As data makes a beeline for the classroom, many are asking the critical question: does it really hold a place in education? The ethical conversations are surrounding the move as we struggle to keep up the pace, but there seems to be no slowing it down. Many are objecting to the idea of data-driven learning, and with just concern. Data has earned a damaging reputation for itself over the years, having sent a ripple of fear across continents as private information is leaked and aired for the world to see. This has instilled a fear-factor and an understandable resistance to its movement into the learning environment. Questions like ‘Where is it going?’ ‘Who can see it?’ ‘Will it go on their “permanent record”?’ are spreading as the curiosity and panic around education data grows. These are important questions that need to be addressed. But before we look away, have we looked at what data can make possible in education?

Bringing 1:1 instruction to every classroom

One-to-one instruction has long been considered the best form of education for any student. In a classroom environment, there’s simply no way to provide personalized education for every single student. Data can help educators bring one-to-one instruction to every classroom by providing key insights into student learning, instant updates about student activity, and a personalized learning experience for every student. Adaptive learning platforms are using data to provide personalized resources and learning paths for each individual, making it easy to scale in a classroom and school situation.

Providing instant feedback

Feedback is an essential ingredient in the learning process. Without it, students are effectively learning by themselves with no guidance. Yet, educators often find the feedback process difficult and time-consuming in a class of thirty-plus students. By bringing data into the learning process, students can receive instant feedback in real-time. Most importantly, educators can offer feedback with one click, at scale. This way, no student can fall behind, and every student is challenged appropriately as they learn.

Tracking and viewing progress and performance

Education data makes tracking student progress easy and clear. With the ability to pin-point problem areas, and deliver feedback in real-time, educators are no longer left in the dark about how a student is progressing, and where they might be struggling. An adaptive learning platform like Fishtree gives an educator an incredible view of how a student is progressing in every subject, complete with information about which learning objective is causing the most problems, and where a student’s strengths lie. The fact that a teacher can then reassess students on one single objective, and offer feedback in real-time ensures that every student gets a personalized experience.

Finding out more about student learning

When we think about what we really know about our students, the findings are often dismal. Yet, getting to know someone on a personal basis is so important in the education process. We want to build relationships with our students and help them in every way we can. To do this, we need to figure out things that they may not know themselves: their interests, their needs, their styles, their abilities… Data can help us, and them, find this out. Once we know this much, we can tailor the learning experience to suit that individual. Fishtree can actually tailor the learning experience for you, taking it a step further by providing information on how a student learns (learning paths), what a student needs to learn (personalized resources), and who needs a helping hand.

Carrying out administrative duties

Teachers become teachers for different reasons. One reason is never for the administrative duties that often hinder the passion and enthusiasm that most possess. What’s more, the time that it takes to carry out these duties can impact upon a teacher’s ability to perform as well as possible as an educator. Education data is the best possible solution for teachers looking for a way to focus more on the education side, and less on the management side. The data essentially keeps track of everything from student activity and assignments to lesson plans and course material to keep you organized and informed at all times, and reclaim your passion for teaching!

The ethical concerns surrounding education data are real, and these need to be listened to first and foremost. The myth of the “permanent record” is one that seems to instil the most apprehension, along with the idea of data maintaining an eternal residence on the web. But let’s face it, we take risks with data on a daily basis, with our youth often taking the biggest. A school can reap the many benefits of education data with the right measures. Implementing strict privacy policies, along with investing in only the most secure digital tools are two codes to live by. Once used in the right way, there’s no telling what data can do for our education system. Like everything new, there’s hesitation, but are inventions that can change education for the better really worth ignoring out of hesitation?

Fishtree is one of the safest learning platforms on the market, ensuring student data remains secure and private at all times. See what education data can do for your school and contact us at or check out our Guide to Adaptive Learning for more:

About the author:


Lorna Keane is a teacher of French, English and ESL. She specializes in language teaching and has taught in second and third-level institutions in several countries. She holds a B.A in languages and cultural studies and an M.A in French literature, theory and visual culture. Subscribe to her blog or follow her on Twitter.

P.S. Have you seen Fishtree’s brand new Chrome app? Teachers use Fishtree to plan lessons, find standard-aligned teaching resources, create assessments and view student progress, all in one place! What’s more, it’s safe, secure, collaborative and easy! Get the Fishtree Chrome app.

Image credits: r. nial bradshaw / CC BY 2.0