Investigating themselves: Students are data detectives in crowd-sourced Big Dayta Project

Over 800 participants worldwide and growing every day

Big Dayta is an international collaboration of students sharing what they do every hour for one typical weekday. That data is collected into a single spreadsheet that classrooms can then analyze. Over 800 students worldwide have shared their data to date.

What does a student do with 24 hours on a typical day? Do they sleep for 8 hours and go to school for 6 hours? How does this compare to their best friend, their entire class, or even more than 800 students around the world? With Big Dayta, students are able to make these comparisons and analyze data whether they are in first grade or about to graduate from high school. Developmentally appropriate (and Common Core aligned) ideas are provided for grades 1-12.

Students can be guided by whatever they find most interesting to investigate. Guiding research questions may include:

  • How much homework do kids in my grade do?
  • How does amount of homework differ between countries?
  • Does the amount students sleep change as they get older?
  • Where do kids spend the most time with their families?
  • What are most kids in my grade doing at 4pm? Is this different from kids in other grades?
  • And much, much more, based on whatever the kids want to find out!

All suggestions provided in the Idea Guide are Common Core aligned, so teachers can know that they are giving students a chance to satisfy their curiosity about other kids, while meeting the standards. “Humans are naturally curious about each other,” according to educational consultant Stephanie Ramsey, Ph.D., “So they do these calculations to get at the information, without thinking of it as a math problem. Math, reading, and writing all become tools to solve real-life questions.”

While the basic idea is simple, students keep track of what the do every hour on a typical weekday, the opportunities for application are enormous. Students can practice academic skills (analyzing data, stating claims and evidence, adding, subtracting, and more), and they can also connect with each other online to share their findings and debate what conclusions we can draw. The Big Dayta Facebook page gives students the chance to connect over their shared analysis.

The idea for Big Dayta came from inquisitive students. According to Seth Fleischauer, president of Banyan Global Learning, “Big Dayta started out of a fifth grade classroom in Taipei, Taiwan. Our students there were collaborating with another class in America and they wanted to know more about them. As a group, they came up with the idea with this survey. That was four years ago, and we’ve been slowly building it ever since. This year, BGL teachers pooled their resources and time to in an effort see if we could make a larger impact.”

Teachers can access a number of resources to support them in using Big Dayta in the classroom:

  • A slideshow introducing Big Dayta to their students (ElementaryJunior High/High School are currently available and one with a heavier-statistics component for just high school coming later this summer) and a slideshow with screenshots of how to work with the data using Google Sheets for iPad.
  • Idea guide for choosing activities
  • A longer explanation of each idea suggestion along with which Common Core standards that idea is aligned with (click here for ELA ideas and here for Math ideas)
  • Big Dayta Facebook page so students and teachers can connect with each other to discuss and debate their findings.

Classrooms can use Big Dayta for one-off lessons as the school year winds down, or for longer units where students can investigate and report on the data across multiple subjects including math, writing, social studies, and more. However teachers choose to use it, Big Dayta is a chance for students to practice academic skills, critical thinking, and learn more about themselves and each other as they do it.

 

We Love Classcraft! A BGL Review

Here at BGL, we love Classcraft! It’s a free classroom management system a la Class Dojo but with deeper options and a fantasy-based theme that the students really enjoy.

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One great element is that a given student’s avatar can “die,” which sounds a bit violent for a classroom setting until you consider a few things:

  • Students are organized into teams and there are disincentives built in to the other team members if one of their teammates dies. In other words, students HAVE to help each other in order to avoid team-wide consequences.
  • The teacher can customize the penalty for death with creative consequences that can otherwise benefit the class.

The latter bullet point is the subject of the following video in which Teacher Travis introduces Classcraft to his 5th grade class via distance learning. Please enjoy! Our students definitely do.

 

The teacher dashboard allows multiple views of the class with varying degrees of detail. It also makes it easy to reward/punish groups of students or the entire class at one time with just a few clicks.

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Another element we enjoy with Classcraft is “Today’s Event,” a randomized act that may or may not affect multiple student accounts at one time. It’s akin to some of the squares on a Monopoly board where rewards or consequences are doled out simply for having been in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time.

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Almost everything in Classcraft is customizable. From a student perspective, they can customize their avatars and earn the ability to unlock special wardrobe elements and skills. The teacher, like with Class Dojo, can customize the rewards and consequences to target specific class behaviors.

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Given this level of customization, there is definitely a learning curve. It seems a bit unwieldy and user-unfriendly at first, but most tech users will find it to become second nature after using it for a short amount of time. Like with most things in teaching, consistency is key – the more you use it, the more effective it becomes.

