How to create a free distributed data collection "app" with R and Google Sheets

By Alex Spurrier

August 29, 2016

A really neat concept that reminds me of my time tracking method:

Jenny Bryan, developer of the google sheets R package, gave a talk at Use2015 about the package.

One of the things that got me most excited about the package was an example she gave in her talk of using the Google Sheets package for data collection at ultimate frisbee tournaments. One reason is that I used to play a little ultimate back in the day.

Another is that her idea is an amazing one for producing cool public health applications. One of the major issues with public health is being able to do distributed data collection cheaply, easily, and reproducibly. So I decided to write a little tutorial on how one could use Google Sheets and R to create a free distributed data collecton “app” for public health (or anything else really).

There’s plenty of hype around “big data” in every field, including education, but I’m convinced there are many interesting questions that could be investigated at the school/district level with a “small data” approach supported by this workflow. There are obvious limitations - you wouldn’t want to put individual student/teacher data in a public Google Sheet - but it’s worth thinking about the kinds of programs/practices in schools that could benefit from research supported by distributed data collection.

Posted on:
August 29, 2016
2 minute read, 221 words
linked data R
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