New Tool: Data Entry Website

The most interesting activities are the ones where students, by themselves, prepare data that we then analyse together.

This was actually the original idea behind Pumice – students taking photos of tree leaves, jotting down animals at a zoo, identifying quadrilaterals … Then entering the data into a computer and trying to predict tree types, using the computer to come up with an animal classification key, or a tree to classify quadrilaterals.

Wonderful, but … where should they enter the data? The first, naive idea was to prepare a shared spreadsheet. We’ve only attempted that chaotic act once. It was enough to learn our lesson: five groups of students cannot be filling out the same spreadsheet at the same time. They will end up writing over each other and ruining (unintentionally) each other’s data …

We then, for a long time, used Google Forms. We prepared samples for different activities that teachers could copy before the doing the activity, then share the link to the form with the students. That system works – but not much more than that. The forms are rigid, and the resulting tables are often in a format that isn’t the most suitable one for Orange. This was most apparent in the activity with houses, which has been ready for months now and also already tried out at school – but we didn’t want to put it online to not intimidate teachers with the fact that they would need to transpone the table and combine it with two other tables, using the Merge Tables widget – which even we, the developers behind Orange, sometimes don’t find easy to use.

The Houses activity was the final straw and Cartoons – the activity we wrote about in the previous news, the ultimate tipping point. The idea that students would select a certain number of cartoons via a form, then get the data in a format suitable for further analysis… just doesn’t work. Not only would it be a nuisance and restrictive, it wouldn’t look very appealing either.

For this reason, we have prepared a website for data entry, which can be used in different activities. The system is set up in such a way that the link in each activity leads to a page where the teacher can enter potential additional settings (for instance, the number of groups, if that needs to be known in advance). The teacher then gets the link that they share with the students or enter into computers or tablets themselves. Finally, the students enter the data in our app that has been set up for specific activities.

The site currently supports three activities. The first one is about classifying Slovene houses into Alpine, Karstian, Pannonian, and others. In this case, the site simply displays the pictures of the houses, and students then select the house type. The second activity is the classification of quadrilaterals, which requires students to enter the quadrilaterals’ properties and then select which quadrilateral it is.

The most attractive and eye-catching activity though is of course the one with the cartoons, where students need to pick a certain number of cartoons.

When all the data has been entered, the teacher (or students) gets all the collected data at a special link. The data is contained in a table that is suitable for reading in Orange, but can also include additional files, like pictures of houses, quadrilaterals, and cartoons. Since we programme the site ourselves and since we also know how the data will be used, we can prepare it in a format that will require the least possible »juggling« with the data on the part of the teacher or students.