I attended a conference this week in which data had a starring role. I stopped by to talk to a vendor about their product. We'll disregard, for the moment, the blatant FERPA violations with the actual student data they were so proudly displaying, and get to the moment where they were explaining the visualizations generated by the software. The "stoplight" effect (red, yellow, green) is very popular in education for sorting students, but is not so friendly for users with vision issues. I asked them about colour choice. And what did the salesmen say? "It's pretty."
At this same conference, several districts proudly showed off their data dashboards or Excel add-ins. The fact is, there is a lot of very exciting and in-depth work being done with all kinds of school data. I was energized by what I saw, except for one thing: sloppy and ineffectual data displays. I get that the numbers and analysis are the focus. But to get to the end of all the hard work with ginormous data sets and not pay attention to the output was like having sex without the big finish (or, more likely, a premature one): very unsatisfying and frustrating as a participant.