From where I sit: Taking research a bit further…

20120802-141021.jpgI have been in public education for five years and I feel the constant need to analyze data almost daily. I know that sometimes data is a naughty word in education. However, I don’t always believe it to be so. I have worked in a few different fields. I started working at Dominos Pizza as a teenager and I worked with data there. At 16, I started as as a neighborhood knocker. We went to neighborhoods that had high order yields when we left coupons on their doors. We also analyzed orders and how often they came in and when they came in. That is using data and no one really poo poos that. It is good business.

I then worked for my dad in his business. He used data there to determine the amount of time it took me to clean an apartment or clean up a common area of an apartment complex. If we took too long he had to make changes or if we went too quick he had to check quality. Again, that was good business.

Then I worked at flower shop where I did all the accounts payable and receivable and that whole job was data. Who has paid their flower bills, who did not? When do most orders come in and from who? And what wire service do you use most? Or what credit card service do you use? Can we get certain things cheaper? I then carried a similar position with Delta Faucet eventually moving into customer service where I was responsible to handle point of purchase printed materials so I analyzed orders and shipments and usage there too. It is just good business.

The one thing that is different in my job now is that we are dealing in humans. We are placing data on humans which sometimes gives the false idea of manufacturing and this idea that we are manufacturing a learner and doer. And yes in a sense we are. But humans are so very complex that really that data is only a snap shot in time and in the next minute it can change. I see it daily and by the minute.

But what is important here is that I get my students who are almost considered adults to do something with the data they retrieve. A lot of my job is about teaching kids how to say the things they want to say. That may be in writing a research paper, a literary paper, a speech or a presentation. For so long that has meant finding statistics and and plopping them in a paper and citing it and then trying to explain it.

Well in my classes this semester I have taken it a step further. I chose to do this because you have too! Students can longer be prepared for college and/or jobs and just give someone an answer they found on google. That doesn’t work. They need to see rhetoric as more than a commercial or  putting words out into the universe. They need to understand why they are and how they are.

infographic

I have chosen to do that this year with infographics. I rolled it out with my student publications kids first because it is a smaller section of kids and I have a bit more freedom with the curriculum. The first part of our unit focused on what an infographic is and rhetorically analyzing so very many infographics. They loved the visual rhetoric and analyzing it. They truly became experts on the visual aspects of what appeals in an infographic, but in turn they also became experts at looking at the sources (or lack there of with some) from the creators of the infographics.

From there they had to do some sort of research on whatever they wanted. It had to be both primary and secondary research on their topic and then create an infographic containing their information. Essentially, they had to put words into action. Their critiques above assisted in creating amazing infographics. They were achieving something that they had no idea. They were not only analyzing data, but they finding their own data and doing their own primary research and thereby becoming the experts on their topics. The project was such a success that I know I want to carry it over into my other classes.

I know some people dog this generation of students with being lazy and I truly don’t believe that to be true. I think they are innovators and want to and can see more than the generations before them. For an analogy, they understand the research paper, but see it as 2 dimensional. They don’t just want that 2D version of research anymore. They want to see the 3D version.

Yes data is bad sometimes. I would never argue that when dealing with the real lives of students who bring all sorts of stuff to my classroom. But they also need to understand that data has a value. They just need to be shown that it is just a number. It is a point in time and represents that time and not them.

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