Saturday, November 14, 2009

visualize data, visualize success

Blog-neighbor The Science Goddess, who is leading the charge in Washington state toward standards-based grading, shares some of her research-based data visualization practices. The upshot:
When I look at this with my teacher eyes, I see so much more of a story appearing about each student. It is no longer a sea of numbers. Now, these fancy-dancy charts won't help me know what to do next (e.g. If students are still below standard, what should the intervention be?), but it may be a better start for identifying issues.
Absolutely. I'll go one step further:

Have students visualize their own data.

Google Docs offers a basic spreadsheet program with enough chart-generating bells and whistles to make it effective for student use, provided enough teacher input. Here's how I set it up: first, I create a spreadsheet with a title row, formulas, and a blank chart inserted. Then I make copies, renaming each after its intended student, and share that copy with that student.

Then, with a little guidance, I have them input data that they've recorded on paper--gotta have a backup!--and the chart appears as if by magic.

It ends up looking like this:

I'll report back at the end of the semester as to whether it's an effective strategy for tracking progress in reading fluency. My gut says it's working, but then, my gut also thinks bacon is a food group.

Update: The Science Goddess adds Part II, with a sample report card.


The Science Goddess said...

I love having kids do their own charting. My only concern about using GoogleDocs for something like this is around FERPA issues. How are you handling those?

Jim Anderson said...

I'm not sure if FERPA is implicated if the record isn't "maintained by the school," since these Docs are student-generated (and based on existing paper records) and not a "grade," or part of a student's permanent file.

If they are implicated, though, FERPA is satisfied if the charts are available to parents--which they can be, if a parent requests access--and if they're not accessible to the public, which they aren't, since they're viewable only by the student and by me.

On the security side of things, our district must be happy with Google's system, since they use Gmail as a basis for our student email, which I think is pretty cool.