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'Raw Data' Links Students to Valuable Sources

Technology Center

Education World explores Raw Data, a Web page teachers and students can use to find fascinating -- and useful -- educational facts. Discover how one North Carolina teacher used the Web page to teach middle school and high school students about the science of waves while helping them learn such computer skills as keyboarding, database utilization, and spreadsheet creation. Included: Examples of raw data resources plus suggestions for using raw data across the curriculum.

The students in John Milton Mills Blake Jr.'s Earth science classes at North Whiteville Academy are tired of the kind of static, generalized information they get from textbooks. According to Blake, to keep his students interested lessons must be "relevant and real-world."

"My students must have real-world data," the North Carolina teacher tells Education World. "The information in a textbook appears to them to be busy work."

Blake is able to meet the demands of his middle school and high school students by using Raw Data, a Web page offered by the Landmarks for Schools Web site. At Raw Data, students can access all kinds of online data, download the data into spreadsheets, and then use it in their classes.


According to Blake, one of the sites his students found especially compelling to analyze was the data on waves compiled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility. The students not only learned how wave data is collected but also learned how to "read" the data.

"We study the North Carolina Outer Banks because we have a similar barrier island within 45 minutes of Whiteville-Ocean Isle, North Carolina," says Blake. "Many of our students have visited or fished there. The wave data we accessed illustrated to students how hurricanes, which have caused local flooding and power outages, affect the North Carolina Outer Banks."

Finding the wave information online and downloading it also enabled Blake's students -- who must pass a computer competency test to graduate from high school -- to learn valuable computer skills. Blake was able to use the Raw Data site to teach keyboarding and database and spreadsheet skills -- all of which are integrated into the North Carolina science curriculum.


The Raw Data Web page links users to a wide variety of Web sites containing statistical data that might be useful in the classroom. Among those are sites that provide statistics related to U.S. jobs (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics); crime (from the U.S. Department of Justice); earthquakes (from the Council of the National Seismic System); the Civil War (from the U.S. Civil War Center); baseball (from MSN); and much, much more.

Raw Data offers links to statistically accurate, "real world" information; it also offers teachers tips on how to use the recommended sites. For example, Raw Data's listing for the AIRData site includes the following tip: "Students might use this database to look up particulate levels of the various pollutions (carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, etc.) for the states of the U.S.A., or for the counties of their state. They might then color code the states or counties indicating the varying degrees of particulates and then draw conclusions about the relationships between pollution and land usage. This data can also be imported into a spreadsheet. Refer to the instructions in Landmarks for Schools."

Raw Data also offers a wide range of links to science, social studies, and literature resources that are not necessarily limited to statistical data. These include such diverse sites as Cantaria, "a learning library of bardic songs"; Virginia's Indians, Past and Present; Space; and more. Visitors also will find links to a variety of fascinating or hard-to-find online images, including Italian sculpture, life during the Great Depression, photographs from space, maps of almost any place, and animated three-dimensional molecules!

In addition, the site offers tools and information that teachers and students will find helpful as they use the linked data resources. Those include information on how to "harvest" online information and save it to a disc or word processor, instructions on how to download online images to desktop graphic software, a copyright permission template, and a list of search engines.


Landmarks for Schools and the Raw Data Web page are the brainchild of David Warlick. Warlick taught history for ten years, served as a district level director of technology for six years, and then helped design and implement a state-wide computer skills curriculum for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. He spent his final year there building their InfoWeb, the first comprehensive state department of education Web site in the nation.

For the past five years, Warlick has been an independent educational technology consultant, delivering staff development and conference addresses and doing Web development for educational institutions. He has given presentations in nearly every state and several foreign countries. Landmarks for Schools and Raw Data are funded through his income, and he does all the work on the sites.

"While at the Department of Public Instruction, I had emphasized using computers as a tool for extending and amplifying our use of information," Warlick tells Education World. "That history, along with the growing access to information and data on the Internet, led me to develop an [instructional] approach that involved using information as raw material.

"You could say that I maintain the Web site out of the goodness of my heart," Warlick adds, "or you could say that it is a business card, of sorts."


Article by Sharon Cromwell
Education World®
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