Data mining is a term one would normally associate with the IT industry or the online retail sector. However, as Ryan Baker of Teachers College, Columbia University demonstrated, it could have a tremendous impact in the field of education as well. He addressed an audience of over a hundred teachers and administrators at the IIT-Madras Research Park, Taramani, at a talk titled ‘21 Century Science of Learning. The event was organised by QED of Everest Edusys and Solutions Pvt Ltd, as part of its National Science Day programmes.

The data gathered from online learning tools, as well from more traditional sources like class assignments, can be used to analyse student behaviour and improve their learning experience, said Professor Baker, a specialist in cognitive studies.

“A student who is not fully engaged in the classroom might be bored or frustrated. A little bit of frustration can be good, it could lead him to seek answers. Boredom is always bad,” said Prof. Baker. He has developed a protocol named Baker-Rodrigo Observation Method Protocol (BROMP), which was developed by observing students at various levels in the U.S and can be used in Educational Data Mining (EDM).

Once this is studied, the curriculum can be designed in a manner which improves engagement and learning.

In addition to improving the short-term outcomes, EDM can be used to study the career paths a student is likely to choose. Prof. Baker said, “This helps in empowering teachers, who can find out the different needs of each student and try to address them.”

When the floor was opened for discussion after the keynote address, questions about the intrusiveness and overuse of technology were brought up.

“That depends on the way in which technology and the data gathered is used. If used right, they can be used to improve learning greatly,” answered Dr Baker.

The Hindu in School was the media partner for the event

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