Using Video to Teach Current Events

BGL’s own Teacher LaCora has experience in front of the camera as a red carpet host here in Los Angeles. She used those skills to create a video about the recent earthquake in Ecuador as part of BGL’s weekly current events unit.

 

To teach current events, BGL selects a handful of stories from the week and shares links to the stories along with discussion questions to all their teachers across grades K-8. Each teacher chooses the story and discussion questions that are best suited for the ability and interest of their classes. Choosing more discussion questions – or turning them into writing assignments – takes the activity from a short one (5-10 minutes) to a longer one (a full period or two).

Here are the discussion questions for the Ecuadorian earthquake story. As you can see, they get progressively more difficult so that teachers in older grades choose from the bottom and vice versa for younger grades.

  • What can people do to help when there is an earthquake?
  • Have you ever felt an earthquake? What does it feel like?
  • What causes earthquakes? Are there different kinds?
  • What is the Richter scale? What does it mean to increase exponentially?

How do you teach current events? Tell us in the comments section.

York, PA’s Weary Arts Group – A 4G Field Trip for Students of Shakespeare

There is perhaps no better way for students to dive into the art of theatrical performance than by studying the greatest playwright of all time, William Shakespeare. While reading an adaptation of the comedy Much Ado about Nothing, BGL‘s 8th grade distance learning students explored the themes of the story while learning how to add expressiveness to their acting of the play’s scenes. This 4G Field Trip with the Weary Arts Group in York, PA brought the concept home for these students in a fun and informative way. Our gracious and dynamic hosts, Calvin and Dante, mesmerized the class with their performances, and the students were grateful to learn from some experts.
Thanks to Teacher Jackie for facilitating the trip and for creating short and long versions of the field trip video. See them below!
SHORT VERSION:
LONG VERSION:

Kung Fu, Zen Buddhism and the Shaolin Temple – An Independent Research Project for 5th Graders

Our 5th graders in Taiwan are new to our distance learning program, so one of the first units we do with them is a familiar topic – Ancient China. We teach about Chinese New Year, the Great Wall, important rivers and inventions, and China’s greatest teacher, Confucius. But the most popular lesson is based on a trip that Teacher Seth took to the Shaolin Temple in the Henan Province of Central China.

First the students read a brief chapter on the history of the Shaolin Temple and its importance to Kung Fu and Zen Buddhism. Then, they watch a video about Teacher Seth’s trip:

Then, the students complete the following assignment:

Today, you learned that the Shaolin Temple is the birthplace of Zen Buddhism and of Kung Fu. You will choose ONE of those three topics – Zen Buddhism, Kung Fu, or the Shaolin Temple – and do Internet research on that topic.

Then, answer following questions.

1 – What is your topic?

2 – What are some important things that happened in the history of your topic?

3 – What are some things people do to celebrate or practice it?

4 – Who are some famous people who are associated with your topic? What is their relationship to it?

5 – What is your opinion about your topic?

The best of those reports are linked for download here:

Jasper:                                                            Tiffany:

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Annie 21:                                                            Moe:

 

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Christine:                                                         Nicole 30:

 

 

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Angelica:                                                         Sherry:

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What awesome research projects has your class conducted? Leave a comment!

An Inventive Renaissance Project with 8th Grade ELL’s

While the Renaissance is an important period in history and the artwork is truly amazing, it is not always the most interesting topic for students to study (especially those in the midst of junior high ennui). However, a class of BGL’s ambitious 8th graders at Tsai Hsing School have worked their magic to bring the study of the Renaissance to life.

First students learned about Donatello and through his work were introduced to the techniques of Renaissance artists. From this stemmed an art critique assignment in which students chose a work of art by Donatello and unleashed their best inner art critic. This met with some interesting results, some of which are below.

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Next we learned about Michelangelo. This led students to an in-depth look at his famous works at the Sistine Chapel. They learned that Michelangelo created this art to represent the story of Genesis in the Bible. Students ran with this, creating their creation artwork. For a twist, students traded artwork, then wrote a story about the creation of the world. Below are just a few examples of their endeavors.

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The next famous Renaissance artist in the study was Leonardo, who is famous for his unique perspective on the human form and his many incredible inventions. Students used this a springboard for their own inventions. They chose one of Leonardo’s inventions, but found a way to improve on it.

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Finally, the students studied Raphael, who is arguably one of the most talented painters of the Renaissance and is famous for his realistic portraits. Students channeled their own inner artists to create self portraits. What a beautiful and talented group!

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This class will be moving on to study Shakespeare in the coming weeks. Keep your eyes peeled for the actors and actresses to unveil the works of Shakespeare through the lens of a Taiwanese 8th grader.