Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Get your students thinking critically and interpreting datasets with TuvaLabs – have you tried using it?

Submitted by Fiona Beal
Have you seen this Data Literacy Skills site called TuvaLabs It really is worth exploring. I thought I would giveTuvaLabs a quick review in this blogpost outlining how I experienced it.  

TuvaLabs is a site that contains all kinds of data from 'reliable' sources, and the goal at TuvaLabs is to help students develop their data literacy skills, enable them to be critical thinkers and persistent problem solvers, and empower them to become active members in their own communities and global citizens of the world.


As I opened TavaLabs Beta, knowing nothing about it, it looked quite interesting ‘Data Literacy skills for a brighter future. Empower your students to think critically about data, ask meaningful questions and communicate their observations and questions.’ Isn't that something we need and want for our students?

Navigating the site 
One of the co-founders of the site is Harshil Parikh and I must say that after I joined and enrolled a class he has been excellent with follow up emails and offers of help with getting started. The design is kept very simple – the menu bar only has three options (Find resources, Explore datasets, Ask) and one has to scroll down and pick up other little bits of information.

What is on the site?
The site contains interesting data sets with some ways of interpreting them using graphs, activities, and a place to ask questions
a) Types of activities: Challenge and project
b) Grades: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
c) Topics: Community, social, energy, entertainment, global

Hashil sends data update emails constantly informing us of new data sets. The following are screenshots of  lead-ins of new data sets:


An alarming recent data set
Tuvalabs recently added a dataset which had some alarming statistics ‘The Dark side of Chocolate’ noting the sad use of child labour in this industry. 


Contributors to the site

a) Dataset contributors
b) A community of teachers who share activities, lessons and projects they've created for exploring, analysing, and visualizing datasets around topics they are covering in the classroom. These resources can fit into the classroom at any level, from 15 minute sessions all the way up to month long projects.

Finding resources on the site
There is a well set out, simple diagram showing the process with finding resources and a link to an introductory video. Users can:

a) Choose datasets related to one's curriculum topics or catering to student interests

b) Find an activity or create one's own around the dataset and assign it to one's class

c) Evaluate one's students' work and provide feedback on their datablogs
  • At my last count there were 71 datasets in four subjects - Science, Social Studies, Global Studies, Health. All are attractively set out with an appealing draw card image.
  • There were 86 activities created by teachers – some public and some private. (I recognise some names. Some have written quite a few activities.)
The resources are beautifully set out visually. I took a look at the one that says ‘The rise of mobile phones in South Africa’ On the page that opens out there is a short introduction and three headings – Raw data (in this case provided by the World Bank), Activities (none yet) and New Activity (for someone to add) With the raw data there are nine options for creating different types of graphs. One has to sign in for anything further.

Joining up
I joined up. You have to join a class. I joined a Grade 8 class for Science and will let them explore this term. (Once you are in the site you are taken to some resources for 8th Grade Science. ) I immediately received an informative email from Hashil.  

I rather like this site. Interpreting data is a very important skill in this day and age. I’ll definitely pursue it with a class. I also like the idea of teacher-contributed activities and data sets from relevant sources. Those are not easy to find.  Communities of Practice provide great opportunities for learning.

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