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Incorporating consumer data into education at a granular level

Paul Newman Archive

In some circles, you utter the words "big data" and people get scared away. They worry about what could happen if companies and government organizations dig up too much information about them. They fear for their privacy and security.

But data mining also has numerous positive effects that could come to light if technology continues to advance. In education, for instance, there's tremendous potential for teachers to fine-tune their approach by using data on individual students and their preferences. With precise strategies and high standards for data quality, educators have the potential to go far.

Delivering personalized lessons
According to Forbes, educators would be much more effective if they mined mobile and social channels for specific tidbits of information about each student and then used that knowledge to personalize their lesson plans. Jordan Shapiro, author of "Freeplay: A Video Game Guide to Maximum Euphoric Bliss," explained this principle in detail.

"Imagine how much more engaged a student would be if the word problems in their math workbooks were based on statistics from the ballgame they streamed on the tablet last night," Shapiro stated. "Imagine if schoolwork included considering how a 20 percent off coupon would impact the final cost of an item put in an online shopping cart last night but never actually purchased."

These are just a couple of examples. There are countless other such lessons that would be possible with more data. This strategy simply requires that more leaders in education, both public and private, take the initiative to mine for information and put it to good use.

Striving for quality data
Of course, pulling off such a plan would be immensely difficult, especially considering that the information used would be coming from a variety of disparate sources. Social media sites, mobile devices and personal interactions would all need to be interwoven to paint the full picture of a student's interests. This is a complex process that could potentially lead to errors in data quality.

Just because it's challenging, though, doesn't mean that educators should shy away.

"Those who can't afford it ... well, they get what they've always had - lowest common denominator content and testing that's not personalized and doesn't take cultural and socioeconomic differences into account," argued Shapiro.

It's important that in teaching lessons to their students, educators consider the complexities of their classes. Every pupil is different, with his or her own traits and interests. High-quality data can be used to track all of them.