Last weekend I had the privilege of conducting a session at the Missouri School Boards Association annual conference. The session topic was the application of proven business practices and technology tools that can help education organizations achieve success.
A key-note speaker at the conference was, Mark David Milliron. I found it interesting that both of us pointed to the "Good to Great" findings of Jim Collins and his research team in our presentations, and both of us addressed the gap between innovation in schools and innovation in other areas of our would. However, Milliron really made clear how wide is that gap with two illustrations...
One illustration was the speed at which an Amazon.com reacts, with every click, to continually and instantly personalize the experience for every customer. e.g. When you buy or even view a book it instantly knows what "you may also be interested in..." and responds accordingly. ...Now imagine if we could support learning in that way, continually and instantly adapting to an individual learning styles, interests, and background knowledge informed by new data at every step in the learning process. That would be a big gap between an annual snapshot of data from a high stakes test that has too-little-too-late influence on delivery of instruction, and even then for groups of students, not individuals.
The other example was how quickly your credit card company can respond if your card gets into the wrong hands. Artificial intelligence programs continuously monitor patterns of use and will generate an alert leading to a from a call center half way around the world to check with you if your card has been stolen. Why can't we use this kind of innovation to trigger interventions for at-risk students? For example, if a certain number of absentees indicated that a student is at risk to drop out, why shouldn't continuously monitor absences and trigger an immediate intervention rather than looking at the data after the student has dropped out of school?