students learn. The potential for that to be turned into profit is a big reason investors have increased funding of educational technology startups worldwide, from $1.6 billion in 2013 to $2.4 billion in 2014; they invested over $1 billion more in the first quarter of 2015, much of that in China. What all that data is teaching us about how we learn and whether technology is actually making instruction better are the big questions at the heart of this Business Report.
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Source: MIT Technology Review


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