I love maps. Maps present all the different possibilities to get from one point to another and provide the opportunity to chart your own course. My laminated, multi-fold map was my favorite companion in the car, especially during the days I lived in Wrigleyville, Chicago and worked in a far northern suburb. The commute was 90 minutes on a good day. On Chicago Cubs game days, I prepared to settle in with my favorite book on CD (yes, before podcasts), because everyone was headed into the city, to my neighborhood, and there also was bound to be some construction zone along the route. On an almost daily basis, upon spotting the approaching sea of red brake lights, I would scan the road for the nearest exit, grab my map, and chart an alternative route down side streets through various towns. I was not the only one of my friends and coworkers who found it necessary to live in the city, even though our jobs took us to the far surrounding suburbs; so sharing the best detour, construction zones, and traffic times was a major topic of conversation.

What is all of this about beyond reminiscing about what it was like before map apps on your phone tell you when you are approaching a traffic slowdown and which is the best route to take?

I am relating this to our collective efforts with the Teacher Preparation Data Model and implementations with early adopters. UPD, the Ed-Fi Alliance, foundations, and the early adopters, have all started with a general direction and end point in mind and are trying out new routes and sharing stories about what is working and what is not through development of the data model, dashboards, data diagnostics, and implementations with Teacher Preparation Programs (TPPs). This applies to how TPPs are communicating these projects to their leadership and faculty, how they engage university level IT staff, how TPPs are working with their district partners to establish data sharing agreements. We are “getting on the road” and learning together how the data model plays out with real program data vs the theoretical requirement “maps” and what adjustments need to be made. We are discussing ideas and options on how a TPP will manage maintenance of the solution, how to train users on using data to inform their decisions, the best dashboard visualizations that prompt action, and how to gain access to the right data from state education agency partners. We are learning how to narrow down the scope of a project by starting with the use cases and data needed to address those specific use cases. We are exploring many different paths to engage system vendors to establish API integrations for a more sustainable solution – hoping for the route that makes an implementation more efficient.

We are charting the route and finding the best way to success and realizing there are different routes to arrive at the same destination. Along the way, we are collectively learning and warning each other if we find a slowdown along a certain path and also celebrating and sharing when we have found a successful route that bypasses the red brake lights.

Thank you to all those that are taking this journey and sharing your stories. Stay tuned to hear more about the success ahead and lessons learned.     

See the first post in this series: From Post-Its to Pilot: The Journey of the Teacher Preparation Data Project