Data – big or small!

Came across this article from the Washington Post via twitter this morning. An interesting look at big data by Pasi Sahlberg and Jonathan Hasak. Pasi, from Finland, is known for his writing and speaking on Finland’s education system – and education in general. The argument is that we rely too much on ‘big data’ and need to look at what happens in the classroom – or ‘small data’. The idea of causation vs correlation are examined. I agree that we do need to hear the stories from teachers, students and others in the system. The stories are dismissed as ‘anecdotal’ – which they are, but a lot of positive ideas can come from examining stories in context. I also think we need big data as well – together both forms can act to improve learning for students. I like several passages from the article, but I will use these two;

These data sets, however, often don’t spark insight about teaching and learning in classrooms; they are based on analytics and statistics, not on emotions and relationships that drive learning in schools. They also report outputs and outcomes, not the impacts of learning on the lives and minds of learners.

Big data has certainly proved useful for global education reform by informing us about correlations that occurred in the past. But to improve teaching and learning, it behooves reformers to pay more attention to small data – to the diversity and beauty that exists in every classroom – and the causation they reveal in the present.


Looking with Fresh Eyes

This blog post ( What is Sacred in Education?) by Kelly Tenkely caught my eye – she is writing about her school, Anastasis Academy, in Colorado. She wrote,

When we free ourselves from the perceived rigidity of the system that we are in, and begin with a clean slate, we are free to see things from new perspectives.

Liberate yourselves by giving your minds a ground zero, clean slate, to begin thinking.

The post is interesting as Kelly describes a little about her school and thinking, but the exercise Kelly suggests is a good one. I have been involved with a school division that has allowed teachers to start thinking like this, and as the faculty at my university considers program change, it would be good for us to do as well. So, what is sacred in education to Kelly? … students!


I have read a few posts this week that talked about resilience. Perhaps the most powerful was a post written a few months ago by Shelley Wright. I have followed Shelley’s amazing blog for awhile, and recently she began posting again. I met Shelley briefly a few years ago at the National Congress on Rural Education, and she has written a few powerful and emotional posts lately. I certainly wish her the best. In one of these posts, she wrote;

We need to help kids develop resilience.  They need to wrestle with problems. They need to to fail. They need to persevere.  They need to be faced with many questions or problems that have no one right answer.  Or maybe are to big to answer. Some of these problems, like social justice issues, should be so big and passionate they hurt. And they make you cry. Because you need to be able to hurt and get up again.

Her blog is worth following, and please read her latest.

Tech in Class

Hmmm, I have ignored this blog for  awhile …

This is an excerpt from an article on the Slate site.

The balanced-education formulation advanced by Patricia Greenfield argues just the opposite: Precisely because young people spend so much time with digital media outside of school, schools must offer them a very different kind of education in order to even the cognitive scales. In Greenfield’s view, this means reading copious amounts of old-fashioned literature—just what young people are not doing (according to research) on their own time. I would add that schools could also strive to provide more of the face-to-face contact, the in-person social interaction, that has been largely displaced by young people’s use of Facebook, Twitter, and texting in their off-hours.

While I agree that we need balance (whatever that means for each individual), there is a place for its use in schools. Technology allows new connections, new ways to find, think critically, create, and communicate. We need hands on activities, we need social contact, we need physical activity, we need reading, etc. I think however, that many who argue that tech should be out of schools are missing the ways it is used in innovative classrooms all over – it is not about staring at a screen all day, it is used as needed for learning in many ways.

Local Editorial about Education

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I don’t think I have ever posted about an article – let alone an editorial – in the local Brandon Sun, but this editorial, which coincided with stats about suspensions in Brandon schools, was actually a good one. It praised the hard work of teachers, but also raised some valid concerns about zero tolerance and safety issues often prompted by fear and overreaction. An excerpt;

We believe that the hard-working teachers and staff who go in every day to face hormone-addled youth are doing a great job, too. Teaching is part science, part art — dealing with a few hundred teenagers every day is near wizardry.

We do worry about some of the zero-tolerance attitude that has cropped up among school administrators and political meddlers, however.

from the Editorial: The Kids Are Alright from the December 30, Brandon Sun.