Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Learning Adventure 5


If you don't already own a copy of InspireData, get a trial download of it here: http://cf.inspiration.com/freetrial/index.cfm?fuseaction=inspiredata

Say you're a college student in the questionnaire before downloading. Use the Pepperdine address if you wish.

Install InspireData, help each other figure out how to use it and then import your tab-delimited file in order to ask a question of the data.

Next steps will be assembling the data sets so they may be used to explore complex questions with one tool. Of course, keep track of your own thinking, learning and experience.


I know for everyone, we are feeling the pressures of multiple assignments, changing gears every week with a new learning adventure, reflecting about our learning processes, and seeing the connections flow between each class. This past week and especially this next week are going to be exceptionally challenging for me for a few reasons: one I meet with all my students individually before they turn in ay writing assignment so my calendar is extremely full, I have parent teacher conferences for two nights this week, I need to finish Bill’s project, and trying to squeeze in my best work on Gary’s Learning Adventure all the while, trying to redo my AR paper so I can help my LC finish theirs. Sometimes, I feel like my brain is going to explode with all that is going on inside of it. Not to mention I have two of my own children’s parent teacher conferences (I need to find a geometry program for Jackson and a reading program for Emma if anyone has suggestions), making dinner, cooking, cleaning, trying to get laundry done, schedule speaking conferences with Karl, and find time to exercise. So before this learning adventure really came into full swing for me today, I am learning that I am a multitasker. This is how I get things done. When we received the learning adventure, l had just received an article through NY Times about presidential height weight comparison. The article was simply a chart showing black and white silhouettes of all the candidates with their height and weights indicated below. The chart displayed the following information:

Taller winner 17 times

Shorter winner 8 times

Heavier winner 18 times

Lighter winner 8 times

Tallest Lincoln 6 ft 4 in

Shortest Madison 5 ft 4in

Heaviest Taft 332 lbs

Not that this data is earth shattering, but I thought it might be more fun to play around with. After creating the txt file earlier in the week, I hadn’t done much with it until today. In the mean time, I read other people’s problems with the program (Donna and Dan) and enjoyed hearing about other’s successful ventures. I downloaded InspireData on Friday and played around with the tutorials as Dijlah had suggested. I was thinking about using this program with my students. Maybe when we do their wiki papers with A Whole New Mind. To totally digress on another tool, we used Polleveywhere this week to create polls about background information for Fahrenheit 451 and had a blast. (Gary- I wish you were on Skype because I so wanted to Skype you into our class conversation) I am totally going to use that again. I will be posting a blog post about that experience on LearningandLaptops.blogspot.com later.

So finally, today came and I have some time to work with my data. I had a minor glitch in the beginning to importing my data, but with Dan’s tips, I learned from his experience. I think the reflection part of the learning adventure is so important because of the problem solving tips and our ability to learn from one another. That really helps and I am learning how important it is to post where I am at so that others might be able to learn from me. I haven’t done as good a job on this one though. So, I imported my data and started playing with it. It was interesting to first try and figure out what I was doing with the instructions Dijlah had given. I played with different chart formats, arranged candidates into different colors. Then, I thought that maybe my data might not be the best because I was adding in height with ft and in included. I wasn’t sure if Inspiredata knew what this was since when I went to plot view I wasn’t seeing the charts I hoped to see. I finally went back to my data and took out the height indicators hoping that might help. I realized with taking away feet and inches I would need to differentiate inches and so I remembered decimal placements from my elementary school days. Now, I probably didn’t do it the way I was supposed to do it (Sorry, Mrs Orminston) but I did it the way it made sense to me.

I still ended up with really odd charts, but I did learn a few things from this experience: one, I learn best from people around me. I love hearing about their experiences and tips. I guess I am what you could call a social learner. Two, I learned that I might actually like playing around with data. Although what I am doing is not really making sense to me, I didn’t get frustrated because I realized it was more important what I am taking away from this experience than anything. I just kept clicking away trying to figure things out. The final thing I learned is this: If I take the past data and apply it to this election year, Obama has a greater chance of winning because he is taller and weighs more.

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