Teaching Data Analysis with Google Sheets
A Guest Post by Alicia Motter
I am always looking for ways to implement technologies purposefully in my classroom that meet State Standards while integrating NGSS and engaging students in research that they are interested in. I recently worked with Alice Keeler, who helped me develop this activity’s precursor, a Google Sheet that teaches students how to use spreadsheets. Both activities were met with resistance and strong criticism from students, educators, and parents, all of which stemmed from the fact that thinking is hard work. Students begged me to go back to doing worksheets, my first evidence that I am doing the right thing. But I will address all of that in another posting.
In this posting I will focus on the Data Analysis Workbook. It works well with this single point rubric, a reworded version of New York state standards that students can understand. I won’t lie, rewriting the standards this way helped me to understand them better too. I want to share these resources with you. Feel free to modify them as you see fit.
Analyzing with Spreadsheets
Spreadsheets are an essential tool throughout industries, work places, and higher education. The NGSS is prompting us to teach students how to investigate phenomena and engineer solutions to problems (Hallelujah and Amen! -again, a topic for another time). So we had better start getting them ready for the future that awaits. I am using the Data Analysis Workbook with middle school students, but it can be used to teach high school students, and even adults, how to analyze data as well. Disclaimer — It’s important for students to understand graphing basics before they tackle this assignment. Once they can fill in a data table and plot points, they should be good to go.
This workbook, like the DIY Candy Lab, is scaffolded so that it doesn’t allow students to move on before they have shown they understand specific concepts, vocabulary or have completed a certain portion of the activity. It is individually tailored by inviting students to find and use data on a topic they are interested in. My favorite part is Reconcile your Beliefs. Too often we ask students to memorize a concept, value or process, rarely asking how their thinking has changed or how they are affected by this knowledge. Finally, with NGSS, we are being asked to move forward in education with the rest of science and encourage students to make decisions based on problem evidence.
There is so much more I could tell you about why these spreadsheets are great, but I’m going to cut myself off. Make a copy and try them out. Feel free to share and distribute them in your teaching communities. I bet you and your colleagues will come up with ways to make them even better. And If you persist in using them, you will successfully identify student needs and see evidence of their growth. By teaching them these important skills you will provide them with an advantage in the not-so-distant future.
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