The data revolution is here, and it’s taking place in schools just as much as elsewhere. Leaders and teachers are now increasingly able to view data in real time, be it on attendance, behaviour or safeguarding.
But how does this actually work in practice, what impact can it have on young people’s learning? There are myriad tools available now, with applications varying from in-class uses - such as live learning games where teachers can get real-time feedback on students’ responses - to analytics, helping staff to explore performance on assessments at a previously unimaginable level.
There are also many behaviour-related uses, explains Winston Poyton, a senior product director at IRIS Software. Speaking in the latest Tes podcast, he says these can have a powerful impact on young people.
“There are a lot of apps out there that can track students’ behaviour and allow teachers to comment,” he says.
“That comment then passes to the next lesson that the student turns up to, and the teacher already knows that the student is having a great day or maybe it's a more disruptive day, and they can manage that upfront and in real time.
“It freaks the kids out a little bit occasionally, because [they wonder] how do they know that happened in the last lesson? But it's a really good way of allowing people to be prepared and then take the right course of action in real time rather than either waiting for the disruption to happen again and having to deal with it retrospectively.”
But, he warns, there can also be far less useful applications, and schools should be aware of these when considering purchasing tech. He offers an example from across the pond as a case of what not to do.
“There was an education company that put a big emphasis on putting video cameras into classrooms and using AI to track facial recognition,” he says. “This had two entertaining consequences. One was to track whether the students were engaged and it gave feedback to you, the teacher, at the front of the class as to where there may be pockets of disengaged students around the classroom.
"It also gave the teacher feedback on whether their class was interesting or not based on the level of engagement that they managed to get from the machine.”
This was clearly an example of “technology for technology’s sake”, he continues, where tech is used simply because it is “interesting or a bit quirky”, rather than offering useful insights.
“Unsurprisingly, in that particular example, it backfired horribly, because teachers don't actually want real-time assessment on every single class and every single lecture that they're doing. It's not a very positive approach to take with things.”
Elsewhere in the podcast, our guests discuss the challenges of data security, the misapplication of AI for analysis and much more.
This podcast is sponsored by Iris Education, a leading edtech provider with a suite of products designed to help schools and trusts work smarter.