This summer, the DigitalJLearning Network had the pleasure of taking 15 Jewish Day School educators to the 2015 ISTE Conference in Philadelphia, PA. We asked the participants to share what they learned and how the conference inspired them to take action in their schools. Rabbi Matthew Bellas (@Matthew_Bellas), Lower School Principal at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, shares his thoughts in the sixth installment in this new blog series.
I traveled to ISTE for the first time this year wondering what exactly I might experience. Based on what I had been told by “people in the know,” I approached the conference in much the same way as many approach the entire technology field or even the internet…the enormity of it all could make taking a first step in overwhelming. What I did know is that I wanted to be able to come back to school with real and practical tools that would benefit student and faculty learning and teaching. So, in my advance preparation, I selected as many sessions as I could that sounded like they would offer practical tools and ideas for the upcoming school year and beyond.
At the end of my first day of sessions, I discovered the emergence of a recurring theme, which ended up resounding throughout my days in Philadelphia. While I did not deliberately seek out sessions that were focused on the role that data collection and analysis can play in improving learning and teaching, this was a clear take-away from many of the sessions I attended throughout the conference. The tools now available that allow schools to collect and analyze information about student progress, teacher practice, and any number of other specific areas is astounding and give a new form of power to decision-makers - data power!
After my experience in a number of different sessions at ISTE, my plan is to bring to our school a more data-driven approach to student, teacher, and learning assessment. With the help of my administrative team, I will be researching and experimenting with resources that will allow us to gather and analyze data on student academic performance. Then, I hope to use that data both to make recommendations for improvements to our curriculum and also to share information with our stakeholders on our academic achievements. I want to be able to provide the data to support what we are hearing anecdotally and observing in our students…that they are engaging in deep learning and achieving great success. Both our curriculum revision work and these claims will become all the more strong using the power of data!