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2,295 Sources of Qualitative Learning Data

I was astonished. 2,295 was the total. It was 2016 and I had just calculated the total number of qualitative learning data that I had to manage as a classroom teacher. I consider myself fairly technical and organized but it took me so long to find things which I now realized was because I was drowning in data. 

Now, to be clear, the data that I am talking about was not my students test scores or grades. My school’s student information system took care of that data. The data I am talking about is the important, daily learning generated by my students and included the following:

Handwritten rough drafts Notes from informal conversations with students Teacher and Peer Feedback
Student self reflections Informal checks for understaning Google Docs/Microsoft Word files
FlipGrid videos Student created podcasts Presentations (videos also the slide decks) including Pear Deck
Parlay discussions/Jamboard Jams Emails Summarizers used at the nef of class about the day's learning
Test Quizzes Homework
Goal setting documents Assessment tools like continuums and roadmaps

The above shows 17 sources of data regularly generated from/for each of my students. I had 135 students. Multiply those two and the total is 2,295 sources. My experience is the daily experience of the classroom teacher; trying to manage all the disparate sources of data that are generated by students throughout the day, week or month. Teachers understand how important these qualitative data sources are as they show the complexity of learning for each of our students and show their growth over time which for some was well beyond the grade level expectations and for others was below.

This rich learning data was individual to each student, helped me understand where students were in the moment, where I needed to take them and it told the story of my students’ learning. As important as that data is for teachers, how are we supposed to capture and manage all it especially when our current systems aren’t designed for this?

I was so troubled by this conundrum but my students just kept generating. They generated work through email, Google Docs/Slides/Sheets and the entire Microsoft Office Suite. They used NoRedInk, Khan Academy, TedTalks, Newsela, Kahoot, YouTube videos and my school’s Learning Management System (LMS).  The students were creating learning evidence on their phones, their laptops, on paper, with art, on the whiteboard, on post it notes, conversing with one another, conversing with me, self reflecting and the list goes on and on. It was wonderful because it showed the students learning in real time but it was overwhelming to manage.

I could not possibly capture and manage all of that learning data, but I thought…what if I had a platform that could capture a lot of it and, most importantly, it was a platform that the students and teachers co-created to communicate about their learning. Instead of using teacher-led platforms like the LMS, what if I could partner with the students to capture this rich learning data, put it in a longitudinal timeline, showing the students different iterations of their learning and growth and make it easily searchable like Google? What if I created a platform where students were at the center and helped manage their learning and growth?

So I set out a pretty wide search. The LMS was completely teacher-led and focused on the entire class – not individual students. However, the LMS does a great job of providing content and organizing assignments. I was looking for something that helped after the the initial learning activity occurred.  I couldn’t find anything designed with the students at the center and as co-creators. So, to make a long story short. I built one using business tools while teaching 6th grade English Language Arts and Social Studies. I refined it over a few years. I eventually left the classroom, ditched the business tools and built gotLearning version 2 from scratch – both a web version and mobile apps. With students as partners in capturing and communicating about their learning I now can manage all 2,295 sources of qualitative data to more robustly tell the story of their learning – and so can you. 

 

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