Saturday, 25 July 2015

Are you a Weetbix kid?

For many months there has been an ongoing conversation in our classroom about the fact that despite what Sanitarium wants us to believe, not all Aussie kids are Weetbix kids. One kiddo in particular finds this idea (like Weetbix) hard to swallow. He regularly tells us that this is wrong, just plain wrong.

Can you see where this was going?

Well, I'll get there in a minute because the learning that lead to that was pretty exciting too.  Many of the kiddos and I have been avid watchers of Masterchef this season. It's coming to a close and, naturally, we've all got our favourites.  I talked this up a little and in Masterchef style I gave each person a token to vote for their one of two likely candidates for the finalists. Somehow we ended up with 28 votes, from 24 people. I couldn't have asked for a better way to raise the issue of tainted data!

Our next foray into data collection was a Google form.  (You can check out the form I used here.) As I mentioned last time, we've recently started learning about Asia. The Google form asked a couple of questions with different types of answers. We looked at how easy it would be to analyse the data from each question. (As a side note,  it acted as a quick and dirty form of formative assessment about Asia and the data analysis was pretty simple: we've got a long way to go!) Again we had more answers than people. This was mostly because I set up the form that way.  Once the kiddos realised that was my design choice"e they flew quickly into questioning data collection methods across the board.
"Is that how advertising companies come up with their funny statistics?"
"You could come up with any statistics you want to come up with this way. How is that ethical?"
"What other ways can you arrange the data to say what you want?"
"How did the Weetbix people get their data?"
Bam! There was the link.  Everyone fell silent and turned to me. I shrugged... To be honest I don't know so I turned it back on them. "How do you think they get it?"  No one was sure so we tabled the question for a moment while I got everyone up on their feet in groups of ten.  The makers of Weetbix claim that 9 out of 10 Aussie kids are raised on Weetbix so I figured that we'd work with two sample groups of ten to make comparisons.  I posed a couple of questions asking kiddos to move to different sides of the room:

  1. Who eats Weetbix regularly? In both groups only 3 out of 10 kiddos eat it regularly. Hardly the 9 out 10 kids Sanitarium claims.
  2. Who has ever eaten Weetbix? 10 out of 10 kiddos in one group and 8 out of 10 in the other to make an average of 9/10. Much more like Sanitarium's claim.
Or are they?
And the conversation was off. The realisation that data only answers the specific question asked was a very powerful one. The link to advertising and politics was instant, while the links to science were a little slower.   We never really found a definitive answer to the question of how Sanitarium got their data but we made a few hypotheses. 

We spent the rest of our lesson building data displays of the data I'd sneakily collected earlier that day.  For home learning the previous evening they had been asked to spend 20 minutes practising mindfulness, and on arriving at school they had to share what they had done (on a sticky note). We discussed this a a form of data collection and the challenged associated with collecting and analysing qualitative data. The challenge of grouping responses was evident as we created a tally and frequency chart. I had sneakily turned the responses into a word cloud while the kiddos were at PE earlier in the day so I presented this as one form of data display and asked if it was effective or easy to read. 

Resoundingly no!  So I challenged them to do better.  

We've posted them on one of our internal windows and asked the other students in our building which  data display is the most effective.  Which one do you think works best?

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 1 Know students and how they learn
Standard 2 Know the content and how to teach it
Standard 3 Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning

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