Last week I attended my first out-of-state Ed Tech conference, NCCE in Seattle, where I presented a session on using Power Bi. This was my first time in Seattle, and even though it was a short two-day trip, I really enjoyed the city and the conference. I was able to meet up with some MIE colleagues that I hadn't seen in a few years and meet some new faces too.
This is the second time I've presented on Power Bi at a conference, and it still isn't any easier. Trying to explain what I do, how I do it, and why I do it in just 50 minutes to an audience that may not have any experience using a spreadsheet is a big challenge. I think what I'm doing is the coolest thing ever right now, but I get a sense that it can be a little overwhelming. Since this was my second go-around, I tweaked the session a little bit by eliminating the Excel demo. I've been using Power Bi for two years now, learning on my own, and there really is just too much info that can't be packed into a one-hour session. I try to keep all the info as relevant as possible; I provide examples of the data I'm tracking, how my data models are designed, basic workflows I use, and the ins and outs of sharing Bi reports with colleagues and students. The most important aspect is the "So What, Now What?", which I'm still in the process of learning myself. Learning everything I know about Power Bi, data management, and design has taken quite a while, but it's pointless if I'm not using it for its purpose; steering my curriculum and instruction into the right direction for my students.
I get a sense this is potentially important in the future for teachers. Now that I have access to all this information and insight I never had before about my students' learning, how do I properly use this information to my advantage with my instruction and classroom activities? I see this happening already, but it’s not the teachers making the adjustments, it's software doing the job instead. I see the value in using software to guide students with their work and learning, but I still think I can do a better job of explaining content, concepts, skills, and ideas to my students based on their individual needs. So how do I do this? I teach over 230 students a day. I have multiple sets of data now about their understanding of concepts, their abilities, their strengths, and their weaknesses. I now have an opportunity to specifically target my students' learning needs. So, how do I?
This is what I'm experiencing now. As Toni Townes-Whitley, the opening NCCE keynote speaker said in her keynote, "How do I digest this data?", and as I'm learning right now, how do I correctly act upon it? From my experience this year, it requires time. Time to think. Time to analyze the data charts, filter through the various subsets, and find the important insights hidden inside. I must make time to do this, and for me it needs to be as distraction free as possible. Not only do I need to do my analysis, but I need to capture those spontaneous ideas of how I can act upon what I now know about my students' learning and abilities. This is the second half of the challenge, the "Now What?". With the information I now know through my Power Bi data, I'm generating all sorts of ideas on how I'm going to target my students' needs. It's a lot though. In my head I'm rearranging seating charts, even considering mixing up my instrument sections so I have particular sets of students sitting next to each other. This isn't normal. In the music room, the instruments all sit together in their sections, but now I'm thinking of throwing that idea out the window. Other ideas include collaborative discussion activities, new instructional activities, just new…stuff. Ideas I've never considered. My pedagogy just went through a huge transition over the last five years, and now I feel like I'm about to go through another one. I don't mind this, I feel this is part of what makes my job enjoyable. I like to problem solve, and now I have more information on what problems I need to solve.
These specific pedagogical solutions to tackling my students' needs can't be designed and implemented via software. These actions currently require a teacher, but what about the data? How will that be handled in the future? Will teachers just rely on software to give them a generic analysis of their students' learning, or will they want to dig deeper? Will they want to know more? If they do, some new skill sets are going to be required. Teachers will need to know how to access various forms of student data. They'll need knowledge on creating data models that target specific insights of their students' learning. They're going to need some analysis skills and time to be creative afterwards.
It'll be interesting see if these thoughts ever become a real issue. The current focus has been on equity, understanding the cloud, why is the Wi-Fi slow, how to use cloud services like Office 365 and Gsuite, what's the latest new formative assessment tool this month, how do I sign in, why is the Wi-Fi still slow, etc. With all these new cloud services and formative, iterative, and summative assessment tools at our disposal to use (and being used), a lot of data is being gathered on our students' learning. What's all that data doing right now? Is it being used? Will it be used? Who's going to map it all out? Do they know how? Do they know what to look for?
