Summarizing My Summer: CRF 2021 Results and Reflections

Footage from the fourth episode of the Data Diaries, talking about effective presentations with data!

Over the course of this summer, I am happy to report that my research led to some very interesting conclusions about video resources and the video resource creation process. By the end date of the Community Research Fellowship, I had published four videos to the private YouTube channel I was using to collect feedback. In addition, two other videos were filmed and close to release, including a trailer that contains some of the best compiled footage from the summer and that can be used by Pittsburgh DataWorks when summarizing their mission to new schools interested in the Data Jam. On this private channel, accessible only with a link and which was only sent out to certain groups for initial feedback, the videos collected 71 total views (about 18 views per video). Each video averaged seven comments, and in total 28 comments were collected for the series. Furthermore, these comments were more extensive than a simple “good job!” or “try harder,” as the average comment was 87 words long (about one paragraph).

As a statistics major, Data Jam mentor, and current partner with Pittsburgh DataWorks, I know the importance of having good data to draw conclusions. The comments I received were by the far the most valuable data collected throughout the summer, and each piece of feedback was critical to improving the quality of the videos. Although one of the major challenges faced this summer was contacting high school students in the summer, through the incredible assistance (and persistence) of my faculty mentor Dr. Judy Cameron, all the teachers working with Pittsburgh DataWorks this summer left their feedback on each video.

The first overall impression from the comments was that the videos were meeting a need within the community. Many teachers responded that they were very glad these videos were being made, and indicated that they would use them in the classroom. As one teacher commented: “I really could have used this video last year when we entered a Data Jam team for the first time. I’m very much looking forward to sharing it this year with our new team.” Another teacher said: “I really like this video! This is always a difficult concept for my high school statistics students, and I look forward to another resource to help them understand why correlation is not causation. I think it is a good length and will keep their interest!”  Comments like these were extremely positive to hear, as the whole purpose of the project was for the videos to ultimately get used.

The next largest takeaway was about the length of the videos. Going into the project I believed that any time within 5-10 minutes was ideal. However, testing out my own videos, I found that even within this range certain lengths were better than others. Videos closer to five minutes tested better with the audience and most videos seven minutes or longer were frequently recommended to be split into two different videos. Especially for high school students, it is clear that shorter is better, and under seven minutes is preferable to over seven minutes for videos. Further comments reinforcing this idea of keeping audience attention recommended things like adding in images at certain times, starting each episode with a fun joke or story, or having something moving on the screen to keep the audience’s attention.

Another helpful conclusion from the comments was the importance of repeating information in each video. While interviewing people in my videos, I would oftentimes have text pop up at the bottom of the screen summarizing what was being said. Many viewers commented that they really benefited from this, and I realized that briefly summarizing the information at the end of each video was also really helpful to the audience. In a fast-moving medium, it is hard to balance keeping attention while giving quality information. This feedback process has shown that short but repetitive bursts of information are very effective at doing this.

Finally, other data collected from this summer came in the form of hard-earned experience creating and editing videos. By the end of the summer the average production process was trimmed from approximately one week to three days (not including filming). I learned the fundamentals of Premiere Pro and basics of editing that suited my video style, which I look forward to sharing with any other educators who seek to make their own video resources.

When reflecting on everything that has transpired this summer, one question I often think about is how to measure the success of a community research project. Is it the quantity of deliverables produced? The number of connections made? The quality of writing produced for the research cohort? When initially considering this question, I thought back to one of the first lessons we learned while studying community research to start off the summer. In the Honors College research cohort (led by Dr. Everett Herman and Stacie Dow), it was continuously emphasized that community research is about collaboration and mutually beneficial partnerships, and not just imposing your own ideas upon a community partner. Along these same lines, the longevity of a project is critical to its success, as it is very difficult to form a strong relationship with a community partner by working for one summer and moving on immediately afterward. As a result of these lessons, I think a strong indication of the success of a project is whether your community partner found your work to be valuable, and if they want to continue the partnership.

Facing obstacles this summer including meetings conducted entirely over Zoom, difficulty contacting students for feedback, and the lingering specter of a pandemic lurking in the background, I feel very proud of all that I have been able to accomplish with Pittsburgh DataWorks. From my videos, Tony’s Data Jam manual, Lucas’ reinvention of the Pittsburgh DataWorks website, and Dr. Cameron and the Pittsburgh DataWorks team’s efforts to develop a modular Data Jam curriculum, it was a great summer for Pittsburgh DataWorks. Furthermore, I am excited to say that I will be continuing to work with Pittsburgh DataWorks in the upcoming school year, to expand upon the work completed this summer and continue creating video resources. The school year will also provide valuable feedback from the Data Jam teams themselves, who are the target audience of each video and who will be much easier to contact while participating in the Data Jam. Other ideas for further research will be to make Tony’s project about pandemic data into a video resource, as we are expecting this to be a very popular research question for the Data Jam. Additionally, many teachers left comments about other topics they thought should be explored, including more videos about choosing a research question and explaining correlation, which can be produced with more time this upcoming year to further serve the communities.

In addition to collaborating with the team at Pittsburgh DataWorks, this summer working in the Pitt Honors College research cohort was an incredibly productive and inspiring experience. In my opinion, there is very little that can compare with a motivated community of learners and doers coming together to create change. In a turbulent summer of extreme weather, virus variants, and uncertainty for the future, it was reaffirming to see all the good being done in the world.  I felt very supported within the research cohort, and extremely grateful to have my peers volunteering to help film videos and give feedback. I am also incredibly grateful to Dr. Everett Herman and Stacie Dow for guiding me through my first experience with community research and providing a model for responsible and effective research.

Finally, I just wanted to thank everyone who gave up valuable time in their summers to help with this project. Whether they were appearing in videos, leaving comments of encouragement, or following along with my blog posts, every bit of support was incredibly helpful and affirming to this experience. A special thank you goes to my community partner Brian Macdonald, for giving me the chance to work with Pittsburgh DataWorks and participate in this research, and for guiding my project every step of the way. To my faculty mentor, Dr. Cameron, thank you for reading and commenting on every blog post and paper, responding to every email without delay, helping me practice my public speaking and get comfortable talking on camera, and for carving so much time out of your incredibly busy schedule to support an undergraduate research project. 

At a time when a lost generation of learners are suffering the impacts of COVID-19, the power of media has never been more important to create inclusive resources that will keep people’s attention. With the forces of Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram emphasizing the need for fast paced content, a new era of learning is underway to support the next generation of learners. The Data Jam Journey is an attempt to enter into this new landscape of learning, and educate all who want to learn about big data and statistics, two things which have never held more importance in society. This summer has been such an incredible learning experience, and I cannot wait to continue building off it in the future. Although the summer is coming to an end, with four videos in the books, several rounds of feedback already recorded, and the foundation laid for future collaboration, in many ways the Data Jam Journey is just beginning.  

One Comment Add yours

  1. sydneymkelley says:

    So glad to hear of all of your success with the Data Jam work this summer, Jackson! Congratulations, and I am so excited to hear about the future of this project!

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