Category Archives: Big Data

Big Data & Learning Analytics: An Opportunity Forecast

This week, classmate Aaron Friedland, presented his Opportunity Forecast topic, “Big Data & Learning Analytics”.   A link to his final product can be found on the link I just provided, or you can go here.

Considering Aaron did his presentation without the aid of a team member, I was really impressed with the depth he was able to achieve on his own.  Instead of simply jumping into a presentation on Big Data, Aaron introduced us to his non-profit, educational venture, The Walking School Bus. Navigating through his site, learners will experiment with the effectiveness of “Reading Out Loud” and “Reading While Listening”, two strategies to help students improve their literacy skills. Moving into Big Data and Learning Analytics,  Aaron does a great job of tying these topics into education.

For myself, “Big Data” and I have not always been at peace. I know I am not alone when I say that I do not like that it is possible that every click, every search, and every cruise-through, is being tracked by multiple parties. I don’t like that my data is now a commodity to be sold, without my direct consent. It feels icky!  During my ETEC 511 course, I was part of a team that produced a website for students learning to be more aware of their online privacy. One of the videos we sourced is shown below.  I have programmed the code to start where the visuals get very interesting for anyone who is a bit paranoid of who is tracking their data.

Did you see all of the sites that were tracking this speaker before he had even had two bites of his breakfast?  “Big Data” is somewhat of an understatement…  how about “Ginormously Epic Data”?!?! Much better.

Bringing it back to Aaron’s presentation, I must say that I am feeling somewhat better about the notion of people and corporations using my data.   This is for a couple of reasons…

  1. I now see how collecting data can be used to optimize learning.
  2. There is practically nothing that I can do about it.

Although #2 is somewhat cheeky in nature, it is absolutely true. This is one of the reasons I signed up for Facebook, years after the majority of my inner circle had. Facebook wasn’t going away, so I could complain about it, or I could check it out, and then complain about it. And once I completely gave in to Zuckerberg’s Cult, it actually wasn’t so bad. Sure there are valid reasons to stay off Facebook, but there are too many reasons to stay on it, and just ignore the bad reasons. Can I not positively reframe Big Data’s grip on my particulars, as well?  I think I can.

After all, there are many great reasons to collect data. Heaps of data, in fact.  Ginormously epic tons of data!!!

My favorite bit of Aaron’s website was the Ted Talk by Hans Rosling.  Here is someone who was a very gifted educator and mathematician. If you have not heard him speak, this will be a treat on many levels!  He is part statistician, part entertainer, and part sportscaster! In the video below, Rosling exemplifies perfectly how Big Data can be used for the greater good.  On a side note, Dr. Rosling sadly passed away this year.  From this piece, you can get a sense of his legacy.

Another brilliant example of Big Data being used for the greater good was discussed on today’s episode of CBC’s The Current.  We are now able to map your entire genome for about $1000!  In 2001, it cost 3 billian! In this interview, the researchers describe the accuracy of matching gene indicators with actual issues that present themselves, such as cancer. The analogy they used is that presently, the genome predictions are like the early days of GPS.  Sometimes, drivers were sent to wrong locations, dead ends, etc. However, as the data improved, the accuracy of the GPS technology improved,  as well. They are predicting that as the data banks increase, so will more instances of accurate predictions.  Have a listen if you have the time…

All in all, I have moved from a place of icky to a place of awe and wonderment.  I recognize that this is a ginormously epic jump.  Admittedly, it did not happen overnight, but this week definitely pushed me into much farther from icky-status!!

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