Much has been said about transforming education, but with nearly 3 million U.S. high school students dropping out each year – some 8,300 per day – it’s clear that our education system is in dire need of innovation. Education transformation is a journey that requires an evolution to more sophisticated technologies. It won’t take the latest gadget or app. Instead, it is time to harness a series of tools and solutions that focus on the learner’s needs.
The truth is that students learn differently today than they have in the past. They thrive in environments where they have the ability to use learning tools and resources that fit into their media-rich lives. And with this media-rich world evolving rapidly, the education industry should be a shepherd, not a diverging participant.
Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) is Georgia’s largest school district, and the 13th largest in the country. It has undergone a transition in recent decades from a rural school system to a large urban school district. The district’s 173,000 students, across 134 schools, has fueled the demand for a more personalized learning approach that would better target and individualize students’ educational experiences. It’s a tall order to be sure, but fortunately, by partnering with IBM and harnessing the power of Big Data and analytics, we hope to accomplish just that.
By working with our Smarter Education team, GCPS is using Big Data and predictive analytics to reshape how students learn and teachers teach. Our work aims to move from a ‘one-size-fits all’ model of learning, that is the current standard in the US and around the world, toward one that motivates and engages each student.
Working with GCPS, IBM’s First-of-a-Kind project, Personalized Education Through Analytics on Learning Systems (PETALS), uses machine learning, predictive modeling, deep content analytics and advanced case management to identify learning needs of students and recommend personalized learning pathways to achieve better student outcomes.
We are working with GCPS teachers and administrators to use longitudinal data from hundreds of thousands of current and past students to identify similar students based on their pattern of learning, to predict performance and anticipate learning needs. The system will enable teachers to identify at-risk students, their roadblocks, and then suggest ways to overcome their challenges. It will also enable teachers to identify students who are on a trajectory for accelerated learning, in order to move those students forward faster. These suggestions will mold a path for students to ultimately earn their high school diploma and better prepare them for college and the workforce.
IBM has predicted that in five years a classroom of the future will learn about each student, gain insight about the learner over the course of their entire education path, and be able to provide a tailored curriculum from kindergarten through high school. In the case of GCPS students, this approach will serve as a way to improve student chances of a successful life after their education is complete at the K-12 level.Using Big Data, predictive analysis and a cloud-based infrastructure for smart content, GCPS can reduce student drop-outs, improve academic performance and college readiness, increase student engagement and improve teacher effectiveness.
Education is ultimately moving beyond the white board toward something far less static, while data and analytics are empowering it with every step. These technologies will help the education industry move away from schedule-based classrooms, to personalized competence-based learning systems. Visionary schools like Gwinnett County Public Schools will lead the way.