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The Flamingo Nation Data Lagoon will accelerate research and development by providing educators and researchers access to a revolutionary dataset. By compiling data from a complementary series of online education applications and implementing precise data protections, the Data Lagoon mitigates pervasive barriers to data-based decision-making and educational technology R&D.

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How it started

The UF Lastinger Center for Learning and its research partners at the UF College of Education received a $3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to build the basic structures and data connections that are foundational to the success of the Flamingo Nation Data Lagoon. The goal is to create tools that are useful for researchers, teachers, administrators, and state-level education partners to inform decision-making for improving student learning outcomes.

What’s unique about the UF Lastinger Center for Learning is that it offers both student learning platforms and teacher professional development that are complementary. For example, educators participate in literacy professional development through the Literacy Matrix, and students participate in literacy instruction through the Flamingo Reading App. At the start of the project, the data for each instance were not compatible, and the Lastinger Center had to spend valuable time and resources compiling data by hand. The Flamingo Nation Data Lagoon team is currently in the process of building the requisite infrastructure to streamline this process using Microsoft Open Education Analytics architecture, which has been robustly tested and widely adopted. This new infrastructure will make connections between all of the Lastinger Center’s applications so that complementary data is made quickly accessible and easily understandable through graphics and tables updated in real-time, informing efficient actions to benefit student learning. For example, a teacher might see areas in which students are struggling and the readily available professional development units that will help them improve their ability to teach that exact skill set. 

“The idea is to make it as easy as possible for leadership in education to look at evidence coming out of their classrooms, identify needs, and to align resources to areas that need more support and accelerate strategies that are working well.”

How it works

The Flamingo Nation Data Lagoon will be able to make connections between teacher professional development, student engagement and student performance. It will auto-generate data displays leveraging Microsoft’s Power BI that will expedite insight into the relationships between student engagement, student outcomes, and student and teacher opportunities for growth. This information can be used to identify patterns in student outcomes, what teaching strategies aren’t working and which ones are. 

Flamingo Nation Data Lagoon Version 1 is focused on creating the data infrastructure and preliminary data outputs for Math Nation. It is the Lastinger Center’s most-used application, supporting learning for nearly 600,000 students and more than 25,000 teachers across the U.S. each year. 

“The Flamingo Nation Data Lagoon will dramatically advance understanding of math teaching and learning so we can improve outcomes, particularly with students in historically marginalized communities,” said Dr. Cathy Cavanaugh, Chief Experience Officer & Technology Principal at the UF Lastinger Center for Learning. 

Version 1 of the Flamingo Nation Data Lagoon will include three static reports. These reports were created through a formal research practitioner partnership (RPP) with a school district to make sure the Flamingo Nation Data Lagoon will be usable and provide the information they need. The reports will juxtapose student engagement on a learning platform to their performance (i.e., how much time a student spends in Math Nation compared to their test scores). While helpful, this is just the beginning of the Flamingo Nation Data Lagoon.

In the long term, the Flamingo Nation Data Lagoon team hopes to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) in a few ways:

  • Identify patterns between student engagement and student performance
  • Identify patterns between teacher professional development and student performance 
  • Make recommendations about teacher professional development based on student performance
  • Facilitate further R&D in AI that can be integrated in the suite of Lastinger Center online education applications

Using auto-generated patterns and recommendations, educators can spend more time working with students who need additional support and engaging in relevant professional development, administrators can make decisions on how to allocate their time and resources, and researchers will be able to rapidly increase innovation in education technology. Notably, educators, administrators, and researchers are currently engaging in these practices, but have to manually collect and prepare the data. The Data Lagoon will allow for rapid decision making while alleviating the incredible burden on resources necessitated by manual preparation. The idea is to make it as easy as possible for leadership in education to look at evidence coming out of their classrooms, identify needs, and to align resources to areas that need more support and accelerate strategies that are working well.

Data security 

As with any project, privacy and data security are top priority. The Flamingo Nation Data Lagoon exceeds the rigorous privacy standards established by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) so there will be different levels of authorization to access data in the Flamingo Nation Data Lagoon. For example, teachers and school administrators will be able to look at data using their students’ information in order to make decisions about specific students in their schools to improve their learning outcomes. On the other hand, education researchers and state-level education partners will only have access to de-identified, anonymized data. ​​

Collaboration 

To learn more about collaborating with the Flamingo Nation Data Lagoon team, contact Dr. Cathy Cavanaugh.