What it is and is not:
It is, most importantly, a shield – as in something used to defend oneself – in this case, from Data. Not all data, just obsessive data, data that obscures reality, data that changes meaning and purpose. Mostly, data as it is currently being used in education, as in the overused and currently meaningless phrases, data driven instruction, and that ripe old cherry, data driven decision making.
It is not a sign that means to say “no data”. There is clearly a useful purpose in using data – sets of numbers, trends, projections, etc – for many things. But its use in education lately is obsessive, and I believe, destructive of our true educational process and purpose.
The purpose of the Data Shield is to protect people from too much data, from data used inappropriately, and from data used to justify and quantify things that cannot be measured.
How to use it:
The shield can be copied and put inside a binder filled with data. Copies can be passed out to colleagues at staff meetings. It can be printed out and colored in, even laminated for repeated, heavy use.
The Data Shield can be worn, or put on clothing in a variety of forms. I have a wonderful T-shirt with Data Shields on the front and back. When I wear it, I feel especially well protected.
6/28/13 update: The original Data Shield is now available on 76 different products, from post-it notes to t-shirts.
I first came up with this design during a school staff meeting, where I doodled something similar to this. I was appalled at the masses of data we had in front of us, and I was struck that we were not talking about anything having to do with teaching children. The meeting went on for hours.
It wasn’t long before I had come up with one on my computer at home, uploaded it to Flickr, and printed out several sizes. It has since become my Twitter and Facebook image. I’m sure some people see it in those places and think I must be some real wacko. Occasionally, I’ve left a link to the image in comments on blog posts or other social media.
Why did I design it? What did I hope to gain? Well, mostly, I wanted to point out the insanity of the current obsession with data in education. As I said earlier, data can be very destructive – as in when teachers in staff development sessions spend virtually all their time looking at and talking about numbers. Not discussing students, sharing best practices, or supporting each other – just dealing with numbers.
When entire schools are evaluated by numbers (usually the high stakes test scores of their students), and not by what kind of students and future citizens come out of those schools, we have a big problem.
There is more to school, and to life itself, than data. There are times when we must shield ourselves from being overwhelmed by data.
That’s why I created the Data Shield.
Please share. Use it freely, and as often as you need to.