Recognising layers of meaning

Digital technologies provide access to a range of data that was previously unavailable in the classroom (Makarevitch, Frechette, & Wiatros, 2015). These large sets of data, however, can be challenging to understand or manipulate as many layers of meaning can be drawn from large data sets.

The following activity suggests a strategy for engaging students with big data that will support them to develop an understanding of the complex nature of understanding data generated online. The activity also engages the students in systems thinking as they unpack three sets of data and consider the interactions of these data in the AFL and Public Transport Victoria systems.

  1. The teacher asks students to read the short newspaper article on delayed trains after an AFL match in Melbourne.
  2. The class discusses the major problems that are presented in this article, and they list these on the board. Identified problems might include:
    • not enough room on the platform (surmised from photographs),
    • delays across a number of train lines (from the written text),
    • only two city train stations were affected (inferred from the opening paragraph).
  3. The teacher shares the AFL website with the students. As a class, they explore the statistics available under the STATS tab and discuss how this data is represented (in images, tables and graphs).
  4. The teacher asks students to work in groups of three to find the statistics for the AFL games that were referenced in the newspaper article.
  5. In small groups, students are asked to review another data set: the Public Transport Victoria website. This website provides access to timetables and delays information on all public transport in Victoria, as well as visual representations of routes and train stations.
  6. Using the three data sets (newspaper article, AFL website and PTV), students work in their group of three to generate a written and visual conclusion on the best way to avoid similar delays on the train network after AFL games: "How can we stop this problem occurring in the future?". Examples might include:
    • a diagram of the train entries and exits with a written explanation of suggested changes
    • a re-designed fixtures list for the AFL to avoid over-crowding on public transport
    • suggested changes to the train routes so that the number of train lines impacted at once is reduced.

Content description for the above example: (VCDTDI038)