information literacy

Telling a Story with Data

Posted on Updated on

6th graders, under the facilitation of their Math teacher, Laurel Janewicz, have learned to take data, analyze the data and tell a story with it. They are demonstrating their understanding of Math concepts, data graphs, misleading graphs and communication skills.

Laurel chose to give authentic, relevant and meaningful data (not invented data) to her students to analyze from the results of a Challenge Success survey taken the previous school year at the school. The survey compiled data about the school’s extra curricular activities, homework habits, parent involvement, student engagement, sleep patterns etc.


Laurel’s plan was to have students analyze the data and then create different types of graphs to be able to communicate their findings in a presentation. Students were to tell a story of the data. The rubric below showed students Laurel’s expectations in terms of content, communication/presentation and a blog post.

Laurel also made connections to standards clear:

The bottom of my rubric has the content standards for statistics and data, but Common Core also has 8 Mathematical Process standards and this project hits on a lot of them:
3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
Make conjectures, justify conclusions, communicate them to others
4. Model with mathematics
Identify important quantities in a practical situation and map their relationships using diagrams, graphs,etc.
Analyze those relationships mathematically to draw conclusions
5. Use appropriate tools strategically
Be sufficiently familiar with tools appropriate to make sound decisions about whether these tools might be helpful, recognizing both the insight to be gained and their limitations.
Identify relevant external mathematical resources, such as digital content on a website, and use them to pose or solve problems.
Use technological tools to explore and deepen understanding of concepts.


Laurel, in her own words, lists some of the observations and comparison from teaching the same unit in previous years.

What is different this year?
I used real data that is relevant to them because I created a survey which they responded to and shared the results with the students and assigned each student a question/results to analyze.
I pulled all the parts of this unit into one project.  Instead of making and analyzing graphs for one set of data (real or fake), finding and analyzing measures of central tendency for another (real or fake), creating and analyzing misleading graphs for another (real or fake), they do all of it for one real, relevant set of data.
I added the element of making the data tell a story- using it to communicate or persuade.  Data and a narrative go best together.
I incorporated use of technology so they could share this on their blog not just with their classmates and the Graded community, but with a global community.
I dedicated a lot of class time for working on this and shared student work along the way so students could see exemplars and offer and receive feedback.
I designed specific questions for students to offer feedback on the projects on the blog posts.

graphing graphing2 graphing3 graphing4 graphing5

From the perspective of modern skills and literacies upgrades:

Good teaching is good teaching. Adding technology to bad teaching still will not increase student learning. Adding technology to good teaching can add new layers and open up new dimensions of connections and learning. Laurel’s lesson on data analysis and graphing (including misleading graphs) was well planned, developed and executed to begin with. The lesson could have stood on its own and would have addressed the Math standards.

By tweaking the lesson, as Laurel described above, so many more instructional methods, skills, literacies and standards were addressed:

  • making thinking visible
  • being able to visually tell a story with data
  • communicating that story via an electronic media for a larger audience (potential global connections)
  • communicating math concepts
  • going through creation cycle: data analysis, creation, sharing, publishing, feedback, revision
  • differentiated
  • personalized
  • student choice
  • media literacy: choose appropriate media, possibly “media/app smashing”, by mixing several tools/media to create one project
  • network literacy: writing for an audience, receiving feedback, responding to feedback
  • information literacy: analyzing data, recognizing misleading data, visualizing data, interpreting data from multiple perspectives
  • digital citizenship: be aware of copyright of digital images (Creative Commons, proper citation)

Natasha, one of the sixth grade students summed up her experience in her blog post:

In math, we have been working on a project with data from the responses we got from the Challenge Success Survey.  I thought that this project was extremely interesting because we got to incorporate our knowledge of most of the things we had learned about in that math unit.  I really liked taking on my project from a different perspective.  I also got to experiment with different websites that were really cool.  I got to learn all about misleading graphs, graphs and so many other things that I hope you find as cool as I did.

Student examples (created in Wideo, Google Presentation, PowToon, Piktochart, Prezi) of presentations:

How Much Time are Graded 6th Graders Spending on Homework? by  Maya W.

Is it Fake or just Misleading? By Yael

Let’s Get into This by Rens

You Can Never Get Too Deep When it Comes to Data! by Tashi

The Challenge is Complete by Felipe

math-felipe-infographic math-felipe-infographic2 math-felipe-infographic3


Interested how this story continued to unfold? Watch for an upcoming blog post of Blogging in Math class, with student samples and model lesson video of Laurel introducing her expectations for quality blog commenting in Math.


