Quantifying with Kids
sports & fitness
Victor Lee discusses his QS project using a range of technologies (fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin) to track kids' activities throughout their days. Lee helps the students work with their data, make visualizations and analyze their results.
Fitbit | Garmin GPS | Jawbone
Good morning, my name is Victor Lee. My day job is I am a professor of Education at Utah State University. In terms of research, I’m in the area of learning sciences. That means I spend a lot of my time thinking about how learning works, what sorts of environments can best support learning, and what sorts of tools and technology could help us to learn hard content.
Now on top of that, like many people here I am a big fan of the Quantified Self community. I consider myself to be part of it. I tracked my own data, and I get a lot of valuable insights. And I love coming to meetings like this because I think as you saw yesterday, and you’re going to see today, there’s some really amazing stuff here where we are empowering people to get a lot of reflective, experiential information in a form that we haven’t been able to in generations past. And in many ways, I think we are seeing that the folks in this room are building the future. And that’s a really exciting prospect, that’s really an exciting to witness and be a part of.
Now on top of those things, I have another role. I may have this in the same way that some of you have it, and it is that I am a parent. I have the privilege of having two very energetic and clever daughters’, I love them dearly. And as a parent, and you can probably relate to this, I worry about parent things.
Are they safe? Are they happy? Are they learning this stuff that is going to help them to be successful in the future, and is that taking place both with me at home and also when they are at school? And I’ve been very appreciative of the great teachers I’ve had, and experiences, that the kids have had. And I have a tremendous respect for the hard work that teachers do. I mean, it’s a really demanding job to work with so many kids, or so many hours of the day. So my hat goes off to them.
At the same time, I think that there’s a real opportunity to do new powerful things, especially with an eye towards the future that is getting created by people in this room. And that’s a future that is going to be filled with data.
There is so much data that is coming at us, and there is so much data that is coming about us, and what I would like for my kids and kids all over to be able to do as they get older is make sense of that data. Ask questions about that data, to interpret it.
And so as a research in education, what I do is I look and see what’s going on. And this is how data is being taught right now in schools. Now again, the teachers are doing the best that they can, but the materials in the lessons that they work with look a lot like this.
This is a based on published curriculum, that’s widely used across many different schools. And this is how you learned data in upper elementary and middle school. Here’s the list of lengths of five snakes; calculate the mean. And they learn how to calculate the mean.
As someone who has been in education research for a long time, they know how to plug and chug from this. They add it all up, divided by the total and they can do that just fine. But what happens and this is very well established in literature is that when they grow up, you ask them to do the mean and they do that. You ask them why they do that, and they don’t know what to say.
You push them a little bit more on when is the mean useful and when the mean is not useful, or how to do this in a more complex setting and it all breaks down. Now, that’s not the kind of future that I want to see for my kids. It’s not the kind of future I want to see for kids in this detail rich world.
So something’s got to change.
As you may have seen, schools have a very busy day. I’m sort of shocked as a parent, how busy it is. And they have a lot of routine that exists for reasons. They have lessons in class, small group work. Sometimes in a great classroom, you see this really awesome facilitated discussion about whatever content that their learning.
They have PE, they have recess, school lunch time, and schools that have adequate resources. They may have computers in the classroom, or computer lab, tablets, one to one in some situations. They may have a really great school library, Art program that they walked down the hall to once a week. And so there is a lot of things going on, and in many ways when I encounter or talk with schools about what can we do different or exciting. And they say, well, we have these constraints that are in place.
And I understand that there are these constraints in place, and there’s ways that things have been done, and they do things and it just continues for decades. But I also see an opportunity here, and I think this is a real Quantified Self opportunity. Because a lot of what people are doing is that they are trying to find ways to empower people to get data from everyday life, about their experience about when they know about what’s going on, but they want to find out more about what’s going on.
So I see these activities and I say, what if kids, what if fifth graders or six graders, had a wearable devices that they could go about their regular school day activities, but we could enrich the kind of things they do and think about with data. What if they could actually start to do the kinds of inspection in that you all do when you take a look at the dashboards, we have available, and the visualizations that you’re helping to make.
