Sharing Reconciliation with the People Formerly Known as the Audience

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by Andrew Smith at Learning Out in the Open

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Lately there have been a few words that have become ubiquitous in media discussions of education. That's right: standards and data are everywhere when education comes up as a topic. Everything in education is either "standards-based" or "data-driven" no matter what the topic is. Whether it's the adoption of a new set of standards or a supposedly well-intended instance of agitation, in education the words 'standards' and 'data' manage to resurface often. But in being given this opportunity to guest blog, the word that haunted the build-up toward approaching the topic of reconciling standards and 21st century learning was not standards but data. In a fit of 21st century research it can be found that data is defined as 

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–noun \n
1.\n
a pl. of datum.
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2.\n
(used with a plural verb) individual facts, statistics, or items of information: These data represent 
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the results of our analyses. Data are entered by terminal for immediate  processing by the computer.
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3.\n
(used with a singular verba body of facts; information: Additional data is 
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available from the president of the firm.
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In all of the angst that surrounds the lemming rush of educational systems surging to become standard-based data-driven entities the definition of data gains new importance.  If data is simply a set of items of information, educators need to keep this fact in mind when the word 'standard' is wielded as a weapon. It is this writer's fervent belief that educators everywhere really are doing good work with students every day. What has been lacking has been a succinct way to communicate this fact. Cynicism aside, testing and the use of data has arisen as a part of the problem that education wants for ways to articulate what it does. In the midst of heated editorial pages and town-hall levy meetings achievement testing has become a baleful blade possessed of precious few handles. But how much do those strident voices demanding accountability even know about what is on those tests? 
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The debate surrounding accountability and standards is often presented within a frame of binary solutions when what is truly needed is reconciliation. Wanting more for students is no more wrong than wanting a real assessment of learning. If education is to move forward and repair relationships with all stakeholders it must be with a sense of reconciliation. As Daniel Pink shows us, some surprising things can be learned from data particularly in relation to motivation
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But if the tests used to derive the data only reward lower-order thinking how can education survive when its very funding is tied to what some consider to be the antithesis of higher-order thinking? The answer lies within the word 'data'. If data is a body of facts, education must use standards as a basis of learning not as a myopic and duplicitous lens. Data is present in everything education does. Data does not stop with a test score. But then how is the picture to be properly painted to all involved? How can accountability, standards, and the need for 21st Century skills be reconciled for all involved? 
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The roots of this repair are present within the very 21st Century skills that are required by a shifting modern world. In the book "Cognitive Surplus" author Clay Shirky calls digital media users "the people formerly known as the audience" because 
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When you buy a machine that lets you consume digital content, you also buy a machine to produce it. 
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The binary distinction of student and teacher loses focus in the context of 21st Century technology and skills. If education is to repair the schism between 21st Century skills and standards-based education it must come through the sharing of data. The items of information for such sharing can come from the activities already going on in classrooms today. Data doesn't have to come from a one-shot testing window; data can come from qualitative learning experiences that still use educational standards. But such sharing will require a change on the part of educators. 
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If educators are to reconcile educational standards in the context of a 21st century world, the "four walls syndrome" must cease. The times of saying that "<insert educational initiative name here> is just a fad" and will pass must become the past. No more closing the doors to the world and teaching within one set of four walls. To begin this reconciliation educators don't have to be Scott McLeod, or Shelly Terrell, or Will Richardson. Your school doesn't need to be on a laptop initiative or have a seamless online class management system. Use your cellphone to record a great student discussion, create a Facebook page for a class, have students concoct a Twitter hashtag to conduct larger discussion, or join a PLN yourself. But educators must share what is going on in their classroom with all stakeholders within the community and world around them. Isolation cannot be the default for those that feel educational data selection is subjective. Karl Fisch and others are taking steps to change educational paradigms; all you need to do is start to share the good that you do. Share this reconciliation of education with the people formerly known as the audience. 
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Andrew Smith is an English Language Arts educator in suburban Minnesota.
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His blog Learning Out in the Open explores education, media, and finding one's bliss.
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Big Think
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Upvote/downvote each of the videos below!

As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Lumina Foundation and Big Think have partnered to bring this entrepreneurial competition to life, and we hope you'll participate! We have narrowed down the competition to four finalists and will be announcing an audience's choice award and a judges' choice award in May.

The creator of the winning video — chosen by Big Think's audience, the Lumina Foundation, and an independent panel of experts (bios below) — will be flown to New York for a taping in the Big Think studio as a way to further promote their vision for a new, disruptive idea in post-secondary education.

Thank you to all of the contestants who spent time submitting applications, and best of luck to our final four competitors.

Finalist: Greater Commons - Todd McLeod

Greater Commons, founded by Todd McLeod and Andrew Cull, is an organization that helps people live happier, more successful and fulfilling lives through agile learning. The current education system is inefficient and exclusionary, in which many students who end up earning a degree, if at all, enter a career not related to their field of study. Greater Commons solves this problem and gap in post-high school secondary education in a variety of ways. Passionately and diligently, Great Commons helps others obtain skills, knowledge, wisdom, motivation, and inspiration so that they may live better lives.

Finalist: PeerFoward - Keith Frome

PeerForward is an organization dedicated to increasing the education and career success rates of students in low-income schools and communities by mobilizing the power of positive peer influence. PeerForward works with partner schools to select influential students as a part of a team, systemizing the "peer effect." Research in the fields of sociology of schools, social-emotional learning, adult-youth partnerships, and civic education demonstrates that students can have a positive effect on the academic outcomes of their peers. PeerForward is unique through its systemic solutions to post-secondary education.

Finalist: Cogniss - Leon Young

Cogniss combines technology and best practice knowledge to enable anyone to innovate and share solutions that advance lifelong learning. Cogniss is the only platform to integrate neuroscience, through which it solves the problem of access by providing a low-code platform that enables both developers and non-developers to build sophisticated education apps fast, and at a much lower cost. It addresses the uneven quality of edtech solutions by embedding research-based learning design into its software. App creators can choose from a rich set of artificial intelligence, game, social and data analytics, and gamification to build their perfect customized solution.

Finalist: Practera - Nikki James

Practera's mission is to create a world where everyone can learn through experience. Today's workplaces are increasingly dynamic and diverse, however, costly and time-consuming experiential learning is not always able to offer the right opportunities at scale. Many students graduate without developing the essential skills for their chosen career. Practera's team of educators and technologists see this problem as an opportunity to transform the educational experience landscape, through a CPL pedagogical framework and opportunities to apply students' strengths through active feedback.

Thank you to our judges!

Our expert judges are Lorna Davis, Dan Rosensweig, and Stuart Yasgur.

Lorna Davis is the Senior Advisor to Danone CEO and is a Global Ambassador for the B Corp movement. Lorna has now joined B-Lab, the non-for-profit that supports the B Corporation movement on an assignment to support the journey of large multi nationals on the path to using business as a force of good.

Dan Rosensweig joined Chegg in 2010 with a vision for transforming the popular textbook rental service into a leading provider of digital learning services for high school and college students. As Chairman and CEO of Chegg, Dan commits the company to fulfilling its mission of putting students first and helping them save time, save money and get smarter.

Stuart Yasgur leads Ashoka's Social Financial Services globally. At Ashoka, Stuart works with others to initiate efforts that have mobilized more than $500 million in funding for social entrepreneurs, engaged the G20 through the Toronto, Seoul and Los Cabos summits and helped form partnerships with leading financial institutions and corporations.

Again, thank you to our incredible expert judges.

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