When Kristine Riley looks back on how she used to teach her students, she sees order and control. Her third, fourth and fifth grade gifted-and-talented classes had been structured and orderly, and students sat in designated seats. She had assigned the same tasks to every student and had hoped for roughly the same answers from all of them. She used to believe that it was her responsibility as a teacher to impart information to her students. Riley had decided what was important and students were expected to learn what they were taught.
If you think data—in education, or any field—is cut and dry, think again. Working with data in the classroom, especially, can be either exhausting or exhilarating—depending on your fitness level. Data can be big, but also quite small. It’s often quantitative, but is increasingly qualitative. It’s predictive, but not always inclusive. It’s private, but not always protected. But one thing’s for certain: data has enormous power to impact teaching and learning.
Mention big data in a grade level or team meeting of teachers, and you’ll often hear a cacophony of complaints about the test scores that the state collects to rank and judge schools. The chatter beyond the classroom, however, continues to be about how the rise of big data will be a disruptive force in the ways teaching and learning are taking place.
Flying for the first time to Orlando, Florida all the way from Portland, Maine was an adventure in education empowerment. I was en route to Big Picture Learning’s (BPL) 2016 Big Bang Conference, where I would be sitting on a panel of fellow students and superintendents to discuss student voice in education decision making. To me, the most educational component that Big Picture Learning provided wasn’t just the opportunity to participate, but also stemmed from the people who I met.
The idea of co-constructing knowledge with students can be a scary thing for many of us teachers. The age-old role of teacher as orator, director, sage has been handed down for centuries and most of us grew up as students looking to teachers in this way. It’s hard to shake.
Co-constructing knowledge means giving up the myself and them role of teacher and students and fully embracing the wonder and journey of us.