NCSS San Diego, Saturday Sessions on Data Literacy


I attended a variety of sessions today at the NCSS Conference. This entry deals with two sessions on using data for teaching and learning in Social Studies. I was going to attend a third one on teaching about water scarcity, but unfortunately that one was canceled.

Using technology to teach geography and econmics:

Session on the use of GeoFRED, a customizable set of economic data provided by the Federal Reserve in St. Louis. This seems to be a very nice information source that is customizable in many different ways. There is also a set of lesson plans on the website itself.


One of the activities the presenters demonstrated was how unemployment rates are calculated, by first eliminating those under sixteen and those who are not currently seeking work, and then calculating unemployment for those who are left.

Federal Reserve System Beige Book: descriptions of economic data by region in text. Can compare this to the maps. Then students can write about this.

You can also look at years over a long period of time, going back to 1976.

I think the GeoFRED tool is a good example of a data visualization tool. It is also useful in that you can customize the maps in many different ways, and look at data from national, state, and county perspectives.

Using data to teach higher order thinking in American History

Basically a discussion about using data to look at American History. The presenter talked about using higher order thinking skills. It’s more about making an effort to come up with an answer and back it up with evidence from data than right or wrong answers. He used economic trends from the 1800s as an example (comparing data from 1815 and 1860).

It’s also about time. It takes time to learn the skills you need to analyze data and make sense of the numbers. The presenter referred to this as “active” history.

It’s also about not just teaching content, but also teaching skills. Too often we assume students have skills that they really don’t have. This is pretty sad, as these are often skills they should have learned already in lower grades.

Image Credit: National Council for the Social Studies:


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