Using Web Applets to Foster Active Learning in the Online Statistics

Using Web Applets to
Foster Active Learning in
the Online Statistics Course
Michelle Everson
Department of Educational Psychology
University of Minnesota
 This work would NOT have been possible without
support from the following people:
My colleagues: Joan Garfield, Bob delMas, Andy Zieffler
Initial idea for project came from an AIMS workshop, Summer
2008 (
U of M College of Education Academic Technology Services
Dr. David Ernst, Director of ATS
 Brad Hosack, New Media Developer
Educational Psychology Department Chair—Dr. Susan Hupp
 In the classroom, our courses often involve lots of activity and
discussion on the part of students
 Many activities in the classroom are “hands-on” and involve the
use of different manipulatives (e.g., Post-it Notes, coins, dice,
Reese’s Pieces candies, M&Ms, cookies, Gummy Bears, Pass the
Pigs, etc.)
 As an online instructor, I have been interested in ways to
replicate hands-on activities in the online environment
 One way to replicate such activities might be to create applets
that simulate the hands-on experience
The Post-it Note Activity
 Students are broken into small groups of about 3 or 4
(note that our typical class sizes are roughly 30
 Each group is given a small stack of 10 Post-it Notes
and a number line; students use these materials to
work through questions on an activity sheet
Student Learning Goals of the Activity
 Develop a conceptual understanding of the mean.
 Understand the idea of deviations (differences from the mean) and how
they balance out to zero.
 Understand how these deviations cause the mean to be influenced by
extreme values.
 Develop an understanding of the median as a middle value that is resistant
to extreme values.
 Understand the differences between mean and median in their
interpretation and properties.
 Understand how to select appropriate measures of center to represent a
sample of data.
What the Activity Looks Like in the Classroom
Sample Questions from the Activity
 Move one Post-It Note to 24 years. How can you move one or
more of the other Post-It Notes so that you keep the mean at 21
years? Is there more than one way to do this? Explain.
 Next, move all the Post-It Notes so that none of the ages are 21
years, yet the mean age is still 21 years. Describe what you did.
 If you change one value so it has a deviation of -3, what do you
have to do one or more values to keep the mean at 21 years?
 Now move all of the values that are above 21 years so that each
one has a higher value than it does currently. Did this have any
effect on the median? Explain.
How might the activity be adapted for an online
 Given that it might be too much to expect students to
purchase their own Post-it Notes and create their
own number lines, we wanted to come up with other
ways students could engage in this activity
 Initially, we tried using Fathom
Online students were given instructions and questions to
answer very similar to those given to classroom students, but
online students manipulated dots on a dot plot in Fathom
rather than Post-it Notes
Students worked through the activity on their own and then
shared their answers and discussed the activity in small online
discussion groups
Replicating the Post-it Note Activity in Fathom
The Sticky Centers Applet
How we have used the applet in the online course
 Students are broken into small discussion groups (4 to 6
 Students have one week to discuss assignments with their group
 For this particular assignment, students:
Use the applet on their own and post their answers to a series of questions in
their assigned discussion group by Wednesday at 10 p.m..
Come back at least twice to the discussion and comment on the thoughts and
ideas posted by their peers (and answer any instructor questions) in an effort
to arrive at a group response for the assignment
One group member summarizes the group response and submits the
summary to the instructor by the following Monday at 10 p.m.
Our next project….
 Is there a way we can design an applet that will lead to rich
online discussions that involve:
Talking about the basic elements of experimental design
Considering factors that lead to within groups and between groups
Exploring ways to graph and summarize data in order to compare
Discussing how a two-sample t-test can be used to determine if there
is a significant difference between groups
 In the classroom, we might use the Gummy Bears activity
(Cobb & Miao, 1998; Scheaffer, Gnanadesikan, Watkins, & Witmer,
1996) to introduce many of these ideas to students. Can we
somehow create a Gummy Bears applet???
The Gummy Bears Applet