Fine Grain Data is a series of interviews with our senior research scientists conducted by our communications intern, Megan Ciszek. The aim of the series is to get to know the people who make up ACTNext, and explore some of the motivations and thoughts driving their work on developing the next generation of tools for learning and assessment.

We invite you to check back frequently over the coming weeks as we post the rest of the Fine Grain Data Interviews. This week, ACTNext vice president Alina von Davier shares her thoughts on projects she’s involved with, her vision for ACTNext, and more!

What brought you to ACTNext?

I had a conversation with Marten in which we both shared our visions about the future of education in general, and assessment in particular. We went back and forth a few times when one of us would confirm, “that’s exactly what I think we should do!”

And at the end, Marten asked, “why don’t you join us and build this vision together?” After being with Educational Testing Service for 15 years—as the only other company that I knew in the USA—I decided that the opportunity to build something new and visionary was too good not to act on it.

What do you do at ACTNext?

ACTNext is a startup. As with any startup, everyone does a bit of everything. I outlined the strategy for ACTNext and I started to implement this strategy, first by hiring the smartest and most accomplished people I could, and by starting a few projects that had a good likelihood to succeed, such as the ACTNext Educational Companion App and the Collaborative Problem Solving Assessment Prototype.

At the same time, I’ve been working very closely with my colleagues in Strategy on identifying and reviewing potential businesses partners that could support ACT in making Marten’s vision a reality. I work closely with OpenEd, TD (Test Development), The Product Group, and EA (Enterprise Architecture).  I outlined a communication strategy for ACTNext, too, despite the fact that it is not quite my area of expertise.

I’m extremely pleased with the feedback I received at ATP about ACTNext’s  digital presence—website, social media, blogs. Now that we have a fantastic leadership team in ACTNext, I’ll strive to focus on the strategy, partnerships, and representation more than on day-to-day project work.

What are some of the projects you are currently working on?

I’m still very involved with  the Companion App Project, the CPS project, and with the data cube project. I’m very involved with SmartSparrow, the adaptive learning company in which ACT is a strategic investor.

What is your personal research mission/vision/aspiration? Goals?

My goal is to change the experience of learning and testing for everyone everywhere. I’m driven by fairness for all. I see and will help  ACT become an innovator in monetizing our products so that we can support our social mission.

How does this align with ACT and ACTNext’s mission?

My vision is Marten’s vision, which supports  our mission of providing education for all.

What are your personal research interests?

I’m very interested in modeling complex systems. The learning and teaching at the individual level and the education at the school/district/state/country are complex systems. We need a Computational Psychometrics perspective to tackle theseissues. Note that I use “complex systems” here in the formal way, as in physics.

At this point in your career, what are you most proud of professionally?

Definitely ACTNext!

What future trends do you see in your field, and are there any that you are particularly excited or concerned about?

I’m concerned about the way the funding of innovation takes place in education. The influential billionaires support computer-science driven startups. We can’t compete with them in the traditional way. We need to become creative with our business models.

Scientifically speaking, the trends are about collecting and harnessing big data in an intentional way, with a design behind it. AI, cognitive, and psychometrics theory will lead the way.

How do you see yourself contributing to these trends?

We will disrupt the way people talk about the data, work on adaptive teaching, and on a systemic approach to measurement. We will experiment with new monetizing models.

What is a fun/interesting fact about you?

I can tell the future by reading coffee grounds 🙂