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Painting pictures with data

Paul Dredge explains how Power BI makes data interactive and brings your information to life

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | October 14, 2016 | Technology

Wouldn’t it be great if you could see your data in an interactive, visual way? Well, Power BI does just that! Power BI enables you to produce reports and analyse your data in real time. It gives you the ability to input data and transform it into visual graphs and charts. Power BI connects a large range of data through easy to use dashboards, interactive reports and visualisations that bring your information to life.  

You can use Power BI to connect to data, analyse and model that data, and to help uncover insights into your statistics. It gives you the ability to track your data over time and see the progress. Power BI is an online service that allows 3rd party connectors. It enables you to capture data, model analyse and enrich that data. It allows you to aggregate information from many sources and connect that data to produce one outcome. It gives you that ability to share and work collaboratively. You can use natural language to query and scrutinise your data.  
 
Power BI allows you to link together data and display it in an ever-updating dashboard. This gives you a perfect image of your data and enables you to picture it as a whole. Once you have your analytics you are able to ask questions, this gives you that chance to really explore and consider that data. For example, if you were using Power BI to monitor your school’s attendance. From the dashboard you could ask Power BI to show you the average attendance information for a tutor group. From there, you might want to look further and bring up each student that has a below average attendance. Once you have that information in front of you Power BI enables you to compare that data with other information you have captured.

The question and answer feature really gives you that ability to query your data quickly, whereas before you would have to run a data analysis report which could take some time and if that report didn’t show you the data you wanted, you would have to wait for the report to be regenerated for you

You may want to look into why those students have a poor attendance. You can do this by initiating a query against the information and asking to compare the attendance with student grades or behaviour. Power BI displays your data in the best way it thinks it should. What’s great about Power BI is that if you don’t like the way your data is being displayed, you have the ability to change how that data is being handled and request it in a different format. With a click of a mouse you could change a pie chart into a bar graph or even use the geographical maps. Power BI really allows you to explore your data in a way that no other analytic programs can.  

Another example of using Power BI would be to view your class grades and then delve down into different subject grades. You have the ability to compare that subject grade with another class or even student vs student. These are all simple queries you can run by asking questions about your data. The question and answer feature really gives you that ability to query your data quickly, whereas before you would have to run a data analysis report which could take some time and if that report didn’t show you the data you wanted, you would have to wait for the report to be regenerated for you. Power BI gives you that data instantly and gives you the ability to transform that report to show your data in the most effective way. 

An academy trust (NPAT), that I am currently working with, are using Power BI to visually see their student data. They have developed custom reports to extract data from within their MIS system. This is then synchronised every night into Power BI. From here they are able to visually see their data and the analysis of it. They will be using Power BI to monitor their students and explore different visual interpretations of that data. I spoke with the Headteacher of Simon de Senlis Primary School about Power BI and he explained how its enabling the academy trust to see their data in a way they have never seen it before. It’s given them the ability to compare the schools across the Trust and really see what factors are affecting their results. 

Instead of seeing your data in a standard visual graph or table,  Power BI enables you to get interactive with your analysis  and evaluate how and why you are seeing what you see. Visit the website for more information on Power BI.

Paul Dredge – EasiPC & Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert
@EasiPC_Paul

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