Using Technology to Rethink the Intersection of Statistics Education and Social Justice

Using Technology to Rethink the Intersection of Statistics Education and Social Justice

Lisa L. Poling (Appalachian State University, USA), Nirmala Naresh (Miami University, USA) and Tracy J. Goodson-Espy (Appalachian State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9616-7.ch012
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Abstract

A critical consumer is able to ask questions and discern information about data—its collection and analysis, and is able to judge whether conclusions are warranted (GAISE, 2007; Best, 2001). Promoting statistical knowledge by exploring social issues that create disparities helps individuals foster initiative for positive change and engage in equitable practices (Moses & Cobb, 2001; Gutstein, 2006). This chapter explains investigations suitable for use with pre-service/in-service teachers and middle school or high school students. Investigations were structured to help participants: 1) Engage in statistical problem solving using real data; 2) Focus on the process of statistical investigation (Rossman & Chance, 2012); and 3) Consider statistics as a means of promoting social change. A description of investigations and sample artifacts are included.
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Introduction

Will saving the poor children of the world from dying of disease lead to overpopulation? This stunning question was recently posed by Hans Rosling of the Gapminder Foundation (http://gapminder.org/videos/will-saving-poor-children-lead-to-overpopulation/). Rosling was obviously not suggesting that this is the case; rather he was drawing awareness to the fact that sometimes erroneous beliefs may, consciously or unconsciously, influence people’s actions or their failure to act. Beliefs and opinions concerning such questions are critical, as some individuals serve in positions of power and are able to make decisions that can impact world problems, such as funding aid to poorer countries. Others will influence policy-makers by their votes and by voicing public opinion, or through engagement with private corporations or foundations. Beliefs motivate individuals to spur action or may cause serious societal harm. The following sections describe this chapter’s theoretical foundations, including the use of critical statistics pedagogy to promote social justice, the role of specialized technologies in statistical explorations, and an explanation of how this work is framed in connection to the development of technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK). Investigations suitable for use with middle school or high school students or with pre-service/in-service teachers are illustrated and some samples of student work are shared.

Background

Critical statistics acknowledges the political nature of knowledge and how data can be construed and misrepresented when used in a public arena. Understanding how statistical knowledge is valued and who is making decisions helps individuals better understand social realities and how power struggles are enacted and sustained. Garfield and Ben-Zvi (2008) note that in the realm of statistics, “context provides meaning for the numbers, and data cannot be meaningfully analyzed without paying careful consideration to their context” (p. 8). Critical consumers of data are able to think and reason about statistics and use statistical tools to better explore and understand issues that are significant to their immediate community and the broader world.

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