Monday, April 24, 2017

NYT's "You Draw It" series

As I've discussed in this space before, I think that it is just as important to show our students how to use statistics in real life as it is to show our students how to conduct an ANOVA.

The "You Draw It" series from the New York Times provides an interactive, personalized example of using data to prove a point and challenge assumptions. Essentially, this series asks you to predict data trends for various social issues. Then it shows you how the data actually looks. So far, there are three of these features: 1) one that challenges assumptions about Obama's performance as president, 2) one that illustrates the impact of SES on college attendance, and 3) one that illustrates just how bad the opiod crisis has become in our country.

Obama Legacy Data

This "You Draw It" asks you to predict Obama's performance on a number of measures of success. Below, the dotted yellow line represents my estimate of national debt under Obama. The blue line shows true national debt under Obama. Note: With this tool, you trace your trend line on the graph, press a button, and then the actual data pops up, as well as discussion about the actual data.

We can use this data to see how political affiliation influences assumptions about the Obama presidency. This one can be used both ways: Right-leaning users may assume the worse while left-leaning users assume the best.

How Family Income Affects Children's College Chances

This example uses data to touch on a social justice issue: Whether or not a college education is really accessible to everyone. After you enter your estimate and see the real data, the website returns normative data about performance on the task and how you compare to other users. Below, the dotted line represents the actual data, and my guess was the solid line.

I think this would be useful in a class on poverty and as an example of a linear relationship.

Drug Overdose Epidemic

This example would be good for a clinical psychology, addiction, criminal justice, or public health class. It asks the user to guess number of deaths due to car accident deaths, gun deaths, and HIV deaths in the US. Finally, it asks you to estimate deaths due to drug overdoses. Which have sky rocketed in the last 20 years (see below).

Then it contrasts drug overdose deaths with car accidents, guns, and HIV. This example may also be useful for social psychology, as it hints at the availability heuristic.

How to use in class:
1) Non-statisticians using statistics to tell a story.
2) Using clever visualization to tell a story.
3) The interactive piece here really forces you to connect to the data and be proven right or wrong.

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