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At the Tech Tactics in Education conference in Orlando, Rutgers CESP’s research associate David Amiel presented a session focused on the effective use of data visualizations and dashboards in educational settings. Entitled “Accessible Data Dashboards and Visualizations as Pragmatic Planning Tools for Educators,” the presentation on November 7th offered a structured approach to understanding and applying data for educational improvement and enriching K-12 education with intentional practices around data.

The session commenced with a discussion on the theoretical underpinning of data within and beyond the context of education, suggesting that data should be seen not just as raw numbers but as a structured package that includes information, a level, and a format. This concept set the foundation for the day’s exploration. Attendees engaged in an exercise to identify the existing data workflows in their institutions. This process helped in visualizing the connections between different stakeholders, the data they handle, the actions they perform, and the outcomes they aim for.

Through this mapping, educators thoughtfully considered where dashboards and visualizations could be integrated to enhance decision-making and outcomes, rather than creating undue burden or allocating resources for a tool that would remain unused. Amiel then steered the conversation towards the practical aspects of data tools in education, covering the technicalities of dashboard implementation, methods for effective dissemination, and training needs.

The importance of maintaining ethical standards and drawing reasonable conclusions (when possible) from data was also emphasized, ensuring that insights are responsibly used. The theoretical discussions were grounded in real-world application through two case studies: one concerning a sample university chemistry department’s course data and another involving a high school biology course’s gradebook. For the former, session materials illustrated the use of a pivot table in Excel as a straightforward yet powerful tool for data analysis. The latter case study introduced participants to the R programming language and the Shiny package, demonstrating the creation of interactive web apps for data exploration and storytelling.

The Center for Effective School Practices encourages those interested in the intersection of data and education to visit the center’s product page for further information and access to materials from the session. This resource aims to support educators and administrators in harnessing the power of data to foster an environment of continuous educational growth and achievement.