Schools can get involved in CensusAtSchool and reap the benefits by participating in the second data collection, currently underway. The CensusAtSchool questionnaire is a rare opportunity for students to be part of an ICT project; a meaningful and relevant use of technology in the classroom.
CensusAtSchool aims to make data engaging for students, encouraging them to use real data to draw real conclusions. There are less than 45 days to go until data collection closes on 4th July 2008, not to re-open until 2011. More information and a copy of the questionnaire can be viewed at www.abs.gov.au/censusatschool.
Students from Grade 4 through to Year 12 have used the data as part of mathematics, SOSE/HSIE and as a cross-curriculum activity.
The website also offers several introductory Excel activities using CensusAtSchool data. Younger students have found the data interesting and an excellent way to learn how to use Excel. They have investigated real, authentic questions and gained the ability to build tables and graphs. Being able to select data samples by postcode ranges meant that they were able to make comparisons between different communities.
Older students have found the data particularly useful in their study of statistics within their mathematics studies.
The 2008 questionnaire has been tailored to include more continuous data, as well as meaningful categorical and numeric data. The numeric data sets, in particular, were seen as very useful and ideal data sets for studying correlation, spread and central tendency. Using large data sets in an ICT environment was appreciated by students who had previously found the data in textbooks uninspiring and often not relevant.
In 2006, when over 112,000 students submitted a questionnaire, teachers reported that their students viewed the questionnaire as being ‘official’. Students took pains to ensure their answers were correct and wanted to answer all the questions. It was important for them to record their best times for the reaction and concentration questions.
The data collected from the 2008 questionnaire will be available on the CensusAtSchool website shortly after the data collection closes. Data from the 2006 collection is available now through the random sampler on the web site.
When the 2008 database becomes available, it will offer the potential for longitudinal studies. Where else can students interrogate a database containing information on over 112,000 Australian students? The data downloads as an Excel spreadsheet so students can summarise the data, use functions and represent the data with graphs.
The CensusAtSchool website provides much by way of support for teachers. A series of activities designed to support curriculum outcomes is downloadable. These are presently under review and will be updated by 4th July to reflect feedback from teachers.
Teachers wanting to give their students the opportunity of working with real data should register at www.abs.gov.au/censusatschool and start off by having them complete the online questionnaire.
The 2006 data is available now; data samples from the 2008 questionnaire will be available after 4th July.