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SXSWedu 2013

Donuts, Data and Deep Dives

We all remember the Dunkin’ Donuts commercial where a sleepy employee rolls out of bed & murmurs, “It’s time to make the donuts.” Every day. Without fail.

Our public education system suffers the same rinse-repeat drudgery. Educators teach to the mean in industrial-age classrooms. Top students are bored; others get left behind. Everyone suffers through standardized tests that are over-valued as measures of success & progress.

Personalized, data-driven education can break the cycle. The data is already there: Educators collect troves of it every day. But then it gets stored and siloed. To finally address our national education crisis, we need to put that data to work in classrooms.

Our panel will address 3 topics:
1. The current education data landscape
2. How well-deigned tools & standardized data can help teachers & kids
3. The ways in which standardization opens up the frontier for innovation

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  1. What is the current education data landscape? 1. In spite of all the data we collect on every student, educators start each new school year with files showing students’ faces and names but little else. Why? 1. Multiplicity—A local district may operate more than 60 separate data systems. 2. Lack of standardization— We cannot easily unify the data we collect. 3. Compliance focus— Before last year, no education data standard focused on improving teacher insights or student growth
  2. 2. How can well designed tools & standardized data help teachers & kids? In too many schools nationwide, teachers still use index cards to keep track of their kids. Even when information systems are in use, teachers must sign in up to 12 times & lack any way to compile data. Applications that operate on a universal data standard address that sign on issue, & calibrate a wide and regularly updated feed of data that enables teachers to address children’s shifting needs day to day.
  3. 3. How does standardization open up the frontier for innovation? The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation launched the Ed-Fi solution as a national data standard over a year ago. As states, districts & vendors implement it, we’ve seen sparks of radical ed-tech innovation. Developers & vendors are using it as a launch pad for creative products & reports that support classroom use. Adoption at scale has potential to create a crossing-the-chasm scenario similar to what we saw with WiFi a decade ago.



Lori Fey, Portfolio Director, Policy Initiatives, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

Meta Information:

  • Event: EDU
  • Format: Panel Discussion
  • Track: Big Data and Emerging Technologies
  • Session Focus Area
  • Level: Advanced
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