• Todd Hoffman

From Microfiche to AI, Day 1 at the AI & Big Data Expo & Conference

If you were in college when research was still done in libraries (and not the internet), like me, you probably recognize this device.

How do you manage all of your data? If you're like a lot of people, the answer to that question has changed a lot over the years. These days most of us store our data in the cloud, a term that most people didn't even understand just a few years ago. Before the cloud we used USB drives, and before then was the 3.5" floppy disk, and prior to that was the 5.25" disk that actually was floppy. Remember those? Preceding all of these data storage solutions was microfiche. I haven't thought about microfiche for a long time but it came up today at the AI & Big Data Expo & Conference in California. The context was not only about how we manage data but also why we manage data. Microfiche was borne out of a practical need to put a huge amount of text into a manageable repository. Without microfiche, volumes of text from books to newspapers would be less accessible and need to be stored in vast warehouses. Microfiche was a practical solution to making data storage cheaper.

As years went by and our data solutions changed we have been able to move beyond the practical and into the aspirational. Because data is now accessible, we need to start thinking about WHY we are collecting and storing data. Once we land on the WHY we can then start to solve some meaningful problems. Schools, for example, collect dozens of data points on students on a daily basis. This data includes attendance, lunch purchases, grades, discipline reports, test scores and more. WHY are schools collecting this data? Why SHOULD schools collect this data? What should they do with this data?

This takes us into AI and what AI can do for education. By leveraging recent developments in AI and Machine Learning, schools can use all these data points that they already collect to support each student's individual needs. Before schools can get to the point where they can truly support individualized student needs, they need to start asking and answering questions about why data is collected and how they can start to improve learning outcomes by exploring better ways of using this data.

Contact Mend the Gap if you and your school are interested in exploring these important questions. Supporting individualized education is an essential step in eliminating gaps in learning outcomes and it's something we are excited to help solve.

Let us know how you're currently using data and share some thoughts on where you think data processing might go in the future.


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