New year's resolutions for modern learners

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Happy new year. My hope is that 2013 is a great year for everyone.

Maybe you have made some new year's resolutions this year? Unsurprisingly the number one resolution for 2012 was to "lose weight." Over the last year I've been fascinated about how modern learners are using technology to tackle goals such as losing weight and in particular I've been exploring learning communities such as the Quantified Self community.

The Quantified Self movement use a variety of gadgets and smart phone applications to track their exercise routines, their calorie intake and their weight. They use electronic pedometers such as the fitbit or the Nike Fuel Band. They use applications such as Run Keeper that not only track the time the run, but also use GPS to track the distance and altitude they run. They use Internet connected scales to measure their weight which is then accessible on the Internet able to be graphed.

By tracking their activity and progress in fine detail, these learners not only hope to see progress but also to learn about themselves. What does the data tell them about what is working in their exercise and weight loss goals and what isn't. By learning about themselves, they believe they will be able to make better future decisions and therefore be more likely to achieve their goals.

Quantified self isn't just about exercise and weight loss, many other facets of their life are sought to be better understood by tracking and analysing the data around it.

Is there an application for ideas of "quantified self" for our students and our classrooms?

I think there might be.

Take, for example, those of us whose students have laptops and use Microsoft Word regularly. When we use digital tools to create content a vast amount of data is also created. The word count in Microsoft Word is the most obvious. How many words have we written? How many words do I usually write, how has the length of my writing changed over time.

Microsoft Word also provides other automatically generated data:

In the statistics you can find the totally editing time and number of paragraphs. If you enable Readability Statistics you'll additionally see the average sentences per paragraph, the average words per sentence and the characters per word. Also readability scores are displayed, the percentage of passive sentences, the Flesch Reading Ease score and Felsch-Kincaid Grade Level.

Also, because Microsoft Word enables macros to be run, code can be written to easily generate other data. For example, how does the vocabulary of your students improve over the year? Why not run this macro to determine the word frequency in a document and compare the result to a document written from a year ago.

Some questions to think about: **** What Microsoft Word data do your students use? **** Do you think the ideas of quantified self can enable your students to use to data to monitor their progress and make better decisions about their own learning?

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