So this is actual data. We use a range of technologies in my lab with kids, Garmin, Fitbit, Jawbone, you name it. This is using Fitbit activity trackers and this is actual school day data. And you show this to kids who wore this, and they say that’s really cool, look, I can see school lunch, and I can see recess. Oh there, that’s when we walked over to the art room, and yeah, I really couldn’t sit still in math class that day.
But, what’s powerful. There is they are the experts of their daily experiences, and that becomes an object of conversation and an object of study. And a very doable thing within the school day is to change the way we talk about data and the ways in which we engage with data. So that way, instead of talking about the lengths of snakes, we have a conversation about what your day look like.
And so, this is actual footage of teacher leading a discussion about what happened during the day, and asked questions based on just what you’re seeing like people do as part of their Quantified Self experiments. And they might ask a question of well, you know, in PE we always do this exercise and we always do this other exercise. So does one of those exercises make our heart beat faster? Well, we have wearable heart rate trackers, and we’ve provided them with kids and we’ve actually tested that. And you can see that in this data visualization here that they created.
Again, this is happening with elementary school kids. And they’re coming up with great projects, explorations, and you know, how does this compare against snakes or business as usual.
We’ve done as a research group, a head-to-head comparison, where you have students using wearable devices, engaging in Quantified conversations, about their own data as part of their class work. And what we see is we get significantly greater gains, in the same amount of time when we had kids working with their own data and asking questions about their own data, then with business as usual. So that’s really exciting.
Now one of the things also that really impresses me and working with these youth, is that they ask really good questions. You know, we provide them with Fitbit trackers, and they think that’s really cool, and they try it on and they say, wait a second is this thing even accurate?
And that becomes a really heated point of contention, and they’ll come up with ways to test that. And that’s what you’re seeing in that picture there is that that person is wearing Fitbit trackers and they are actually trying to count that, and compare and see how much of a deviation there is. And then what they end up doing with that is that they use data visualization software School Friendly, Friendly for Kids, or they can even do this in a low-tech way. Write it down on sticky notes and make data visualization from that.
And what we see is we’ve done this for multiple years, with multiple classrooms, in multiple places, and we keep seeing these great gains that come out of it when they get to pose these questions, and they get to work with this data that they know. You can see here, the conceptions and statistics that they’ve got, jump substantially. And that’s a very exciting thing to see. They also ask questions that just matter a lot to them.
Recess, is a special time for them, and I didn’t realise this at the time. But, apparently, there are some playground issues in terms of what sports are more demanding. Oh, do the kids that play football move around a lot more than the kids that are playing soccer?
Well, one group of kids decided to actually look into that, and they did a self-experiment to take a look. They generated data, made a visualization and they found oh, it’s actually about the same. But the fact that they are able to make that determination and be able to have access to that data is pretty powerful. I think it’s pretty powerful. You can hear one of the kids who says about it himself.
In my life, I have never, never in my life. Heard anybody say you know, you go home, your mom asks you, what did you do at school today? I learnt how to work data. You know, you don’t get the opportunity every single week. It’s not like you’re going out school, you know, just you know, they don’t teach you this. It gives us the upper hand. It just gives such an amazing rare opportunity and I just found you learn a lot from it.
This child was not paid to say that, he just spontaneously had that coming out, I’ve had these experiences and have had teachers say my gosh, the kids keep wanting to work with data and they are asking for Fitbits as Christmas presents and things like that, and they are continuing to do this, and I think that’s a fantastic thing. It’s an exciting thing, and I think of it, you know, I talked about the three roles that I have. I’m a parent, I’m learning sciences, I’m a quantified selfer. I see that, I see that as part of my work and that makes me happy, it makes me hopeful. And I think that’s a real opportunity here that Quantify Self. You know, it can be a really empowering means to take control of your health. It can be a way to biohack, and optimize but I also think this can be something what you can do. But I also think this can be something that we can do with kids. There is just a real opportunity to learn and a real space for us to innovate. And I see happen, and you know, I would like to see more of it happen, so let’s make this happen.