As the final days of the summer wind down for me, I am starting the “prep time” that all teachers go through before classes start. I get very ambitious and idealistic, and try to stay that way for as long as circumstances and my stamina allow. This year, I have a couple of ambitious goals. Here’s the biggest one.
I really want to see a revolution in online statistics software tools for students and teachers. Here’s what I want.
1. I want a “data viewer,” that could handle tab delimited text data, and create visual displays, summary statistics, and appropriate tests. It should look as appealing as www.gapminder.org
2. I want it to have, at a minimum, the flexibility and functionality of Fathom: Easy-to-create dot plots, histograms, box plots, segmented bar charts, percentile plots, normal probability plots, etc… I also want it to run appropriate statistical tests. Gapminder is great but it does only scatter plots, and no tests / summary statistics.
3. I want teachers and students to be able to create surveys, invite subjects to respond with a simple URL + password, and post the data up there for others to use. Data could be uploaded as private or public.
4. I want teachers and students to be able to join / create public surveys, and generate databases . I want public databases to be available on the web for all to use/ see.
5. I want “dots” to be easily replaced with easy to find icons: guys, girls, men, women, numbers, colors, maybe … perish the thought…. Photos/icons that students could upload of themselves? Each “dot” in some displays could be a head?
6. I want security options to range from public to completely private .
7. I want it to be cost effective and something that people would pay for / use despte the cost. Heaven forbid…. maybe free?
8. I want “social network functionality.”
9. I want pretty, simple, attractive, and appropriate visuals.
10. I want educators in statistics/ data analysis in on the design of this.
11. I want one-stop shopping. Facebook, baby. Google, baby.
I can think of a dozen different places that have little bits and pieces of this. It doesn’t seem too “pie-in-the-sky” to make this happen. I am going to ask the computer science students at my school to consider working on something like this. Bill Finzer at Fathom – are you listening? This could be a revolution, I think. This seems grant-worthy.
So I need your help. Who knows who would want to develop something like this?
Is KeyPress still working on updating Fathom? It’s been at least 2 years since an update. These days, that’s glacial pace.
Currently, too many people teaching Stats/ Data analysis are using too many different tools. TI’s, Fathom, Excel, Minitab, JMP, SPSS, R, SAS, not to mention the online stats tools +Geogebra. It seems reasonable (at least at the high school level) to construct a tool that meets the needs I outlined above. Imagine a classroom where you have easy access to a ton of databases, without a lot of time teaching kids how to use the software. Imagine kids getting lots in some really cool data bases. Imagine them “tinkering” for hours, and bringing up questions in class. Imagine asking them to find their own examples and constructing written critiques.
Accessing these files can generate important questions and investigations for kids that are essential to their growth in statistics.
This is a bit idealistic, but it’s doable. I’m sure of it. We just need to time, the money, and somebody to do it.
I don’t want to hear that this can’t be done. Tell what the obstacles are, I’m convinced there are ways around them.