Week 7: a week of highlights

No doubt, this week’s highlight has been the return of my girls to nursery/school. For this week’s data visualisation, however, I decided to visualise my highlighting of one of the core readings (Williamson, Bayne & Shay, 2020). Each rectangle represents a page. I always print out my reading material but it would also be possible to use one of the many highlighting tools for marking text online or in PDFs for example.

Week 7 visualisation

I normally don’t use different colours but have done for this exercise and I think it’s something that I will keep up in particular highlighting sections that I may want to refer to in my summaries or assignment.

I can see the potential benefits of analysing how highlighting is used for learners. The data may tell me if I have understood everything or whether I need to go away and do further research. It may also be useful in identifying which texts are particularly relevant for assignments if highlighting has been done with this in mind. Highlighting text is highly individual though and representing data in a dashboard, for example, would most likely not be valid.

In terms of teaching, however, I’m not sure how useful this data would be. Is it more of a box-ticking exercise to indicate that students have read the text similar to measuring attendance described by Brown (2020)? Could teachers actually see how students have engaged with the text? I’m not sure data like this would make an impact on teachers’ pedagogic response due to a lack of quality. It is also questionable whether teachers would have time to look at this data given their already-stretched workload.

Aside from issues regarding quality and validity, instructors may also lack the required data literacy in order to interpret results. As surfaced in Raffaghelli & Stewart (2020, p.435), ‘most approaches to educators’ data literacy address management and technical abilities, with less emphasis on critical, ethical and personal approaches to datafication in education.’  In a world where data are becoming increasingly important, there should be an emphasis on debates around privacy, ethics and equality (Raffaghelli & Stewart, 2020) for teachers, institutions and students.


Brown, M. (2020.) Seeing students at scale: how faculty in large lecture courses act upon learning analytics dashboard data. Teaching in Higher Education, 25:4, 384-400, DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2019.1698540 Williamson, B., Bayne, S. & Shay, S. (2020). The datafication of teaching in Higher Education: critical issues and perspectives. Teaching in Higher Education, 25:4, 351-365, DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2020.1748811

1 thought on “Week 7: a week of highlights

  1. I love the idea of this visualization. One of the technology developments that grabbed my attention a year or so back was software used by university libraries to monitor students’ engagement with texts on assigned reading lists (just like the reading list we assigned you). Some of these companies track things like students’ highlighting in e-books, how long they spend over certain passages, which readings they abandon (and how far in) etc. The idea is that data can be fed back to course tutors and lecturers who can use it to make decisions about what texts they assign next time. Indeed, it could even recommend texts to university librarians, tutors and lecturers that have prove to be engaging to students on other similar courses (a kind of relevancy ranking algorithm and recommender system). So you’re right, at an individual level such data might not be terribly revealing, but at scale it could be hugely significant. Do you imagine that most students and educators are aware they’re doing free work for these programs?

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