I love data. It is great. It gives you information, patterns and insights. Learning analytics is a bit of a buzz word at the moment and the use of data to predict learner performance may be getting more and more precise, but I do feel it still has pitfalls; prediction as a glass ceiling, the multiplicity of unknowable factors influencing performance and the time scales (sometimes years) over which we use ths data. In the UK, data from primary school predicts performance in secondary. To me this does not take into account the possibility of exponential growth and worse the negative impact of high stakes testing, measured against data.
One of the issues with learning analytics is the speed with which we can gather data and use it with any meaning. I need to find out about the learning of the kids in front of me, collect data, analyse it and act on it within minutes, not years. So I have combined two of my favourite learning tools in the form of Google forms and conditionally formatted spreadsheets to try and do this. Here is the flow of information:
1. Set up a Google form with questions which measure the confidence of learners on specific aspects of recent learning. To do this, use the "scale" question type and set 1 as "no clue" and 5 as "super confident" (or some variant of this). Here is a marine biology example about sharks.
2. Google forms automatically generates a spreadsheet for the results of your form. Even before the form is filled in by learners, you can apply conditional formatting to the columns which will be populated with answers (in this case numbers 1-5). I someone gives a rating of 1 (no idea) I want that cell to flag up red, a rating of 2 in amber, 3 and 4 in shades of green and 5 in blue. This traffic light system allows me to quickly see the spread of understanding across the class. To set up conditional formatting, you simply go to the Format menu and select Conditional Formatting. You can then set up individual rules so that if the value in the cell is equal to one then the cell turns red etc...
3. Send the form to your class and keep the responses spreadsheet open on your laptop or tablet. As the answers roll in, you will be able to immediately analyse the data to see levels of confidence around a piece of content or a skill.
4. Use this data to...
- adapt your teaching and learning for this lesson to review previously learned content or skills which learners are struggling with
- create groups with peer mentors teaching others who are lacking confidence
- after a quick assessment (as simple as asking a question or two) abandon content you intended covering in a lesson, but your learning analytics has indicated has already been learned
- hide the names column, project the data and co-construct the learning outcomes of that lesson with the learners, based on the data
Now this is a very rough and ready system, but it is certainly a step towards using immediate, data driven feedback to analyse learning and, most importantly, to act upon the learning analytics to adpat the class to the needs of the learners in front of you.