I have been spending my free time during the last couple of days putting together a paper for an upcoming e-learning conference in Austin, TX (Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education). The theme, which at least I find potentially very interesting, is using data visualization in education, both for teaching and assessment.
A colleague and I have been using various online tools–from wikispaces to Facebook apps–to supplement our classes and teaching strategies for some time, but a few weeks ago I got the idea to incorporate some data visualization into my classroom. I keep track of student data, such as attendance and grades, in a spreadsheet on google docs. One day, two students asked in close proximity whether they, ‘got an attendance grade.’ I told them that they did, but I realized that I also intuitively knew that if they came to class, they would also perform better on their assignments. So while my students were taking a quiz, I quickly cobbled together a scatterplot and line of best fit of their grades vs. attendance, and threw it up on the projector.
Students were pretty interested and asked a few questions about their progress, so I showed them another chart from the beginning of the year (smaller sample, fewer points, but same idea). The reaction was awesome. Even though this is an English class, I think it worked really well to get students invested in the idea that they have to be actively present to get a good grade. Numerous students started coming to my office hours after that demonstration, and it has become sort of a weekly ritual to look at our classroom progress.
This relates pretty well to my general theme that a visual can tell a story much better than just numbers (or, for that matter, telling students) can. From our proposal:
Visualization tools provide a platform for student and instructor engagement, an opportunity to gain insight into the nature of a problem and discover a new understanding of a specific problem. In theory, visual resources enhance cognition by expanding human working memory, representing large amounts of data in a condensed space, and enhancing the recognition of patterns (Card et.al).
I hope that in the next few days I can talk a little more about what I have been finding in the field of data visualization and data mining in education.
Stuart Card, “Information visualization,” in A. Sears and J.A. Jacko (eds.), The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook: Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies, and Emerging Applications, Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc Inc, 2007.
- Add Data Visualizations to Your Google Site (freetech4teachers.com)
- Visweek 2011 is upon us! (visualizeit.wordpress.com)
- IOGraphica (msclarisseeis.wordpress.com)
- The Many Words for Visualization (flowingdata.com)
- Google Announces New Data Visualization Tools for Analytics – NYTimes.com (huguesrey.wordpress.com)