EdTech Hero: Bob Swiggum, transforming the use of data in Georgia


To say Bob Swiggum took an interesting path to the Georgia Department of Education would be an understatement.

Swiggum, the department’s chief information officer, had spent his career in the business world and retired early. That was a decade ago.

About a year into retirement, he “wanted to do something different” and found an opportunity at Georgia DOE. In the years since, Swiggum has helped dramatically enhance the state’s education technology systems.

His crowning achievement involves the creation and development of Georgia’s Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS), called the tunnel, which uses data collected over time to help school administrators, teachers and families understand student learning and inform future decision-making.

“He literally transformed the use of data in Georgia,” Aimee Guidera, president and CEO of the Data Quality Campaign, told EdScoop. “And it has become a model” for other states.

In 2010, when the tunnel was implemented, the system generated 250,000 teacher clicks. Last year, it was used 82 million times.

Its success, Guidera said, stems from Swiggum’s approach. “He said, ‘I’m not going to build something until you tell me what it is you need.’ He built trust, respect, buy-in, and he built something that met the needs of educators and parents in Georgia.”

The tunnel collects student data, but it’s about much more than that, Guidera said: “He’s focused on making sure he can get the right data to the right people at the right time in the right format.”

And, after realizing the state needed a more robust network with higher-speed broadband, Swiggum partnered with the Georgia University System to leverage their network, increasing internet connectivity by 3,000 percent.

“If we could clone Bob Swiggum and have one of him in every state in this country, we would be miles and miles ahead,” Guidera said.

Read more from EdScoop’s series “EdTech Heroes: 25 State Leaders Making a Difference.”