Sharks, seals, and tuna, oh my! Exploring data in PBL classrooms with CODAP and Ocean Tracks

The cover article of the August issue of The Science Teacher features an intriguing shiver of sharks, data about those sharks and other marine animals, plus the perfect way to get your feet wet with data analysis: Common Online Data Analysis Platform (CODAP) and Ocean Tracks.

Bill Finzer, one of the authors of the Science Teacher cover article, holding the August 2018 issue while exploring data in CODAP.

The new issue of this NSTA publication is focused on critical thinking and project-based learning (PBL). “Data-driven inquiry in the PBL classroom” was authored by Bill Finzer, Senior Scientist at the Concord Consortium who developed CODAP, along with Amy Busey, Senior Research Associate at the Education Development Center, and Randy Kochevar, Director of the Oceans of Data Institute at the Education Development Center.

Students’ ability to analyze and interpret data is one of the eight science and engineering practices identified in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). According to the authors, “Data, particularly accurate, professionally collected data, provide a rich context for open-ended, complex student-driven investigations that are fundamental to PBL approaches.” This article provides plenty of examples of how to engage students in the analysis and interpretation of data sets about marine predators.

Ocean Tracks (OT) is an online program created by an interdisciplinary team of marine biologists, curriculum developers, web designers, teachers, and education researchers, aimed at engaging students in work with big data in an accessible format. The program includes a suite of authentic data, flexible GIS and graphing tools, and extensive content supports. Tools from CODAP have been embedded in Ocean Tracks, expanding its capabilities, and the “OT+CODAP” interface offers the additional ability to visualize simultaneously data in tables, graphs, and maps.

Read the article, then explore the data yourself and with your students. Help scientists understand why sharks seem to hang out at the “White Shark Café”!