Responsible Data

I think data is important. I even recently presented about "Data Driven Coaching" at ISTE! I've been thinking a lot about how we use data to tell a story and the implications it has for teachers and our students.

One thing that really gets me upset is when I see data being reported (usually visually) in misleading ways. Sometimes I think people just don't realize that they are creating something misleading, while other times things are done to intentionally exaggerate what is actually going on. This TED-Ed video explains this really well:

So when I came across this tweet, I immediately looked at the y-axis. I noticed that the % was "zoomed in" making it look like engagement in high school was practically 0%, even though it was 44%. Now, 44% isn't great. And the overall trend of declining engagement is worrisome. But, the math teacher in me was just a little annoyed at the misleading graph.

To illustrate my point, I decided to quickly make a little chart on a spreadsheet. Using Numbers on my MacBook, I entered the three data points and then was able to manipulate the max and min of the y-axis. Notice the first graph goes from 0%-100% while the second replicates the original (misleading) graph of about 40%-80%. See the different in apparent steepness of decline? 

Again, I agree with the original tweet that we need to address this decline in engagement. However, we are living in a data saturated culture in education and we all to be critical consumers when it comes to the story people tell using data.