FV #28 - Facilitating Critical Thinking By Using Visualizations

Mr. Kelly is a teacher at my school (in fact, he's already featured on this blog way back in FV#6).  He's a big fan of visualizations and he recently developed an activity for his students that featured some excellent interactive data visualizations.  For me, the best part of his lesson is that he challenged his students to not only view the visuals but to interpret and analyze the data, discern the purpose, and think critically about the data presented. 

He started by presenting his students with a list of interactive visuals.  Each student selected one visual to investigate in greater detail.  While they conducted their investigation, they were presented with a series of questions they needed to answer.  Some of the questions were pretty basic:

Why did you choose it?

What made it interesting to you?

What does the graph show you?

What variables does it allow you to manipulate?

These questions were really just the icebreaker, many of them really required some meaningful thought (and, you'll notice, they have no single correct answer):

What's the most suprising piece of information on the graph?

What's one question you would like to ask the creator of the graph?

What are two questions you think might be used to test if someone has understood the information on the graph?

As Mr. Kelly illustrated with his lesson, getting students to be active consumers of data visualizations can be a fantastic way to get them thinking and a simple way to do it!  Now, we have to get them creating them some of these.

You can view the document that Mr. Kelly shared with his students here (contains links to all the visuals and more questions).