Co-written by Tom Vander Ark and Carri Schneider
Digital Learning Now!
(DLN) today released “Data Backpacks: Portable Records & Learner Profiles,” the second in the DLN Smart Series designed to provide specific
guidance on adoption of Common Core State Standards and the shift to personal digital learning.
In the quest to explore implementation challenges facing leaders in the era of Common-Core adoption and just-around-the-corner online assessments, creating
a next-gen student data model quickly rose to the surface as a top consideration for the series.
“Data Backpacks” addresses the inadequacies of current student data systems and details a vision for a new era of personalized learning that employs
student data to boost motivation, persistence and college/career readiness. To build this vision, we interviewed dozens of field experts and synthesized
Weeks of conversations found us returning to one central point: If we’re going to personalize learning for every student from the first day of school and
at every transition, we must know more than the basic demographic and achievement data that makes up today’s official transcript. We need a more holistic
picture of each learner’s strengths, weaknesses, learning preferences, unique learning history and more. And with today’s rich toolset of algorithms and
analytics, we have reached the point in time when this is actually possible.
Recommendation 1: An expanded gradebook of data should follow a student grade to grade and school to school to power personalization from Day One.
The Data Backpack is an expanded common electronic student record: the new “official transcript” that follows students through
every transition, grade-to-grade and school-to-school. It holds information about each student that teachers can use to personalize learning from Day One.
This new standard for portable student records goes beyond what’s typically collected and reported data to include standards-based achievement information,
a portfolio of personal bests and more comprehensive data related to demographics, attendance, behavior and student supports.
Recommendation 2: Parents and teachers should manage a comprehensive learner profile that will drive recommendations, identify problems, and share
The Learner Profile adds to the Data Backpack a rich collection of learner characteristics and artifacts that will be tapped to
unlock what has traditionally been the mystery of what makes each student tick in order to form the basis of a personalized pathway toward college and
career readiness. Elements of the Learner Profile include a full portfolio of student work, expanded achievement data, a motivational profile that predicts
persistence and performance, narrative descriptions of student assets and challenges, goal-trackers, and more. The Learner Profile could be further
expanded to include non-cognitive variables that impact achievement, self-management skills, and a record of community service.
One of the most compelling features of the profile would be the built-in privacy management tools that would allow families to control the level of details
shared with various stakeholders in the system. Imagine a Facebook-like menu of privacy settings that parents could customize to identify who they wish
provide student data access and who they wish to block. We are encouraged by the Department of Education’s leadership on this front including the MyData Initiative and events like today’s Datapalooza where the potential of education data is
taking center stage.
We introduced the potential of the Student Data Backpack and Learner Profile to begin the difficult task of getting everyone on the same page, noting that
there is still much work to be done. To realize this vision, stakeholders across the “digital learning landscape” have to be engaged to work toward a
common, integrated, and comprehensive system that is universally endorsed and widely implemented.
Recommended First Step: National education advocacy groups should join a campaign to build the agreements that will result in improve personalized
Written in partnership with DLN, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and Getting Smart, the DLN Smart
Series is tackling the big implementation issues at the intersection of the Common Core and digital learning. Next we’ll be providing states and districts
advice about Getting Ready for Online Assessment.
The DLN state policy framework stems from the belief that
all student should have access to quality learning experiences unbounded by geography or artificial policy constraints. Developed in 2010 with input from
more than 100 experts, updated state scorecards will be released in November.
“Student Backpacks: Portable Records & Learner Profiles” was co-written by John Bailey, Executive Director of DLN, 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.
Download the full paper, “Data Backpacks: Portable Records & Learner Profiles” and learn more at
and Twitter hashtag #SmartSeries.
The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.