Informal Inference: Reframing Instructional Design for Data Literacy?

We collect and analyze data in order to make inferences. Sure, there are other reasons to collect data.  For example, every year I write down the date that the forsythias come into bloom in our backyard. No inferences there … just keeping a record and remarking on changes. But justifications for time spent in school learning about statistics and graphing typically note that life is full of uncertainty and we can use data and statistical inferences to make better decisions and begin to understand how things work. Here’s the catch: making statistical inferences requires mathematics beyond what many people learn in school. Still, there is hope. New work on “informal inference” hints at the possibility of providing disciplined, yet broadly accessible ways to use data to make decisions. If we can really do this, the implications for how we help people develop data literacy are far-reaching. Continue reading

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John Van Dis on Student Centered Science

Next week, on May 6 (3:00 PM) and 8 (1:00 PM), John Van Dis will be offering a two-part series of workshops in which he will talk about approaches he has been using to support student-centered science investigations during these times when students are learning at home rather than in school.  I have written about John’s work with students before and am sure that many educators will find spending time hearing from and chatting with John to be fun and thought-provoking.

Image with information about the sessions that are described in the text of the post

Keep reading to find out about John, the sessions, and how to register. Continue reading

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Making Students’ Thinking Visible While Apart

Schools in Maine shut down at the start of the third week of March. They will not reopen before the end of this school year. When the schools shut down, my teaching partner, Sarah Hooper, and I were working with Sumner Memorial High School (SMHS) Pathways students on a project that the students need to deliver to the Gouldsboro shellfish committee. Because the work needs to get done whether or not schools are open, the students wanted to continue work through twice-a-week video meetings. This post shares some of what we have learned about project-based learning when the team’s members are all working from home.

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Transitioning to Community Science While Sheltering in Place

Whew!  What a time we are in. On Thursday, March 12 Sarah Hooper (my colleague at Schoodic Institute) and I were still working with students to help them prepare for a presentation to clam harvesters. The following Monday, local schools closed. We now know that they will stay closed until the end of April and perhaps beyond that. However, the need to support teachers, kids, and learning goes on even when the buildings are closed.  We have good things to report, both looking back over the past two months and looking ahead.

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Whereto Data Literacy?

Over the past decade, there has been increased attention to the idea that students should learn how to make sense of data and use it in decision-making. It could be the next new big thing in education, hot on the heels of coding. But, depending on how the interest in data literacy develops, being the next big thing might not be an altogether good thing.

Earlier this month I was invited to participate in a meeting to think about the future of “data literacy.” There seemed to be a sense that we could be poised to either make some real progress or to screw things up.  It was not quite as dramatic as the image on the right suggests, but it had that feel to it for me. In this post, I share some of the ideas and opinions aired in that meeting. Continue reading

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A Deeper Look at Rural High School Dropout Factors

This morning one of my many email subscriptions pointed me to an article in the new issue of Journal of Research on Rural Education that I think is unusually well-done and relevant. One of the things that makes this article special is that it recognizes that the factors behind dropout in urban schools and rural schools can be different.
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Connecting Rural Schools to Forests and Communities

My friend and colleague Korah Soll runs an organization called Rural Aspirations. She has spent the last two years developing and launching a new program called the Maine Forest Collaborative (MFC) that aims to connect deeply rural schools to their communities and the forests on which these communities depend. The MFC is interesting for a number of reasons, including its deep focus on place, its inclusion of schools and teachers in program design, its dependence on local funding rather than external funding, and more. In this post, I will focus on its commitment to creating a network of schools, communities, and local stakeholders that will not only connect teachers together, but that will also manage and perhaps own the program.

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A Great Day in the Mud: Seeing What is Possible

On Wednesday of last week I was reminded why I do what I do. Eighteen sixth and seventh grade students from the Edna Drinkwater School in Northport joined me in setting up experimental plots on a clam flat that will allow them to collect data next fall about softshell clam growth rates, recruitment, and predator pressure.

students working in mud Continue reading

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Taking the Measure

What did we find? That was the question that Sumner Memorial High School Students began to answer this past week as they analyzed the samples that they helped collect from John Small Cove on October 27.

Students at work measuring clams

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Bringing Authentic Science to Schools

Schoodic Institute uses the word “authentic” in its work with Sumner Memorial High School to describe science learning that addresses real problems and needs, where people outside the school want the data that the students collect. It is also authentic because students learn that work by professional scientists isn’t limited to labs or offices. There is a lot of science that happens outdoors, requires hard work, and sometimes involves getting dirty and, as this picture shows, can require some agility. Continue reading

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