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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Technology Innovations

Innovative Activities: How Clickers can Facilitate the Use of Simulations in Large Lecture Classes

This paper is a technology case study that addresses the theme of using technology in a large lecture format undergraduate introduction to statistics class to develop student conceptual understanding of inference. In the activities described, each student in the lecture performs a simulation once on a calculator and the results are collected via a personal response system (clicker). This provides not only an active learning environment, but also allows students to experience statistical concepts such as distributions or models, variability, and the Central Limit Theorem, in ways that they cannot experience without these technologies. The large class, therefore, becomes a learning asset, rather than a liability. The two activities that are described in detail are part of a set of twelve activities that were designed to improve conceptual understanding of statistical inference.

Life on an Island: a Simulated Population to Support Student Projects in Statistics

It is important for students learning statistical reasoning to see data in context. One of the best ways of achieving this is to involve students in data production and so in the past ten years we have had first-year students undertake real experiments of their own choosing as part of our introductory statistics course. However in practice students are limited in what they can do. Many want to conduct experiments involving human subjects, requiring ethics approval, while even those not wanting to use humans may have general health and safety issues. Epidemiological studies have really not been possible at all.

We present an open-ended virtual environment, the Island, to help overcome these limitations while still engaging students with study design and data collection. Students work with a population of virtual humans living on the Island and are able to conduct a wide variety of experiments with them as subjects. The Islanders also live in villages, have ancestors and die from a range of diseases, allowing students to study the epidemiology of the island as well. In this paper we will give an overview of this Island and its design, highlighting some of the features and the issues, and sharing our experiences of using the Island in teaching and learning.

Statistical Thinking

Assessing Statistical Understanding in Middle Schools: Emerging Issues in a Technology-Rich Environment

The increased importance of developing statistical understanding in school education is recognised in curriculum documents across the world. The role of technology in enhancing the teaching of statistics is emphasised in these documents and the emergence of quality computer software and websites provides teachers with access to unprecedented resources for teaching statistics to young students. Assessment processes, however, have not kept pace with the advances in technology. This paper highlights some emerging and existing issues in the assessment of statistical understanding at the school level, and includes discussion of the implications for teachers and researchers.

Introductory Statistics Unconstrained by Computability: A New Cobb Salad

Technology continues to change not only how we teach, but also what we teach in the introductory course. Recently there has been lively discussion about which topics belong in the course. George Cobb has challenged us to rethink the curriculum in light of the computational power of our technologies. This paper proposes a framework for structuring a course using JMP, omitting some traditional topics, leaving space for emphasis on concepts, on data production, on visualization, and on topics that are rarely included in an introductory course. Through such a structure, we can more directly connect statistics education to students’ disciplinary contexts in business, engineering, social and natural sciences, etc. Additionally, we can strengthen students’ conceptual foundations in the field so that, in their roles as citizens and professionals, they can become more critical consumers of statistical arguments.