Knowing how to organize, store, recover and process numerical data using a statistical analysis package is another challenge for educators. This group of tools designed to alleviate these problems is best categorized as follows:
Calculation and Analysis tools
The calculation and analysis of numerical data is another common activity in many fields.
Thanks to spreadsheets, the processing of numerical data is focused on organizing the data and defining the operations that the spreadsheet should do. Once the data is captured, the program makes processing, grouping, ordering and visual representation possible in many different ways. The great gain here is linked to the possibility of supporting the analysis of data matched with variables. It is like asking “What happens if…?” while visually and numerically analyzing the data.
Let’s think for a moment about what a teacher can do when using a spreadsheet to calculate his students’ grades or to group and order other information. This tool allows him to utilize various criteria and depict graphic results in one way or another. The possibilities increase even more with considerations of diverse views on assessment or varying the weight of certain components, when student results are calculated.
We should consider as well, what students can do when they are analyzing the results that they obtain following a certain course of study without limiting themselves to mere tabulation, but acquiring knowledge derived from digital data. Consequently, the calculation process is simplified and knowledge is increased.
Data-Base Management Tools
Data processing available in organized digital repositories (databases) makes it possible to generate aggregate information with distinct “views” (content and level of detail) defined according to the needs of the user. The functions of these tools allow data to be accessed via comprehensive searches of available registries or just segments of the database. It does not simply store, organize and search for information in an efficient manner, but these tools also permit the generation of new knowledge (cross listing and aggregate views) that without technology would be very difficult to obtain.
Tools like Microsoft Office’s ACCESS and BASE from Sun Microsystem’s Open Office are user friendly and very powerful, permitting competent users to manage, design, administer and to take advantage of collections of organized digital information.
Collecting data and feedback from customers is an important task for educators and researchers. Many LMS (Learning Management Systems) include their own survey creation and management tools, but in many cases this function needs to be accomplished independently.
SURVEYMONKEY is self-defined as the simplest way to create, apply, and get results from surveys. It has a single purpose: to enable anyone to create professional online surveys quickly and easily. The free version allows 100 answers per survey.
Usually databases contain very valuable information. Nevertheless, beyond the data, at times, it is necessary to find commonalities, or to test hypotheses about cause and effect issues allotting for diverse criteria.
Statistical data processing packages, for example SPSS Statistical Package for the Social Sciences or SAS Statistical Analysis System, make this type of analysis possible giving control of the types of aggregations, cross-listings, statistical tests, etc. to whomever manages the tool. They also resolve quantitative questions that guide research.