Friday 8 August 2014

The School of Lifelogging

Could lifelogging address the educational "achievement gap" while preparing children from all backgrounds to work with data? Securing personal data from unwelcome eyes will likely remain a challenge. Lifelogging is not just about quantitative analysis. Highly engaging, qualitative storytelling can also emerge from data gathered by learners. Stories of self-determination would involve the learner's own understanding of personal ambitions and dreams.

Lifelogging is part of a growing movement known as "the quantified self". Wearable sensors and cameras capture data about an individual's everyday experience to improve self-understanding. Ordinarily focused on health and wellbeing, lifelogging could disrupt education as we know it. Smartphones were only the beginning. Performance data from wearable devices could personalise learning in ever more intimate ways.

The wearables

We've seen an influx of smart watches and fitness trackers into the market. These devices provide personal analytics on heart rate, number of footsteps and distance per day, to name but a few. Google Glass records videos and photos, helping connect peers in the Cloud where personal records of each other's lives can be shared and stored. Head-mounted bands capture different types of brain waves that reflect their user's changing mental states throughout the day. We're only at the beginning, as notes from Mary Meeker's "2013 Internet Trends" report:
The quantified-self movement goes hand-in-hand with the devices that make it possible. Meeker points out the rise of hands-free, always-on, connected devices such as Google Glass make this movement possible. And for those naysayers that say wearable tech is just a fad -- Well, Meeker would like to remind you that Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment, once said in 1977 "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." 
Through lifelogging, historical logs of data could provide pupils with a lifelong resource about themselves. The practice could make their short-term goals and long-term dreams a whole lot more achievable.

Exploring selfhood in Big Data

A school embracing lifelogging would likely end up with too much pupil performance data to translate into a resource that kids would enjoy. A known shortage of data scientists, as reported by McKinsey research may exacerbate the Big Data challenge. The day will likely come when learning analytics exist with integrated data from kid's experiences. A new data literacy for young people may emerge, enabling them to explore selfhood by analysing and synthesising accumulated data. Who knows? Eventually they may become their own data scientists.

With the help of new forms of artificial intelligence (AI), learning analytics could be within the reach of kids, not just their teachers. IBM's Watson has been predicted by IT professionals to revolutionize the education industry. AI could help learners sift through the data so that pupils might determine their peers, potential and purpose. Text analytics could sort through pupil's written works, favourite highlights from books and in-class notes. Teachers would also gain a deeper understanding of each child's uniqueness.

Rethinking learning 

There is an interesting TEDx talk by Bryan Setser that you should check out ("Unthink School to Rethink Learning"). He's an innovator in education who encourages educators to design schools around the meaningful use of technology.

Setser believes in the explosive growth of personalised learning technologies. He says teachers no longer need to be "a sage on the stage" but can act from the sidelines as "guides". His ideas take on greater depth when considering pupils who actively log their thoughts, feelings and ideas for later reflection and self-discovery. He stresses the importance of learners who can make an hypothesis and test it out quickly:
We want kids doing what scientists do in the field. Meaningful use of technology, where they can look at their natural environments and make predictions and come up with research and conclusions that we never imagined or dreamed.
He suggests that learners create, synthesise, and analyse data that is gathered from outside, not just inside of school. Doing this, however, presents a challenge which he says involve the big questions of balancing innovation, privacy and security.

Shielding personal data from prying eyes

One of today's challenges in educational technology is the privacy of a learner's personal data. Lifelogging captures far more personally identifiable information than other educational technologies, which presents a still greater risk. Already, there has been controversy around the data mining practices of InBloom (a non-profit organisation running a data service for managing student data). The NYTimes covered the story in an article "Deciding Who Sees Students’ Data":
"Students are currently subject to more forms of tracking and monitoring than ever before,” Khaliah Barnes, a lawyer at the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington who appeared via video conferencing, told the room packed with parents. “While we understand the value of data for promoting and evaluating personalized learning, there are too few safeguards for the amount of data collected and transmitted from schools to private companies.
The practice of data mining student data does not ask for any consent from the student, their teachers, or their parents. Details of the student's personal life could used maliciously or with the best of intentions but without informed prior consent. It's a problem that we've only begun to comprehend both in the education sector and society at large. How might pupils, students and lifelong learners maintain ownership and control over their data? That is the question to ask in a world where personal details are a goldmine for marketers and policy makers.

Overcoming the Attainment Gaps

A 'School of Lifelogging' could tackle the "attainment gap" between less advantaged pupils and those from more privileged backgrounds. Government attempts to fill this gap with financial resources for the unprivileged, such as through the pupil premium in UK, have struggled to create a positive local impact. Ian Wybron, an education specialist at Demos told The Guardian that "schools and local authorities need proper guidance, backed by robust research, on what works in closing the gap, including how to tackle the underlying causes both in and outside of school." Could lifelogging provide a means to measure and tackle the causes, and close the gap?

Lifelogging can be a tool for applied research, which could include pupil participation - after all, who is better equipped to provide clarity concerning the underlying causes of achievement gaps than the learners who experience them daily? Teacher interventions will improve as the circumstances that hold back pupils become clearer and the quality of data improves.

Encouraging self-determination

Lifelogging is not just about quantitative analysis. Highly engaging, qualitative storytelling can also emerge from data gathered by learners. Stories of self-determination would involve the learner's own understanding of personal ambitions and dreams.
Self-determination is the drive to determine our own thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and choices over life events. It includes the internal motivation and self-awareness that encourages us to define personal goals based on our interests, preferences, values, and needs.
As guides, teachers would earn the respect from learners who seek self-determination. By intervening intelligently learning would remain personal, autonomous and relevant. The personal roadblocks that contribute to the gaps in society require self-determination to overcome.

Cause Analytics thinks lifelogging can drive innovation and solve problems facing the education sector. Learning does not always fit the strict structure that defines traditional education because it is a part of life. In the future, education would follow life, instead of the other way around.
Don't limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time. - Rabindranath Tagore

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