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Answers as Good as the Questions November 30, 2005

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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Online Tools Today the Wiley Publishers were in the building offering free food and free desk copies of new textbooks. It was a little like an early Christmas party with professors nibbling on the “Leonardo da Veggie? sandwiches and loose grapes while chatting with colleagues and looking over the latest texts. It turns out Wiley is desperately looking for technology texts and something that could merge with Educational Leadership.

The reps asked me, once again, to provide them with a prospectus of some sort for a text idea I might have with promises that they would shop it around. The last time they asked me to do that it came to nothing but I ended up on a few e-newsletters and received a much greater volume of advertisements for sister publishing groups. It actually felt a little like a scheme to probe the needs of the teaching community and report back to the mother ship.

On another note, as if there were not enough acronyms in my life I finally cracked the cover of THE Journal and saw a new one: D3M. Apparently, my “data? needs to be “scrubbed? to be ready for D3M. I tried to figure it out without reading ahead. This is one of the pitfalls of trying to make more academic or professional your particular field of endeavor.

D3M is an acronym for Data-Driven Decision Making. Now, I have been working with tools for data-driven decision making for a while now but had never heard it referred to as D3M. So now I am officially clued in. I may be hip and able to rattle off the lingo-du-jour at the next faculty party, but I am still a little confused.  How were administrators making decisions before? Data-Free Decision Making? Do people think educators just woke up and decided to change a school bus route, adopt a different textbook, or shift a writing curriculum in a different direction entirely on a whim?

It turns out that we do many things on a whim, but the new trend in education is to ensure that our students are doing things in classes based on numbers generated by tests and other means of assessing progress in school. This is fine, but the new technology allows teachers and administrators to crunch numbers more efficiently and exactly so that, for example, you can tweeze specialized populations of learners out of the numbers.

Did more special education students succeed because of a new program? Did one ethnic group of students missing fewer than three classes per semester do better than the same or a different ethnic group who participated in after school tutoring? The questions you can generate are numerous and perhaps that is the inherent weakness of the D3M movement, if you can call it a movement. The lessons you learn from the data are only as good as the questions you pose.

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