Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology

For all of the rhetoric around being data driven for the last few decades, educators are generally woeful users of data when it comes to making classroom decisions. In my opinion, this is due to the fact that data (quantitative date that is) can only be meaningfully be applied to large data set. We might be able to predict certain things about students, but that is limited (and in many cases wrong) when we predict what will happen with one student.

For all of the rhetoric around data, educators are actually woeful users of theory as well. We know out data are only measurements and are devoid of all meaning until they are interpreted and we can only understand and give meaning to data in terms of theory. One would expect, then, that the data about which we hear so much would be framed by theory, and that framed data would inform decisions. Observation of educators and decisions made by even the most “data-informed” among us fall short of what is promised by advocated for using data.

In recent years, I have observed a shift among educators, and I see this as a shift for be better. Rather than grounding every decision in data, there seems to be those among us who are quietly bringing theory to the forefront. The root of this seems to be in the maturing field of cognitive science and the accompanying field of the learning sciences. Together, these are elucidating how brains work and how that can be used to design learning environments.

Michelle Miller’s book is among the works that are completing the path from cognitive science to learning science to the craft of teaching. Miller identifies the essential aspects of human learning (e.g. attention, memory, thinking, motivation) and summarizes current knowledge, then identifies implications for educators.

As I think about the end of my career–I’m in my 33rd year in education, looking for another 10 or maybe more), I’m hopeful educators will realize there are few insights into classrooms that are effective for individual students (which is the basis of all education) students in data. There are answers in craft which is supported by practitioners such as Miller who help separate “the wheat from the chaff.”


Miller, M. D. (2016). Minds online: Teaching effectively with technology (First Harvard University Press paperback edition , 2016). Harvard University Press.