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Kaleidoscope of Data (Part 1)

Mar 10, 2011

Dr. Stefan Biancaniello As promised last week, this will be the first in a five-part series from Dr. Stefan Biancaniello. Look for the next post in this series next Thursday, March 17th.

Dr. Biancaniello has forty years of experience in education as a classroom educator; department chair; curriculum coordinator; high school principal; author; and teacher trainer.

In the world of data-driven instruction or is it data-informed instruction now, I never seem to be able to get that right, educators are entrenched in a stream of information that at times seems to boggle the imagination. Student achievement data from multiple sources that include book vender websites, computerized assessment tools and online data warehouses, are depicted on tables and in graphs, bar charts, line graphs and the like. We have sliced and diced student information so many ways that it resembles a kaleidoscope. 

You remember the kaleidoscope, don’t you? It was that toy that looked like a telescope and when you looked through the eye piece you saw a bunch of colored crystal at the other end. Then if you turned the cylinder you were holding, those colored pieces would move creating a never-ending variation of arrays of color. The more you turned the cylinder that more the colors changed and the wider variety of pictures you could observe. The reality changed right before your very eyes. 

For me this image has come to life again with all of the data at our disposal. The data are like the colored chips, each representing a different piece of information or color. By manipulating the data (those color chips) we can create new pictures, new insight to stimulate our thinking. Bear with me here, I know it can be difficult for some to see those seemingly never-ending rows of data as pretty color crystals. We just need to tug on our sense of imagination a little, take a risk and be creative.

Over the next several weeks we will explore the process of turning that cylinder, rearranging those kernels of information to create images that we can use to make children successful. In the process we might even find that playing with this enormous influx of data (colored chips) can be rewarding. It may not be fun for all but it could be, intriguing; thought-provoking perhaps even insightful for our learning and that may make it worthwhile. We will explore ways to turn the cylinder and then watch as the information shifts and changes the picture we are observing, and in essence reconfigure the information on our students. We will watch ideas, and needs and challenges simply change before our eyes. So, I hope you are ready to explore, to challenge and to wonder. Let’s talk soon.

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