The Power Of Data

Working in a modern day manufacturing facility, data was all around me. As the IT Manager at Quebecor World’s Merced Plant, my team was responsible for the plant dash board. A web based application that collected and showed the plant’s production performance in real time, pulling in data from hundreds of sensors throughout the production process. It was quite amazing to see. We were constantly making the UI easier to read and more powerful for users. The ability to drill down and adjust production on the fly was incredible. Reviewing historical performance and being able to adjust and re-adjust processes for improved performance and see the results in real time was invaluable. It saved the Plant hundreds of thousands of dollars annually and paid for itself many times over. That system of data collection and display helped make that plant one o the most innovative printing facilities in the world.

We have data in education too. It’s not real time and it hardly ever gets used to impact current performance, but we do have it. Since coming over to K12, I’ve often wondered why we don’t have dashboards for data in schools. Real time readouts with learning metrics, attendance stats, facilities conditions in one simple view or every principal to see. And similar dashboards for teachers, with all of a student’s performance data displayed in easy to read graphs and charts. Unfortunately I’ve never had the resources of Programmers in K12 to delve into the concept.

That’s why I am fascinated by systems like Khan Academy’s Learning Dashboard and BrightByte’s Clarity for Schools. Both represent powerful uses of data and move education closer to the world of learning analytics. It’s becoming possible to get bigger views of whats happening in schools, from student achievement to the impact of technology PD in the classroom. Being able to capture data and present it in a user friendly and useful manner is getting easier every day.

SBAC promises even more potential with data in the form of the Formative Assessments that should give teachers a (more or less) continuous view into student learning. I’m excited or the potential of data in education and quite frankly I’m surprised the big Student Information System (SIS) vendors haven’t figured this out yet. As a parent, I would love to see a something like a Learning Dashboard for my kid. But then again, a classroom blog would work for me too.