Friday, October 31, 2008

An Electronic Voting Machine: Turning Data Into Information

With only a few more days until the U.S. Election, I'm sure many American classrooms have been buzzing with election theme activities. Some schools will be collaborating and comparing data using programs such as the National Parent/Student Mock Election Project., [check out your state's ballot] while some classrooms will be tallying paper ballots.

Vermont middle school students from St. Albans City School will be doing a little bit of both. Class lists will be used as a voter checklist during lunch periods where students in Grades 5 – 8 will receive a paper ballot to cast into a ballot box. Kinesthetic learners will benefit from the physical act of going through these motions and touching a real ballot and ballot box.

Next, students will get a chance to cast an electronic vote using Google Forms. The following form will be available on a Google Site loaded on one of several computers located next to the ballot box. These votes will be automatically tallied into a Google spreadsheet that updates blue and red graphs immediately available for teachers to use with their students in Election debriefing sessions.

  • Some classes are deliberating the pros and cons of electronic voting.
  • Other classes are comparing their grade's results to the voting results in their community.
  • Junior high student using Google Apps for your Domain: Eduction Edition will be working with their teachers on the process of turning data into information.

They will examine the process by which each piece of data was collected, analyzed, organized, and presented into meaningful information.

  • In math class they learn how to create graphs.
  • In social studies class students are using data representation to discuss social issues. Google Forms allowed them to collect information from other students querying which issues were most important to teens. A core group of students analyzed this data and used Google Docs to organize research in preparation for a school wide assembly featuring their mock debate. The results from the actual mock election will be contrasted to the pre-debate poll data in analyzing the success of their debate.
  • In science class, students are preparing for a scientific inquiry project that will require the collection, analysis, and presentation of data. Being actively involved in the process of turning data into information gives students real experience as background when designing their own science projects.

Feel free to download this Google spreadsheet template to edit and use in your own school as an electronic voting machine, or simply as an example of how Google Speadsheet can be turned into a voting machine on any topic or issue you're studying.

Insert "countif" into the search box of this link to learn more about working with the countif formulas used in this spreadsheet. The spreadsheet template also models the concept of linking data between sheets where the original data collection worksheet was linked to other sheets to help aggregate data and turn it into information and graphs.

I'm hoping readers will use the comment seaction to share their own spreadsheets templates. Check out this tip on how to add &newcopy when sharing your own spreadsheets links to allow teachers to download a clean copy of your spreadsheets as a tempate in their down Google Docs accounts.]