The 10X Factor

Daniel Kerns, SVP of Product Innovation, DreamBox Learning
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Daniel Kerns, SVP of Product Innovation, DreamBox Learning

Think back to the best teachers you ever had the special ones who were so knowledgeable and passionate about their subject matter that they sparked an intense hunger for students to really dig in and learn. Those teachers -- who I call the "10X teachers" – are a rare breed, and in most cases, are only able to reach a limited number of students with their life-changing inspiration.

Stewards of learning sciences have closely studied the professional practices of 10X teachers who motivate their students to understand and succeed; for example, providing context that enable students to make sense of ideas and providing useful feedback as students are solving meaningful problems. This lens has created the opportunity for educators and technologists to collectively explore and collaborate on how to best apply modern largescale computing to address the critical need for more consistent and wide-reaching access and quality instruction for all students.

Using cloud and large-scale data technologies, leading researchers are reengineering learning for the 21st century by leveraging the digital experiences of millions of students. Using a data informed approach to engagement, collaboration and efficacy, online learning has allowed education technology providers to intensively personalize the learning experiences of an individual student, thus contributing to significant gains in educational productivity and achievement.

Over the past decade, developers have transitioned from using highly efficient data stores that often processed in a "batch" manner nightly or weekly to leveraging fleets of servers to collect and process every available data point in any format with near-real-time performance. These advanced data analytics capacities significantly shifted our perspective to envision how education could be transformed to empower students to navigate content at their own pace in any location with any device. Today, digital educational experiences can be individualized uniquely in real-time for every student.

These data-driven systems and approaches become even more exciting and impactful when digital content provides richer learning information vs. mundane multiple choice correct answers and click rates. That said, in order to improve learning outcomes for all students, digital learning tools must be designed from the ground up to dynamically collect data on student thinking as it happens – at the point of instruction. Merely using correct/incorrect answer data points and behaviors such as click rates doesn't yield rich learning information. Such narrowly defined binary data points don't help teachers identify and address the "how" and "why" of learning challenges and misconceptions in the minds of students.

Digital content that yields rich information must be built to respond in real-time directly to a student's answer and solution strategy. This individualization is based on collecting detailed evidence of a student's conceptual understanding while it's developing. In other words, it's as if each student has a unique, personal teacher that is 100 percent focused on her learning and success, but who draws from the collective experience of personally teaching millions of students.

Ten years ago, these systems were cost prohibitive. Today, access to elastic capacity in public and private clouds and the dramatic reduction in the cost of storage has fundamentally changed the way data intensive applications are built and used. In education, the result is educators now have access to rich and deep data sources that are collected over several years at a negligible, marginal cost. Access to that data is what allows a student to have an intensively personalized experience delivered at their own pace while meeting the standards and learning outcomes required by learning guardians.

While our practice is currently focused on the K-12 institutional segment, the applicability of this technology is much larger. At present, forward-looking businesses in segments such as finance, transportation and entertainment use intelligent personalization with great success. Leaders in these businesses have discovered that improved results can be achieved by building tools that are designed to personalize themselves to their users rather than by training employees or customers to use increasingly complex software tools.

One of the most common pitfalls is around believing that just by adding "bigdata" you can transform your practice. This has not been our experience, primarily because the data has to be rich with meaning and information about student learning and thinking.

Our experience is that effective personalized learning only happens when you intentionally combine:

• Rigorous curriculum designed to adapt uniquely to students in real-time using pedagogically sound practices;
• Student-directed and motivating, age appropriate learning environments;
• Continuous assessment generating thousands or tens of thousands of data points per hour;
• Large-scale inter-student data analysis;
• A learning engine and platform designed to tie everything together.

Collectively, these capabilities are forceful tools that empower teachers and schools to make the most of every minute they spend with students. Schools can therefore more strategically leverage their resources to focus on the more nuanced challenges they face.

As modern educational technologies rapidly improve to support the achievement of all students, traditional models of "school" are transforming into more student-centered, personalized environments.At the same time, the affordable expense and global distribution afforded by these technologies is making it possible to deliver a 10X-inspired education to every student, regardless of their zip code.

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