Basketball, Backpacks and Personalized Learning

by Jillian Darwish on October 10, 2012

As the volume, velocity and variety of data in our world continues to increase, it is changing our lives in ways both big and small.  Instead of calling individual restaurants that can be recollected from memory, hungry diners have used Open Table more than 7,000,000 times to find available seating at nearby restaurants.  After enjoying a meal, New York diners in need of a cab don’t need to join the swarm at the nearest corner, they can now use CabSense’s analysis of tens of millions of GPS data points from NYC taxis to determine the optimal corner successfully hail a taxi.

While these simple examples suggest individual changes, it is also true that data utilization is disrupting and transforming entire fields including medicine, marketing, sports and more.    One particularly interesting example comes from SportsVU which has repurposed technology originally developed to track missiles to, almost imperceptibly, capture each and every move, 25 times a second, of every player on a basketball court.  This is how SportsVU  is described in a recent Fast Company article.

SportVU can tell you not just Kevin Durant’s shooting average, but his shooting average after dribbling one vs. two times, or his shooting average with a defender three feet away vs. five feet away. SportVU can actually consider both factors at once, plus take into account who passed him the ball, how many minutes he’d been on the court, and how many miles he’d run that game already.  Their system captures the X/Y coordinates of all the players 72,000 times a game. It’s big data in a relatively small pool, and it has the potential to impact everything about basketball, from how it’s coached, to how it’s recruited–even to how we calculate a player’s worth.

Is it possible to have a similarly sophisticated use of data in education? One that captures the “learning coordinates” of every individual and reshapes the system around that knowledge?   We see evidence in our exploration of emerging trends that sophisticated, integrated and transparent use of multiple data streams will indeed be possible, and in fact will be one of the five disruptions in education in the coming decade.  (See KnowledgeWorks Forecast 3.0 later this month for more)  An early signal of this possibility can be seen in the work of the Strive Network  which is building a national model for building a “cradle to career” infrastructure with data at its core with tools like the Learning Partner Dashboard (LPD). The LPD combines academic and nonacademic student support data from sources inside and outside of the classroom to form a comprehensive student profile and help to evaluate programs and investments.

This type of data will help educators at all levels radically transform a one-size-fits-all system into a truly personalized experience for all learners. For a terrific in-depth discussion of this possibility and the current developments in this area, check out “Data Backpacks: Portable Records & Learner Profiles” the second paper in the DLN Smart Series that takes an in-depth look at the need to move away from traditional student records and transcripts to a mobile, digital solution that supports the shift to digital learning and Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The report was released this week by Digital Learning Now! (DLN) in partnership with the Foundation for Excellence in Education and Getting Smart.

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