Data can be immensely helpful to educators–but anyone who hopes to learn from data must know how to analyze and interpret it.

Although the word “data” can raise red flags when it comes to protecting student privacy and sensitive information, it can help students, parents, teachers, and administrators learn from and adjust practices. The catch, though, is that these stakeholder groups need access to the education data and must be able understand what it means.

“Collecting the right education data at the right time, if the right people have access to it, can be a very powerful tool to help improve teaching and learning,” said Doug Mesecar, vice president of strategic partnerships at IO Education, who also has extensive experience with education data and blended learning solutions.

In a blended learning approach, it’s important that education data be used in real time, or near real time to provide a feedback loop so the data doesn’t go unused, Mesecar said. “It needs to be put to use by teachers in real time to make adjustments and provide interventions and supports.”

Too much education data can overwhelm, but looking at it constantly could cause educators to get lost and not see valuable trends. Finding a balance–perhaps weekly–is as important as knowing what to do with the data when it is accessed.

“We put data in front of people and say, ‘OK, take action!’ But you have to understand what it says first,” Mesecar.

(Next page: Best practices for education data)


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