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HT Top Schools Survey 2016: Schools analyse data to keep students interested

mumbai Updated: Sep 29, 2016 01:19 IST
Puja Pednekar
Puja Pednekar
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Schools in Mumbai are using unusual ways to grab students’ attention and improve their teaching. For the first time, they are roping in cutting-edge technology such as special software and interactive dashboards to analyse student data to find patterns and connections to gain insights into human behaviour.

This is known as data analytics, which is quite popular with schools in United States, Europe and the Middle East. Schools in the United States, have taken the technology one step forward to set up CCTVs in classrooms that capture the expressions of every child, Fitbits monitor their heart rate, giving teachers an unprecedented understanding of how students are learning, which concepts excite them and so on.

“Analytics allows you to pick up signals in students performance and behaviour early on and adjust your teaching style according to it,” said Avnita Bir, principal, RN Podar School, Santacruz, which is one of the schools using data analytics technology.

All of the data is at the teachers’ fingertips. If a high school student flunks a subject, teachers can, in a matter of seconds, track down his past performance, identify the exact point at which he started struggling, the reasons for it and plan interventions better suited to the child. At the click of a button, an onscreen panel, which looks like a car dash board, comes alive. It generates charts and graphs on different aspects of each student using the data available with the schools.

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Experts said this is the best time for schools to get into data analytics as schools today have more data than ever at their disposal. In their day-to-day work, schools end up capturing data in the form of student assessments, demographics, health concerns, alumni placement, online reputation, resource usage, teacher observation, parents suggestions and CCTV footage to name a few. The data is collected routinely without a deep analysis of it. But in fact it can be used to make decisions about school policy, curriculum and instruction, they said.

Software are important to help schools visualise this data and make sense of it. “Just mathematical data will not make sense to the teachers, so it is important to present visual data they can relate to and use.” said Shabbi Luthra, director of research and development, American School of Bombay, Bandra and CEO and founder of Conscilience, a global education innovation consultancy that developed the interactive boards.

Schools must remember who they are doing it for. Unlike the corporate world, which uses it largely to chart growth, schools need to use it to support learning, said Luthra. “Data can show teachers which students need to be grouped together, what kind of math interventions are needed and what could be the things coming in the way of learning,” said Luthra.

Even the government has recognised the importance of data analytics. Through initiatives like a child tracking system known as SARAL (Systematic Administrative Reforms for Achieving Learning by Students), competency tests and the Unified District Information System for Education (U-DISE), the government is actively capturing data at every stage.

However, child development specialists warn that teachers must continue observing students in the classrooms and not rely only on computer-generated algorithms. “It is good to draw up individual learning profiles of students, but teachers should not form preconceived notions of students based solely on their profiles,” said Reeta Sonawat, professor and head, department of human resource development, SNDT Women’s University.