ISTE Focus Group Reflection: Data Management and Analytics

Posted by Shivani StumpfO

July 12, 2018

We sat down with a group of educators at ISTE 2018 to find out what they’re looking for in a data management solution.


EdTech solutions are only valuable if they practically address the challenges educators face on a daily basis. That’s why, at Hoonuit, we go straight to the source when looking for ways to improve our product, speaking directly with educators about the tools and resources they believe would drive the most significant outcomes in their classrooms.


I recently had the opportunity to conduct a focus group at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2018 Conference & Expo, during which I spoke with teachers, administrators, and district technology facilitators about what they look for in a data management solution. What follows is a distillation of the common themes that emerged during our wide-ranging, productive discussion.


1. A Holistic Approach to Student Data


Responses from the group served to validate our product strategy centered around taking a holistic approach to student data. For instance, Hoonuit aggregates information pertaining to non-academic factors like social and emotional learning (SEL), more traditional academic performance like attendance, assessments, and test scores and program services to help educators cater to “the whole child.”


One unanimous concern we heard is that despite all the buzz about data-driven instruction revolutionizing education, many districts are still working on the best ways to empower educators to take action based on data insights. Some of this has to do with the fact that the data to which educators have access exists in “data silos,” precluding the possibility of holistic, outcomes-oriented analyses. For example, SEL survey data might be kept in a completely different system than attendance or assessment information, while other data — health and wellness, early childhood, special education, etc — might be altogether inaccessible or cannot be analyzed with other longitudinal student data.


One of our goals at Hoonuit is to break down these silos to provide educators with a comprehensive view of their students. Our analytics solution is built on the premise of interoperability, meaning we work to connect SIS data with HR, assessments, finance, transportation, program services, health and wellness, auxiliary classroom files, and several  other relevant sources. This offers administrators the ability to look at kids who may be at risk of dropping out of school inside of the same platform where they view their financial information to analyze per pupil spending, for example.


2. Ease (and Efficiency) of Use

Between preparing for classes, delivering instruction, grading assignments, and participating in after-school activities, teachers are incredibly strapped for time. Unsurprisingly, many of the educators we spoke with were looking for a data management solution that was easy to learn and navigate and contextually responsive to their particular needs.


From single sign-on capabilities to automatic alerts for at-risk students, educators are looking for a system that is optimized for on-the-ground realities including aligned, job-embedded professional development (PD) that offers teachers flexibility in how and when they learn. Using Hoonuit, districts have the option to embed their own professional development curricula, customize our programming, or leverage our library of over 100,000 educational resources to meet their PD goals.


Participants also expressed interest in a system that can pull data from outside sources — whether on the district level or the statewide level — in order to minimize manual data entry. For example, educators want to be able to record their students’ interventions and have it automatically contextualized  without having to search for any external data.


3. Considerations for a Successful Deployment


While a holistic, comprehensive data solution is incredibly valuable, many of the focus group participants pointed out that adapting to sudden increases in their data access can be prohibitively daunting. Whether they felt they were promised something that wasn’t delivered or were just too overwhelmed to leverage the data they were given, most educators had a story about a failed data management implementation.


The clear consensus was that a district can’t simply install a data tool and expect to start seeing results immediately. There needs to be a concerted effort by both the solution provider and high-level district stakeholders to train teachers and building administrators and help them understand how to get the most out of their new data solution.


Often times, everyone wants every piece of information, but they are unable to digest the information and use it to take action. The group agreed on something we’ve deliberately designed for: that organizing data so that each person can see exactly what they need — no more and no less — softens the learning curve, and the group agreed that a role-based user experience allows them to focus specifically on the data that’s most useful to them. With Hoonuit, a teacher’s dashboard can be customized so that it only displays information that’s relevant to their classroom, a principal’s dashboard can be customized so that it only displays information that’s relevant to their building, and so on.


Not only do tailored dashboards give individuals easy access to the data breakdowns they need, they also offer persona-based research tools that are aligned with each individual’s goals, helping drive better, more targeted results.


4. The Value of Predictive Analytics


We had an overwhelming amount of focus group participants respond positively to the investments we have made in predictive analytics. The consensus was that the earlier they can identify risk through early warning signals or predict lack of college readiness, and intervene, the more effective outcomes can be.


Just look at the number of students that are graduating and then need to take a remedial course in college. Without implementing some sort of statistical model or predictive analytics, it’s often too late to make a difference by the time it is apparent that a student is at risk of not graduating or is insufficiently prepared for their next steps.


This is why we are creating tools that can help educators spot these trends as early as possible — even in pre-K and elementary school environments. We work to provide educators access to the analyses they need that accounts for various factors — attendance, behavior, test scores, GPAs, demographics, etc. — and more accurately predict which kids are not ACT- or SAT-ready, which kids won’t graduate on time, won’t enroll in college, or won’t graduate from college.


A Data Solution for Any Set of Needs


It was validating to see educators share similar needs — and how many rightly have high expectations for how data-driven decision-making can positively impact their students. At Hoonuit, we strive to meet the needs of every educator we work with, whether that means cooperating on an initiative a district has already established or helping identify areas where better data practices could drive improvement with the promise of maximizing student achievement.


We’re committed to continuous innovation as we understand the ever changing landscape of data analytics in education, and to building solutions that meet our customers needs not only today but into the future. At the end of the day, our foremost goal is to help educators leverage our end-to-end data management and analytics solution in a way that makes the biggest impact on the lives of their students.

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