Monday, January 14, 2008

Nice try

So I submitted this bare-minimum response to the present-your-year-in-numbers challenge, and then discovered this morning that the images were not even there. Gah. Feeling really smart now:) But since there's no way of slinking out through the back door of the internet and pretending the old version never was there... here it is all over again.

Or so I hope.

On the positive side, I finally figured out how to make a very basic little podcast, just a few minutes ago, and I'm going to go ahead and be quite pleased about that anyway.


Dy/Dan challenges his readers to present their year in numbers, and to devise ways of presenting this numerical information in interesting and meaningful ways. Now I don't know how it can be that I am admitting this in public, what with being a math teacher and all, but until today I have used Excel pretty much as I would use a table in Word - for typing in numbers and storing them, no more. The task of finding out how to get the program to do anything at all with the numbers was big enough to crowd out any more creative considerations, and the results are, well, commensurate with the time left over for such thought. Given my lack of skills, this Annual Report challenge was obviously an awfully necessary and useful thing for me to take on - and this post is for my benefit, not yours :)

Apart from the technical issues of presenting the numbers, finding numbers that could say anything interesting about 2007 was not easy. I don't mean that numbers could not in principle tell the story very powerfully - just that given constraints of time, imagination and access, that was not going to happen. For example, a table of corresponding values of dates when the local newspaper posted about my school, hits on the newspaper's website, and my adrenaline levels, could well have yielded something interesting, but such data were not forthcoming. A comparison of numbers indicative of the socio-economic status of the students of my previous school with that of my current students would be sadly interesting too, and with more time and dedication I could presumably have found such numbers. But - not this time. The report was, then, dictated more by what numbers were readily available than by what might have been the most telling, as is often the case, of course.

So, here goes. There are four slides.

Yeah, I am aware that the type is too small to read. And of the fact that illegible print is no hallmark of good design. Maybe someone will be nice and tell me how to go about fixing that.

As for the data, those were from my Amazon records. Books that were bought in book stores (I have a bad habit of wandering into Half Price Books and leaving with an armful of books that I don't need or have time to read) were not counted. It's a particularly clear case of the numbers telling what numbers I have, no more. Next,

This was more interesting. It looks like September was too busy for any kind of writing. February and April are writing lows, and they coincided with two major assignments in my Ed classes.

Nothing to add. I was considering doing this kind of comparison of numbers for my old and new school for each slide, but ended up dropping the idea before it was developed. (K did an amazingly neat job of such a comparison, by the way.)

That's it. I learned a lot. And I'm thinking about what data I'd like to have for next year. And about what kind of data collected from students' learning that the students might enjoy having displayed with these neat tools. Anyway, time to sleep - tomorrow's busy.


H. said...

...and those weird little rectangles from leftover code without the images? Oof. But, whatever, there's school tomorrow, enough.

dan meyer said...

Shit. Don't know why I missed this one? Did you e-mail it to me? I swear, I combed my e-mail box. My bad.

Excel makes font changes unnecessarily cumbersome. You've gotta double click on the invisible border surrounding the text field and then change the options from there.

H. said...

No, I didn't e-mail it - another sleep-deprivation induced omission - but it doesn't matter - I'll join the game by leaving a comment at your site. The point of joining was just to learn some of this, and that's already happened.

Thanks for the note on fonts in excel!

friend said...
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Sarah Cannon said...

For your learning curve, I'm impressed. Excel can be unnecessarily difficult (why my colors weren't the way I still envision them). The stacked bars are a format that I never remember how to enter the data so that it comes out the way I want them to.

This was definitely a project that one had to want to do for personal reasons and learning the program seems like an excellent reason to me.

H. said...

Thanks, Sarah :)