Who would have foreseen discussions of both hermeneutics and eye movement tracking technology in the classroom at the same conference? It was quite interesting to see this seemingly incongruous blend of concepts presented in the context of learning analytics. Both emerged at the Banff Learning Analytics #LAK11 conference over the past weekend.

Michael Atkinson and David Wiley noted the “impoverished vocabulary” of clicks and key presses and cautioned against a reductionistic understanding of decontextualized information tracked in an online learning environment. For example, a photograph of a student reading a book provides an everyday understanding as to the learner’s engagement in the reading activity – as compared to “time on task” proxied in page visit data online. On another track, Ravi Vatrapu described a fascinating project by the EU-funded Next-Tell project set up to apply an evidence-centered methodology to build a mind-numbing number of models around student learning in a classroom situation. He noted that 4th-generation eye movement tracking was envisioned as part of the data gathering process.

Both quite fascinating – the science and hermeneutics of learning analytics. Ethicists and more broadly philosophers need not fear – there is plenty of work ahead.