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Welcome to my practical data use email for K–12 educators. Every other week I send an idea for practical data use that you can use today in your education job. I'll be including activities like these in my new book The K–12 Educator's Data Guidebook: Reimagining Practical Data Use in Schools, which will be out later this year. If this activity helps you, consider sharing it with a friend: 
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Keep a Data Diary

In this activity, you'll learn how to use a data diary to keep the important questions top of mind. 

How This Can Help Us

Author Austin Kleon writes that he keeps a diary because it helps him "pay attention to his life" and because he has "a terrible memory." Keeping a data diary is all about getting a long-term conversation going with yourself over time so you can pay attention to your professional interests. It's about documenting and revisiting the questions, ideas, and related data that help you do your job as an educator.

Over time, we build up enough experience that these questions just start popping up for us. But we can’t turn these questions into action if they appear and just go away. When we document our curiosities and ideas, we honor them. We give them context and a system to turn them into action. And we surface little details that we might not have noticed otherwise. 


  1. Get a notebook. Get one that makes you want to write in it. Get one that you can carry  everywhere while on the job. 
  2. Get curious about something at work? Write it down in your data diary. This can be anything—an interesting data question, an intriguing source of data, or a data technique a teammate used. 
  3. Leave some space on each page for jotting down notes in the future, including ideas for data sources to help you learn more. 
  4. Once a week, make a cup of coffee or tea and leaf through your data diary. Still curious about some of the questions you’ve written? Start researching and see if you can find some answers. 
That's it! This is your notebook and your analytic process. There's no need to make it perfect because: a) The idea of perfect is unproductive and impossible and b) Nobody will read it unless you want them to. 

What to Put in Your Data Diary

What goes in your data diary and how you use it is up to you. But here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Jot down observations of colleagues that are a few steps ahead of you in their practical data use. Deconstruct their process and write about it
  • React to an education article or book you read. Scribble at least one idea about how you can use what you read tomorrow in your daily work
  • Keep a list of your go-to meaningful data sources like dashboards, assessment results, exit slips, or spreadsheets you keep. When you're feeling stuck, use your list to review data and draw themes about what's happening in the classroom
  • Write reflections that come up for you as you review classroom, school, or district data. I use my notebook like this a lot when I'm researching for a new project. It's a way of working out  what I'm seeing in data or research over many sources 
From my own notebook: I keep track of the running word count for my upcoming book, The K–12 Educator's Data Guidebook (left). I use my notebook to find connections between ideas I find in my research (right). 


A couple more things before we close up: I've got a podcast with my colleague Joshua Rosenberg called About Practice. We talk about challenges and solutions for using research in everyday education jobs. It's super fun and you can subscribe on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

And last, I wrote a book with some awesome people about using data science tools in the education field called Data Science in Education Using R. You can read it for free here and buy your print copy here.

That's all for now! More in a couple weeks!

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