Taking a break from preparations for the oncoming and inevitable infrastructure wars of the 2020s, I was reading about Big Data and Education today. I love the question quoted below, in which the they question what it means to ‘learn’.
Big data-driven platforms such as learning analytics aim to ‘optimize learning’ but is it always clear what is meant by ‘learning’ by the organizations and actors that build, promote and evaluate them?
The article goes on to quote some educational science data, cognitive science, neuroscience, etc. Read the entire article here, it’s a great article for provoking questions about learning analytics, at least for novices like me.
The flipside to the answer though is to question what is meant by ‘education’. The article, like most I read, tends to use ‘learning’ and ‘education’ as interchangeable terms. What do Big Data driven platforms mean by ‘education’?
An aspect of ‘education’ distinguishing it from the concept of ‘learning’ is the intentional decision of what to learn about. Whether this is done by a government, society, industry, institution, culture,or an individual, in education there’s some choice involved about the subject matter surrounding the learning. In this case, if we were to “optimize learning” does that include optimizing that choice? In other words, will big data help me (or whoever is making that choice) make better choices about what to learn about?
I hope any learning analytics system wouldn’t be designed to help me gloss over the natural variation by which I decide to learn about things. Let’s not kill curiosity.