Be Inspired by Data


InspireData, a new program by Inspiration Software, Inc., can challenge you and your students to do higher-level thinking. Inspiration Software, Inc explains it this way:

Key Ideas About Data

  • Arranging data systematically helps students to see patterns in the data
  • Data can be analyzed to discover relationships
  • The same data can be represented in different types of plots and yield different findings
  • Students can develop conclusions and make recommendations based on data analysis

When you think of data do you think in terms of numbers? Data can also be characteristics. For example InspireData includes a database on Native Americans.

Here's what a table looks like:

You will notice that there are no numbers in this database, but that it contains lots of helpful information. When the data is collected this way you are able to manipulate the data to answer questions.

This database comes with a lesson plan that walks the class through using this data to come to some conclusions about Native Americans.

Begin the lesson on Native Americans by having the students work in pairs to find answers to these questions:

  • How are the tribes most different?
  • How are the tribes most similar?

They will create stack plots by one category and then color them by another category. This example shows that American Indians had different kinds of houses depending upon the region in which they lived.

Give students time to compare various types of data and make observations answering the two questions above. Once they have made some comparisons they can create a slide showing what they have discovered. They can add notes to the slide to describe their findings and further questions they might have.

Databases can help students to notice similarities and differences as well as trends in various data. They can notice patterns over time and make comparisons that are difficult to make without the power of the computer. The program features more than 50 data sets, including "cell phone costs," "cats," "floating and sinking," and many others.

This program is useful for higher level thinking for all grades from K-12. The database can be created by the class and be as simple or as complex as the students are able to comprehend. There is a free 30-day download of this software available at InspireData Free Trial.

I recommend taking some time to try this out yourself and then using one of the provided lessons that meets your standards first. This will open up new ways of thinking and asking questions that you can use to create your own databases in the future.

Submitted by: Janice Friesen, Educator
Austin, TX

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