Sunday, September 11, 2011

Embracing Rebecca Black: YouTube for statistics lessons

My classroom this year was invaded by Rebecca Black:

Yes - for those of you not living on Planet Earth - that's the latest hit from the "Friday, Friday" girl. Rather than fight it, I decided to embrace it - and you have to hand it to her - whatever you think of the lyrics and the singing, she's got a positive "go get it" energy which is catching.  To give me add some interest to my statistics lessons, I've been collecting Rebecca Black statistical data by hand from YouTube - visiting the site each day recording each day the number of hits, likes and dislikes.  It was getting a little tedious and then I noticed something wonderful - just quietly sitting there in the bottom right corner of the YouTube screen:

YouTube - ready for your statistics lessons!

Click the icon and you get something like this:

Yes - that's right - YouTube has real world data about things your students are interested in - just ready to put into your statistics lessons. Lots of possibilities for rich questions or skills practice. Here are some thoughts on how you could use this:
  • Compare the statistics between two similar songs.
  • Compare the statistics between two successive songs by the same artist.
  • Discuss the reliability of the data.
  • Discuss 'likes' and 'dislikes' : what is this data actually telling you? Consider the percentage of like/dislike comments compared to the number of views? This could lead into a discussion about online participation.
  • How is the gender and age profile different to that of another artist?
  • How does YouTube even know the gender and age profile of visitors? How accurate is it?
  • How does YouTube know what country viewers live in?
  • What quantitative or qualitative questions do you have about the viewers of an artist? How would you answer them?
  • A homework activity: look up your favorite artist - make a PowerPoint or paper poster about your statistical analysis of their YouTube hits. This could be extended as desired.
The secret to coping with Rebecca Black is to enjoy it even more than your students - start singing "Friday Friday" yourself - and take pleasure annoying your faculty colleagues - just don't overdo it.

Warning: There are many many hazards using YouTube live in your classrooms. However YouTube is just too valuable not to use it - so you need to be aware of those hazards and ways to work around them. I'll be discussing strategies I've learned in my classroom in a later post.

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