Database Exploration Lesson

One powerful use of computers is to sift through large amounts of data to find the patterns hidden within them. Take a list of countries, for example, and look for relationships between the dominant religion and birthrate; between GNP and literacy; between government type and continent. In this assignment, you'll identify a standard that could be met by such exploration, use an online database (or create your own), and describe how you would implement it with learners. This is an individual assignment.

Each lesson of this type begins with a problem to be solved, an issue to be explored, a decision to be made, or a question (semi-open ended) to be grappled with. This lesson format is different from a WebQuest in that it focuses on a single online database as the source of information. It is different from a Web Inquiry Project in that it is tightly focused and well scaffolded.

Some examples of the kinds of starting points you could build a lesson like this on:

  • What low carb foods should I be sure to include in my diet if I think I'm deficient in vitamin B6?
  • What categories can I create to organize the extrasolar planets discovered so far?
  • How are movies produced in the 70s different from those produced this year?
  • What background does it take to get elected mayor in a small US city?
  • How has the concept of jealousy been described in great literature?
  • What Asian animals could I put in a petting zoo?
  • How is the color red used in flags?
  • What's the relationship between dominant religion and literacy rate in developing countries?

You may choose to develop your lesson around a database that you create from scratch, or an existing one from this list or elsewhere. Use this template to organize your lesson as a web page to be read by students.

In either case, your lesson will include these sections:

  1. Introduction: A presentation of the problem to be solved, the question to be answered, the decision to be made, or the issue to be studied.
  2. Acquaint. A preliminary look at the data. Use this to familiarize learners with the information in the database as well as the mechanical aspects of searching through it.
  3. Ask: Pursuing a list of questions to be answered by looking through the data. You can provide a starter set of questions and encourage learners to add their own to it (depending on their readiness for that.)
  4. Arrange: It's not enough to generate answers from the data. Learners should be able to explain what it means. Organize the data by clumping it into categories and/or sorting it by some criterion to help you address the initial question, issue or problem.
  5. Apply: Ask learners to take what they've learned and apply it to what was described in the introduction.
  6. Evaluation: Though this is a short lesson, it's useful to include a checklist to help learners determine how well they did. This may be used for a grade or merely as a self-check.

The central four stages can be remembered by thinking of this as a FORAY into the infosphere.

This project counts for 15% of your final grade. Use this checklist to evaluate your work.

Here are projects from the past: Spring 2004 | Fall 2003

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