Data is the new (s)oil

I saw David McCandless’ TEDTalk right after it came out and it still remains one of the few I like to show to students. The dispositions to interpret patterns in big data is, for me, one of the ‘new’ skills that students didn’t really need it when you and I went to school.

Data is the new (s)oil.” – David McCandless

McCandless speaks of the quote above in the context of big data and its potential to unveil consumer and behavioral patterns. Schools followed suit, and WIDA, MAP, and other forms of assessments that collected longitudinal data on student improvement are almost ubiquitous.

First ideas on the use of data visualization

I first ventured into the world of data visualization when Art Costa came to the American School of Rio de Janeiro in 2007 to deliver PD on the Habits of Mind. The idea was to have a common language to use when reporting on student performance and progress – similarly to what happens with the IB Learner Profile. I created a one-page document for each week of classes where I could collect data on individual students that would be graphed every 2 weeks to show the patterns (per class and per student).

When I moved to Serbia and started working in the MYP/DP, I did something similar for the Learner Profile. Instead of documenting it myself, I tried having students self-report using an arbitrary scale. Psychometrics was the roadblock I didn’t know how to overcome, and I thought the results were too unreliable to carry any weight. I actually presented on this at the CEESA Conference in Budapest in 2011. However, I still use it in workshops as a provocation on the role of the Learner Profile in IB classes.

The average self-reported scored for each of the Learner Profile traits of my workshop participants in the last 6 years. The number of different groups probably smoothed the graph a bit, but fair to say participants could use more opportunities to practice risk-taking.

Consolidated classroom practices that use data visualization

In Grade 10 Biology at NIS, students interpret data from a scientific article each semester and present their findings. Students need lots of support on the task because the articles are only loosely connected to the content of the unit. I introduce the assessment by visiting the library and taking out the box of previous issues of Scientific American and take turns interpreting the infographics in the Graphic Science section. Ultimately I replaced infographics with charts from scientific papers because there was more room for student choice and differentiation.

The article from SciAm that inspired the use of infographics in the presentation assessment. While there wasn’t enough variety in the topic of the unit, we still visit the library to have a go at the new infographics that come out every month. Rabbit hole alert: this is the story behind this infographic!

The Knowledge Framework is a tool used in Theory of Knowledge classes to analyze and compare different Areas of Knowledge. It allows students to examine how knowledge is produced, communicated, and evaluated, both within and across disciplines.

In my classes, small groups of students select one of the Areas of Knowledge to produce infographics. A key point McCandless makes is that concepts can be visualized beautifully just as well as numbers. In that sense, my students’ work is similar to his comparison McCandless makes between political parties. They’re different in that students only examine one Area of Knowledge, so the purpose of the infographic is different.

Students produced an infographic to outline how knowledge is produced, evaluated, and shared in the Natural Sciences using the Knowledge Framework.

Next venture

Last week, during a Zoom call with Chris Jensen as part of the EARCOS Leadership Mentoring program, I was introduced the Leadership Circle 360. This is an inventory that collects data from the leader and colleagues to create a radar graph evaluating different leadership attributes, including reactive profiles (sometimes called “shadow skills”). I am hoping to take this assessment, at which point I’ll revisit this post and see how my prediction went.

My Leadership Circle 360 Profile based on a self-assessment.

2 thoughts on “Data is the new (s)oil

  1. Hi Luiz,

    I can see that your students are doing some really important work! Big Data is something that I was unfamilar with until recently. We now have a Big Data class at my school, and I have heard a little bit about the work they do. Big Data was certainly not something I was learning as a high school student, but can see why it is so important today. Having students take part in analyzing data is tough work (like in the scientific acticle project your students do), but it is defintely a skill that needs to be taught and practiced. I was personally interested in the infographic because I have two dogs and a husband at home. Haha. Interesting stuff! I also thought the infographic that your student created was awesome. It reminds me of a sketchnote. I love sketchnoting and making my thinking visual. I’ve really gotten into Sylvia Duckworth and Diane Bleck’s sketches. I think sketching or creating infographics as your students did, helps the learning stick. Thanks for sharing your ideas and work!

  2. Hey Luiz,
    Love your graphs- the Learner Profile traits was a great survey to do and I enjoyed teaming up with co-teachers to see how to better collaborate and play off of one anothers strengths. That Leadership 360 one looks realy interesting and I would also love to try it. I think it was a great way to show what you predicted and then to be able to come back after the results to see how well you reflecion on your own leadership skills. Thanks for sharing!- Shalene

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