This past school year was my district's first full year of using Office 365. With access to Forms, Power Bi, and my class set of iPads, I was able to mess around with getting different sets of data from my students and seeing what I could do with it to help their learning and my teaching. I wrote a guest blog post for Microsoft's education blog on my experience, which you can read here.
I recently had a surgical procedure done, and so now I have to take it easy during my recovery time. Not easy with two boys by the way, my natural stubbornness has been fighting the idea of picking them up as well as other regular activities. Anyways, it does give me time to lie down and get work done on my Surface. When I'm in this "mode" I'm usually keyboard-less, using just the Surface Pen and my fingers. This morning I decided to work on a task for my multimedia class; creating a method for my students to peer assess their recent graphic design work.
This is my iPad class, so I strive to keep everything digital with the least amount of steps possible for my students. Their work (a redesign of a local HS flyer) was created in the MS Word app, lives in their school OneDrive folder, and is shared with me. I decided to use the top 5 submissions for this activity. This allows the student's work to be recognized, but also keeps the activity from becoming burdensome. Still though, I had to figure out how to make this happen with the tools I have, so where do I start? OneNote :-)
OneNote is where my thoughts go, especially for designing and creating new stuff. I quickly grabbed a example pic of student work using the Ink Workspace tools; I opened up a student's file from the web (shared with me through OneDrive), double clicked my Surface Pen to bring up the Screen Sketch, did a quick crop, and copy/pasted into OneNote. After that came the brainstorming. I knew I wanted my students to be able to:
I've done stuff like this before, so I had a general idea of how to do this, but some parts were different. My students' work was a Word doc file, so I had to figure out how to display them to the students. Rather than use an online Excel Form I would use Office Forms in its place for the peer assessment. The peer assessment form would have to be reusable too, since students were assessing multiple pieces of student work.
There is of course multiple ways to achieve this using all sorts of apps and services readily available. My point for writing this blog post is because it was so simple and fast for me to put it all together using my Surface and Office 365. Usually there is some frustration involved when I'm putting an #edtech idea together. This app doesn't work, or this format isn't recognized, etc. I didn't experience any roadblocks today. Everything just worked, and rather quickly too. Here is what I did.
That's it! A couple grammar tweaks here and there, but that was it. Again, I could have accomplished this using other tools for sure, but this method was way faster and had fewer steps. Fewer points and clicks if you know what I mean. SPOILER: I didn't use a mouse or keyboard for any of this. I used touch and pen input, and the Surface's built in handwriting recognition for all text input.
I was hesitant at first putting this assessment activity together. I figured it would take a few hours, would require a mouse and keyboard, would involve multiple steps, and I wouldn't be able to accomplish it laying down in my bed. I was wrong. My Surface + Office 365 + Ink Workspace allowed me to put this together quickly with zero issues. And I did it comfortably ?
Check it out. This is a public version of the activity. Everything is located in one space. The Sway will be distributed to the students via their OneNote Class Notebook. My students can view it in OneNote, or view the Sway in the iPad's browser.
Power BI is becoming more and more a part of my workflow. When I plan activities for my students and develop new routines, collecting relevant data is always considered. Especially since I can easily turn that data into great looking visuals for interpretation and getting insights.
Power BI is included in your Office 365 school license, but it doesn't automatically show up in the waffle of apps. After you login, it will :-)
Play around with it, and you'll start to see just how valuable a tool it is. I've used it to analyze my student's performance scores, reading comprehension scores, and recently their instrument checkout frequency.
Can't wait to show my students this one, and see my 8th grader's reaction >:-)
I use an Office Form to track my students' instrument checkouts (I'll write about how I was able to capture it in the future), and it's now a daily routine in my classroom. This is one of the best parts though. Sharing my reports with my students for their own personal reflection on their learning.
People have been requesting an Office Mix on how I use Power BI, so I made one. It covers the basics for now, and more Mixes will be created in the future to go over other tips and tricks.
Also, gotta say that creating this Mix on my Surface was a piece of cake. #OnceYouGoPen...
This post was created in Sway. You can view it full screen here