Saturday, November 21, 2009

Real-time and living statistical counters and simulators used in the classroom

One way to introduce my students to the use statics in real life is to show them real-time counters or simulators that are created to count a variety of things the moment you view the page. These living statistics are different than the page counters and other more common counters located on websites and blogs. Those are more static and only change the next time you visit the site. The ones they find most fascinating are the live or real-time counters because they see the numbers grow and change before their eyes.

In viewing and interacting with these gadgets and websites, students start asking numerous questions. I find that these types of counters always generate good discussions and inquiry opportunities. We tend to question the creators and their purpose for creating such a counter. We question motive and point of view such as: How are these counters used to illustrate the author's point of view? Can we believe the sources of their statistics? How have the statistics been manipulated to create certain results?

One of our favourites to leave up on the SMART Board while students are working on other things is the Breathing Earth which simulates the birth rate, death rate and C02 emissions around the world and displays current world and country populations. Students always generate interesting questions about the human impact on limited world resources while viewing this website. They are also fascinated when they start to compare their country's population and CO2 emissions with other countries that are smaller in geographical size but have much larger populations.

Another interesting tool to look at the impact of Social Media is from Gary Hayes' blog Personalize Media. One of his latest is this Mobile Industry counter:


He also has a Social Media counter:


Another interesting live statistics website depicts Real Time World Statistics on Reeko's Mad Sciencest Lab. This site has a number of different types of statistics from the general interest "How many McChicken sandwiches have been sold since you began viewing this site?" to the more detailed Science and Energy Consumption statistics.

One website I've found that illustrates the use of real-time counters for a lesson or discussion on the author's point of view is the website Immigration Counters.com. This website shows how statistics can be used, displayed or interpreted to illustrate one point of view on immigration.

Do you have other gadgets or websites that you like to use with students to demonstrate live statistics? I'm always looking for new and interesting websites and gadgets with live statistics. I would love to hear about the ones that you use or that you have come across.