Blogs and Labels are about Information Literacy

Posted on

My Middle School is using blogger (part of Google) as a platform for our students’ blogfolios. The blogfolio (term coined by Andrea Hernandez) is part blog and part digital portfolio. Students not only showcase their best work, but document their learning journey. A blogfolio shows student work at a particular moment in time (due to its chronological nature) with a reflective component to show evidence of growth and learning over time.

Using a blog as a platform amplifies the opportunities for:

  • social learning
  • for writing with a global audience in mind
  • for receiving feedback, new perspectives and becoming a link in the chain of learning of oneself and others
  • archiving information over time: organizing, linking, connecting, categorizing

One component of the blogging platform, that supports a strategic and pedagogical redefinition and transformation of learning are labels (as used in Blogger) or categories and tags (as in WordPress).

Blogs and labels are also about INFORMATION LITERACY. We are in the age of information overload. Our students will amass more and more digital information at a faster and faster rate. We have to prepare them to not only create it, but also to organize that information.

Labels/categories function as a tool:

  • for searching
  • for filtering
  • for curating
  • for organization
  • of assessment over time.

Our students use the blogging platform as their hub for documenting and reflecting on their learning. It means that they do NOT have a separate blog for Math, another one for Humanities or P.E. All there work is on one blog. With time that means hundreds of blog posts in one school year and potentially thousands of posts over several years. When not organized well, this can become… well… a mess…

Students won’t be able to find a particular post or another , when selecting blog posts for their Student Led Conference. It will make it impossible to search for specific posts, when not choosing blog post titles containing specific, related keywords.


Teachers will spend more and more time having to look through hundreds of student blogs to find a post, created for their subject area. Instead they could have been subscribed (via RSS feed) to their subject specific category or tag, filtering like this other student blog posts irrelevant to their feedback or assessment.


Labeling becomes indispensable for bloggers. Being able to organize your work, tag it, categorize, group them and later on find them again IS PART OF INFORMATION LITERACY!



As our school (K-12) is slowly spreading blogfolios across all grade levels, we have to look a labeling as part of the “big picture”. How will we use the blog for growth over time? How do we facilitate connections and the learning process for specific skills?A reader of a blog, should be able to tell, by simply looking at the list of labels/categories what types of blog posts the author likes to write about.


When labeling, keep the following in mind:

Universal: It is important to keep labels/categories broad. When choosing a label/category, ask yourself if you will be blogging about this type of content again?… frequently?…. Think of your readers. Would a potential reader be interested in finding more blog posts like the one you just labeled with that category?

Less is more: The broader your labels, the less labels you will need in the future. The less labels, the easier for your reader to find items of interests.

Pre-set Labels: As a school community, we have pre-set labels, that we ask every students to choose from for EVERY blog post they publish. Grade Level and subject area labels are a must and the label “SLC” will be used, if a student chooses to highlight a particular post to present during their Student Led Conference. We are also asking students to label blog posts with the identified core values by the school.

Personalized Labels: Learning does not only happen in school during the pre-set hours of the school schedule. We are encouraging our students to document and reflect on the learning and the growth outside of the curriculum areas. Students will create (universal) labels for their out of school interests and learning that they choose to share on their blogs.



When left to their own devices, some label/category lists on student blogs have gone a little out of control. Hundreds of labels, when there are only 10 blog posts to date, do not help but hinder the information flow. I am recommending to be extra careful to not create the following labels/categories:

  • Two versions of the same label. Ex. reflective and reflection. Try to stay consistent.
  • Specific technology tools. Unless you are a pro at a specific tool and you envision to be writing regular posts about the mechanics, examples and tutorials about Photoshop, for example, do not label your posts with the tool you happened to use to create an image inserted into your post.
  • No need to label your post with your name…. this is your blog… supposedly all posts are by you…unless you invite a guest blogger
  • A specific book title. Although you might write two or three posts about a specific book, most likely you will move on to other books and never use the same book title label again. Better to use a label called “books” or “reading” in order to tie and connect with other posts about books you have read.
Examples of current label lists of our student blogfolios

I am looking to learn with all of you. How can we support our student blogs with a labeling system that guides students in learning to work, organize and curate their own digital information? The digital information created by our studnets (inside and outside of school) will jut keep growing exponentially! How are you teaching students to label their work on their individual blogs? Have you created a system for your class or your entire school to facilitate multi-year blogging? How are your librarians and media specialists getting involved?

Further resources about labeling