Discovering Statistical Concepts through Technology

Richard L. Scheaffer

Department of Statistics
University of Florida
Po Box 118545
Gainesville, FL 32611


Grant Number: DUE: 9351035 (6/15/93, 5/31/95)
Grant Number: DUE: 9650581 (8/01/96, 7/31/98)

Technology has at least two important roles to play in the teaching of statistics. As a computational tool, its role has been clearly demonstrated and magnified for a number of years, making in-depth analyses of real data sets accessible in even the introductory courses. As an enhancement to the teaching of statistical concepts, its role is still being determined and there remain many unresolved questions surrounding the statistical content and pedagogical issues that arise when one considers teaching statistics with a computer laboratory.

With the help of two ILI grants, the University of Florida has constructed a computer lab for the teaching of one if its large introductory statistics courses. The goal was, and is, to provide concept-development software as well as data analysis software for the students. The latter is relatively easy to find and introduce into the course, as a many fine products are commercially available. The former is more difficult, as such products are only now beginning to appear. The University of Florida decided to team with Valencia Community College in Orlando to develop its own concept- development software and to make use of this software from the start in developing the type of laboratory experience that would be most beneficial to students. Called ExplorStat, this software helps students learn basic concepts such as variation, randomness, sampling distributions, confidence and significance. It can be used effectively in classroom demonstrations as well as in laboratory settings. In limiting testing, results from laboratory and classroom use have been favorable, but open questions remain in this relatively new area of investigation.

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