#FutureFriday: Why K-12 Data Visualization May Save Us All

on January 20, 2017 in Student Information System

Welcome to the inaugural #FutureFriday, a bi-monthly video segment covering what's new and exciting in edtech. Today we'll help you escape spreadsheet purgatory with a game-changing new process called data visualization. Solve data-driven instruction for good!

#FutureFriday Transcript: Why K-12 Data Visualization May Save Us All

Welcome to OnCourse Future Friday where we explore what's new and exciting in educational technology.             

Today our topic is going to be one of the most elusive prizes in any K-12 environment, which is capturing the promise of data-driven instruction or data-driven decision making or whatever it is we're calling it today.

For most of the schools we work with, this is a rough road. It's very challenging to develop the culture and systems to get data integrated into any school system.

Even school systems that have figured this out, it's still very challenging. It's this goliath effort of pulling all of our assessment data (and if you believe in multiple measures; our attendance, demographic, and behavior data) into one place.

It's challenging to get all of that to somehow paint a coherent picture.


The Gates Foundation did a study where they talked to a bunch of teachers and asked, "why is data not working for you?"

And here were some of the reasons:

  • Provided manually
  • Siloed, it's difficult to work with or to aggregate.
  • One-dimensional
  • Untrustworthy
  • Slow
  • Not sufficiently granular
  • Unable to track progress over time
  • Inflexible.

At the end of the day, 65% of the teachers polled were not satisfied with the data and tools they had access to.


We have to figure this out because conversely in that same study, 85% of administrators polled  said that using data to inform instruction, to improve instruction, was the most important skill that they had (tied with developing strong teaching capacity). So, we know it's extremely important.


I'm not pointing fingers at teachers, and I'm not pointing fingers at administrators, but I am going to point a finger at someone who I believe to be responsible, and that is your Student Information System (SIS) provider.

Your SIS, which is a big and important part of your school district, is processing thousands of data points every day. So, every time attendance is taken or a discipline incident is logged or a grade is logged all of that data is going into your Student Information System.

Yet almost every Student Information System is failing to give you that data in a way that actually makes any sense.

So, if you do have to go get a report out for your school board or for your teachers, it's "Oh, I have to go extract the data or I have to run reports! And I have to pull it into Excel, and I have to figure out what the heck a pivot table is!"

The problem is that's not sustainable. It's not integrated.

This is why data visualization is may change everything.


So, data visualization is not data analysis. Data visualization is a process through which all of the data that you are processing gets automatically translated into infographics.


Beautiful, colorful, interactive infographics.

And if you want to know if your teachers are going to be into this, ask them if they want to look at spreadsheets or if they want to look at word cloud that shows students' names, and they're bigger if they have been absent more than other students.


Or if you want to look at a heat map, which shows the last few months at your school, and where all of the discipline incidents are happening and what kind of incidents are they.


Or if I want to see parent engagement let me see a beautiful line graph that shows me when they're actually engaging with the resources, we're providing to them?


 Or if we want to look at assessment data? Let's look at our state assessment data but then be able to drill into it to see how our students are performing?


How are they performing on standards? or sub-claims?

 So, data visualization is painting this beautiful picture from what was otherwise murky and impenetrable data.

And the best part is that it's happening all live!


Let's say that I'm the worst and I won't even look at those infographics. I can set up even set this up so that, it will alert me when certain thresholds are met.

So, if want to know if my average daily attendance at my school drops below a certain threshold. It can email me automatically.


Data visualization should be a part of every Student Information System. So right in the system where we're doing everything on a daily basis, let's have that data right there and let’s have it updating in real-time and let’s make it beautiful and approachable then it's ever been.

Or if you're lucky enough to be a user of the OnCourse system you'll be excited to hear that OnCourse Analytics, our data visualization technology, will be released in February of 2017!

So, give us a call or if you're going to be at Techspo next week, come and see us.

Thank you for joining me today for Future Friday and keep on innovating!

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