Data Dashboard & the Meaning of Life … I mean Technology

A colleague recently shared an article that included this graphic, which reminded me of my love of the visualization of data (I know … I’m a cool guy …):



Can you figure out what it shows? Check out the short article from the Guardian to learn more (hint: it’s about multiplication facts).

But the point is that when I saw this, it reminded me of previous attempts at gathering and organizing data into a data dashboard. I know that I am not the most organized when working with paper, but when I can keep data electronically, I am much more adept at making it meaningful. I always feel like this has potential for the way that I work with, teach, and assess my students, but I’m never quite there.

Thus, I set out again to try to imagine and create a place where I could easily gather and display data that I might gather in class. I sketched this as a starting place:


Click to see a larger version


It shows a data dashboard (really), that displays a few simple data points – things I might want to look at frequently if my iPad is in my hands. It would tell me information like:

  • Who filled out their reading log last night? Did everyone read for at least 30 minutes?
  • When’s the last time I had a conference with each student? What did I teach them during that time?
  • How many books has each child finished this month? How many pages has each read this month in total?
  • When’s the last time each child took an AR quiz? What was their score?


I set off into Google Drive to determine if I could do any of this. My first attempt was at creating the following to gather reading homework data:


1. Google Form: The student visits the form in the morning and enters information about their reading homework from last night – the date, title, time read, page started, and page ended. (same information we currently record on a paper form)

2. Google Sheet: Collects all the data from the form. On a separate sheet, displays the most recent record for each student, organized in alphabetical order by student name. In other words, for each student, show only the information for the last time they filled out the form.

3. Google Site: On a webpage, displays the data from the Google Sheet.


Numbers 1 and 3 above were quite easy, but number 2 was not. If you don’t believe me, give it a try.

But here’s the point, it took me about two weeks to figure it out, and I finally did it. I didn’t get any instruction from anyone. I didn’t have any professional development. I just had to do it. I searched, I read, I asked a question on a Google Forum, and I tested, tested, and tested some more. It didn’t work, and I gave up … then I came back and gave it another go. I made a mini-version with three sample students. It worked. Then I hooked it up to the Google Form, and it didn’t work. I created a new version, and then finally I think I got it.

To me, technology is the ultimate inquiry. You don’t learn by being told or getting instruction or professional development; you learn by doing. If you need to find something, search it (you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can find an answer out there). And test, test, test, and test some more.

That’s why I love learning with technology. You only learn when you try, and when you try you always learn.

More on my data dashboard if it continues to work. I’m sure I’ll have some failures, but I that’s part of the fun.


Here's what gets me excited on a Saturday afternoon. Check out that query!

Here’s what gets me excited on a Saturday afternoon. Check out that query!


My Math iBooks

Taking on independent projects is something that is important (and fun) for me. As we’re getting closer to spring break, I’ve been thinking about what I might want to use some of my down time to work on. Last year I was hard at work on putting together two eTextbooks for the iTunes textbook store, which was new at the time. I haven’t really publicized these at all, but if you have a second, please do check them out (they’re free to download). I’m proud to say that the two math books have been downloaded over 26,000 times!

My next goal is to familiarize myself with iTunes U. I hope to create a math course in iTunes U, and these books will certainly be a part of it.


Safari Math US Store    UK Store

Fractions     US Store    UK Store

iPad Research

One of the most challenging things to do with this iPad pilot program is to measure its effectiveness. How will we know if using iPads in school leads to improved learning for students? We don’t have the ability to undertake true educational research, but we’ve tried to identify a few ways that we can gather data that might give us an insight into how being in a 1:1 iPad classroom impacts students.

We have developed two surveys to try to figure out if using the iPads has an effect on students’ views of their use of technology and their progress with math facts (as we figure we will be practicing math facts on the iPads quite a bit).

These two short surveys will be given to all the grade 4 students twice this year, and we hope to compare  the results of the surveys from the beginning and end of the year and between the iPad pilot classes and the other classes.

See below for some of the questions that we asked students.


Technology Survey



Multiplication Survey

Google Search Skills

We’re here in Frankfurt wrapping up our time at the European 1:1 Learning Institute. We heard a great presentation this morning from Jeff Utecht, a former technology teacher in Bangkok.

One of the things that Jeff was talking about was the importance of building our search skills. We think of searching in google as a relatively simple thing, but when you do a search and get 73,000,000 pages you realise that it really takes some skills in order to search and figure out which sites will give you the best answers for your question.

The ASL teachers here at the conference were excited to hear about lots of ideas about how we can teach search skills to students. One great thing we can do, which is really fun, is using A Google a Day.


These daily google challenges might be a fun, quick way for both adults and kids to think about what makes a successful search. And successful searching can mean the difference between finding the information you are looking for or getting lost in 73,000,000 pages!

Thanks to Jeff! His presentation led to a lot of great thinking and discussion about what we can do at ASL to improve our tech program.

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