Forget the tool, grab the data!

Thanks to @Kerryank for this image!

While there is a galaxy of cool tools, the real issue for many students lies in critical thinking — dealing with too much information. If you think of a brick wall – to computer types, this is what information looks like. The bricks themselves are elements of data. They can be use to create WALLS or PATHWAYS, be built in many ways with many patterns and even accommodate bricks or other object that don’t fit the pattern. We like pathways.

Teachers are not in the business of making bricks, so much as building walls or laying pathways with bricks. Digital illiterates rely on having their bricks delivered (or demanding a brick-layer do it for them), but you and I don’t. We don’t have to rely on books, manuals and provided content anymore — I have you and you have everyone.

I see students given information or making information with ICT — unit outlines, reading lists, powerpoints etc. It is very rare to see teachers use these tools to create data-sets that students can use authentically. Give them the data, then build activities around it. Tools looking for a purpose (“Wow, I really wanna use FabboPics next week!”) is bad, bad, bad.

This weekend I posted a simple message to Twitter (the social network). I wrote I wonder how far a Tweet can go? – using a data-reference point #howfarcanatweetgo and asked people to RT (re-tweet) to their networks. My networks is modest at about a thousand or so — and many of them are marketing-bots. Over the 2 days, the Tweet left my network and bounced around the planet, being repeated X times. It followed Y patterns and was re-tweeted with changes to the worldinng Z times.

What I have created is a dataset – that can be used – using multiple tools. The data is not school or person dependent; this is an increasing factor in employment as a teacher – much of the 21st Century IP can hardly be claimed by your employer.  If you are not doing this stuff AFTER school, outside the school filter – – then you are lagging education — but thats old news.

Having made this data, how could you use it to teach? – I know what I wanted to do – but shared data is shared experience these days.

What if several teachers create a lesson-wiki around the data-set. How can the first idea be made better?

By us thinking with the end in mind (a core value of project based learning), we can provide students with authentic data — we just have to ask interesting questions they can Google. In this case — purely looking at the data, and Google-Mapping it opens the door to many hours of critial thinking. If you have your own ideas – share! – Maybe the tweet will turn into a curricula.

This to me is where education has to be – – in the open, sharing data and ideas. Love to hear yours.