Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Do You Hear the Angels Sing?

Thank you for all the interest in my recent "Getting Started with Google Data Studio" webinars. Between the three sessions, there were over 150 participants from all over the US and the world! As I told those that attended, the first time I saw Data Studio in action, I heard angels singing! My hope in offering these webinars was to help you all hear the angels sing too.

As promised, I am sharing the recorded webinar, the 'slide deck' (actually a GDS report), and the list of getting started resources, for those who would like to review the materials or share with colleagues. Additional resources are regularly posted here on my blog as well as on Twitter @tiltondata. I am also available to provide consulting services in the area of Data Studio professional development as well as customized dashboard development.

Please feel free to reach out if you have follow-up questions, resources to share, ideas for new visualization tools, or suggestions for future blog posts.  Thank you and stay well!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Tips for Structuring Your GDS Data Source in Google Sheets

When educators are first getting started with Google Data Studio, one of the most challenging things to learn is the best way to structure a data source (for example, in Sheets) so that it works well with Data Studio. The problem is that the way people tend to USE spreadsheets can be very different than the way Data Studio prefers them to be set up in order to visualize the data effectively.

Here's a simple example. Schools often store data within a structure like the one below, because it makes more sense when we are looking at it in a spreadsheet. We can look at and/or enter student scores over time, and we can see all of a single student's data in one row. Logical, right?

However, this type of structure may not allow us to display the data in a desired format, because you essentially have three sets of metrics for each student. Restructuring the data so that we have a dimension (Administration) and a metric (Score) can help, as in the example below.

This allows us to graph the data in a useful way:

I see a lot of Sheets where there is one tab (or Sheet) per school, grade level, classroom, etc. Data Studio wants to see your data in a single Sheet, with columns to identify school, grade level, classroom, etc. which will then allow you to filter the data by those criteria. You can use an IMPORTRANGE or QUERY formula to bring data together from multiple tabs or Sheets. 

A few other tips for structuring data sources:
  • If you're concerned your existing data needs some restructuring in order to work well with Data Studio, you can try taking a look at Ben Collins' approach for 'unpivoting' data in Sheets
  • Life is easier if your data source Sheet has a single header row in the first row of the Sheet. Merged cells or multi-row headers will need cleanup or workarounds in order to use them in Data Studio. 
  • Avoid summary rows, extra text on the sheet, and blank rows or columns (blank columns will not be brought as part of a data source even if they have a header). 
  • Cells should contain a single value where possible. I try to avoid 'check all that apply' type questions in a Google Form for this reason. I found this resource on CATA questions from Sheila B. Robinson very helpful. 
  • If you will want to do any sort of data blending with multiple sources, make sure your Sheet includes a column with some sort of unique identifier, such as student ID number.
Many of the CSV files we get from DESE here in Massachusetts work really well with Data Studio just the way they are. (Note: I always bring CSV files into Sheets rather than using the 'Upload CSV' data connector.) Raw exports from a district's student information system or assessment database also tend to work very well, even though they might be a challenge to wrap our heads around visually. Spreadsheets such as the one below are ugly, but Data Studio loves them!

Bottom line: If you are using a Google Sheet as a data source, don't try to to make it look pretty! Spend some time ensuring your Sheet is set up to play nicely with Data Studio and it will make all the difference. A single header row with data underneath is all you need. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Webinar: Getting Started with Google Data Studio in K-12 Education

With all of my workshops and conference presentations cancelled this spring I am really missing being able to share the joy of Google Data Studio with others! I am offering a free webinar (two date/time options) entitled "Getting Started with Google Data Studio in K-12 Education" which will be very similar to overview sessions I have presented at recent conferences. Feel free to share with colleagues too!


Google Data Studio, a free data visualization tool designed for business, can be used by educators to turn unwieldy data into visual and interactive dashboards. A variety of examples related to assessment, demographic, attendance, accountability, and other types of data will be presented. An overview of the steps to get started using this tool and create a simple dashboard will be shared. While this is not intended to be a hands-on session, some "getting started" resources will be provided so that participants can try out the tool on their own after the session.

Thursday, April 23, 2020, 10:00 am EST - 11:00 am EST 
Friday, April 24, 2020, 11:00 am EST - 12:00 pm EST
Tuesday, April 28, 2020, 4:00 pm EST - 5:00 pm EST

Instructor: Laura Tilton (, @tiltondata on Twitter)

Cost: Free!


The session will be held via Zoom and the link will be emailed to registrants the day before the session. If you have any questions please contact me at

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Collecting and Viewing Student Check-In Data

Wow! I realized it's been almost a month since my last blog post. So many things happening in the world these days as we try to reinvent education as we know it! I know many educators/schools are looking to collect information from students (and their families) as they learn remotely. I have previously written about how Google Data Studio is a great tool for visualizing data that comes from Google Forms.

If a school needed to 'take attendance' during remote learning, they might do so with a "question of the day" setup like this one that I recently created. It could also be used as just a fun daily check-in to build community or engage students. This report embeds the Google Form, and an automatically updated Question of the Day (from a Google Sheet) right into the report, so it's a one stop shop for collecting and displaying information from students.

When used with the Filter by Email feature of Data Studio, the results of a student survey could be used to display information back to a student, similar to the way Matt Heusmann, ESU 6 in Nebraska, used three different forms (check-in, journaling, and exit ticket) to populate this sample Data Studio Report.

You might also choose to check in on how students are feeling, which you could do with a tool similar to the Personality Quiz example created by Michael Howe-Ely.

Other data collected and visualized during remote learning might be usage data from a district's Learning Management System or family surveys providing feedback on the remote learning process. Jordan Benedict has an interesting blog article on 4 Types of Data to Collect During Distance Learning...what information are you collecting? Do you have any other valuable resources on this topic? Please share here on the blog, connect with me on Twitter @tiltondata, or drop me a line at Hope you are well and staying safe and sane!