Digital Learning Now! Releases DLN Smart Series Paper ‘Data Backpacks’

‘Data Backpacks’ Offers a Robust Data Plan For the Shift to Digital in the Era of Common Core
Seattle, Wash. October 9, 2012Digital Learning Now! (DLN) today released “Data Backpacks: Portable Records & Learner Profiles,” the second in the DLN Smart Series of interactive papers, to create a clear roadmap to the integration of data, portable records, and learner profiles that support the shift to digital learning and Common Core State Standards.
This fall, approximately 55 million students and 7 million teachers entered America’s Pre-K through 12 classrooms. In most cases, the students showed up on day one knowing little more about their teachers. In most cases, the students showed up on day one knowing little more about their teachers than the name on the classroom door.  Unfortunately, teachers also have little access to useful information about their incoming students.
What if students instead came to each course or classroom with a backpack of information – loaded with data about their learning preferences, motivations, personal accomplishments, and an expanded record of achievement over time? How would this “Data Backpack” and “Learner Profile” improve each teacher’s ability to tailor learning to meet the needs of individual students and add up to deeper learning and improved college and career readiness?
“Today’s education reforms require enhanced electronic student records that can be more easily shared among teachers, accessed by parents, and used by next generation systems to personalize instruction,” said John Bailey, Executive Director of DLN.
The paper, co-written by Bailey; Tom Vander Ark, Executive Editor of Getting Smart®; Carri Schneider, Director of Policy and Research of Getting Smart; and Samuel Casey Carter, CEO of Faith in the Future, asks leaders and policymakers to consider two primary solutions to ensure that every student has a bright start: Data Backpack and Learner Profile.
Data Backpack requires an expanded set of student information to travel with a student so that teachers can personalize learning starting day one; creates an expanded and common electronic student record; and follows students through every transition, course-to-course, classroom-to-classroom, school-to-school. The Backpack moves beyond traditional demographic and achievement information to include a standards-based gradebook and portfolio of personal bests.
The Learner Profile adds to the Data Backpack a comprehensive student profile that will drive recommendations to boost learning and persistence; provides clues to unlock learner needs, preferences and potential; and ensures a method for privacy management. The Profile includes expanded achievement data, a motivational profile, narrative descriptions of student assets and challenges, student goal statements, college/career readiness indicators that will draw from both teacher-entered and computer-generated entries to build a cumulative profile for each student.
“Teachers deserve student data from day one. Simple agreements between states would ensure that teachers are equipped to meet student needs,” said Vander Ark. “Comprehensive learner profiles will drive customized playlists of learning experiences for every student –unique pathways based on learning levels, interests, and needs.”
“Customized learning, informed by enhanced and expanded student data, will boost motivation and achievement,” said Schneider. “Teachers and parents will have access to the information they need to support students on individual learning paths toward college and career readiness.”
The paper acknowledges current efforts and a rich landscape of existing tools, and concludes with a call to action for bringing these various solutions together into a single system to serve personalized learning.
“The current efforts to improve legacy data systems will not meet our needs in time,” Carter noted. “Big data is coming that could help usher in a new era of technology-enabled teaching and learning—but first we need a big data strategy of the kind we outline in this report.”
DLN plans to release the entire series, which provide specific guidance regarding adoption of Common Core Standards and the shift to personal digital learning, in partnership with the Foundation for Excellence in Education and Getting Smart throughout fall 2012 and early 2013. The entire DLN Smart Series will include topics on funding high-access learning environments, building comprehensive learner profiles, preparing for online assessments, moving to competency-based learning models, financing student achievement, building big data policies, improving the teaching profession with blended learning, and more.
Download the full paper “Data Backpacks: Portable Records & Learner Profiles” and learn more at

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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1 Comment

Tom Vander Ark

Great mom quote on fb: WOW! Glad I took the time to read this. Yesterday was my 5th graders parent/teacher conference. In 15 minutes, I tried desperately to give them an inside look into her previous 5 years at that school, what type of learner she was, her best subjects, her interests, test taking, our expectations and so on. I left feeling like there was so much left unsaid. How I wish there was a Digital Backpack and Learner Profile these teachers could refer to. I loved Tyler's story!!! If only all teachers took the time to do that AND had the resources to do so.

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