A speculative framework that imagines how we can use education data to promote play, creativity, and social justice over normativity and conformity.
Educational analytics tend toward aggregation, asking what a “normative” learner does. In The Left Hand of Data, educational researchers Matthew Berland and Antero Garcia start from a different assumption—that outliers are, and must be treated as, valued individuals. Berland and Garcia argue that the aim of analytics should not be about enforcing and entrenching norms but about using data science to break new ground and enable play and creativity. From this speculative vantage point, they ask how we can go about living alongside data in a better way, in a more just way, while also building on the existing technologies and our knowledge of the present.
The Left Hand of Data explores the many ways in which we use data to shape the possible futures of young people—in schools, in informal learning environments, in colleges, in libraries, and with educational games. It considers the processes by which students are sorted, labeled, categorized, and intervened upon using the bevy of data extracted and collected from individuals and groups, anonymously or identifiably. When, how, and with what biases are these data collected and utilized? What decisions must educational researchers make around data in an era of high-stakes assessment, surveillance, and rising inequities tied to race, class, gender, and other intersectional factors? How are these complex considerations around data changing in the rapidly evolving world of machine learning, AI, and emerging fields of educational data science? The surprising answers the authors discover in their research make clear that we do not need to wait for a hazy tomorrow to do better today.
Matthew Berland is Professor of Design, Informal, and Creative Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Affiliate Faculty in Information Studies, Computer Sciences, Educational Psychology, and Science/Technology Studies at University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Antero Garcia is Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. He has authored or edited more than a dozen books about the possibilities of literacies, play, and civics in transforming schooling in America.
“Berland and Garcia offer a critical expansive examination of today's obsession with data for tracking and assessment in educational research and practice, proposing instead justice-driven approaches that acknowledge young people's identities and creativity.”
Yasmin B. Kafai, Professor, University of Pennsylvania; author of Connected Code
“Used poorly, data-driven educational bridges can lead to nowhere and can fail those who most need their assistance. But as these authors ably advocate, using data wisely can engineer learning to personalize schooling and to empower students.”
Chris Dede, Senior Research Fellow, Harvard Graduate School of Education; coeditor of Learning Engineering for Online Education
“I love this book's combination of critique, speculation, and joy. This is what helps us design for justice and reimagine schooling. Inviting nonprogrammers to play with code is a powerful way to demystify how data operate.”
Felicitas Macgilchrist, Professor of Digital Education, University of Oldenburg, Germany; coeditor of Learning, Media and Technology