Data, Disney, and a Dash of Edmodo

Posted by: Cristina Bustamante, Teacher at Ocala STEAM Academy

May 18th, 2016

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Making true connections between Project Based Learning (PBL) and math is a challenge for me.  As a teacher at a first year STEAM school implementing PBL, I am constantly trying to find ways to integrate my projects in my math classes. There are superficial ways to do this, but as a math teacher, I wanted to find a way to make math the star of the show. So when Ben Paul, a data analyst at Edmodo, contacted me about coming into my class and working with the kids, I was ecstatic! He wanted to share with my students what he does at Edmodo and how important data is to his job.

IMG_3826We discussed different ways to make this relevant for the students and we wanted it to center around a social justice issue because that was what the kids have been working on in their PBL unit for STEAM. One of our overarching questions for the unit was What are the causes and consequences of prejudice and injustice?  An article about female stereotypes in Disney movies had just come out, and we decided this would be the perfect vehicle for the students to learn about data. The article touched on the social justice issue of gender stereotypes and had enough data for the students to play with and use as evidence to support their claims.

We started out by asking the students about female stereotypes and discussed where those stereotypes might come from. The students brought up media and movies, and out of that came Disney. That was when the discussion really heated up. There was a lot of talk about which princesses fell into the stereotype and which didn’t. We then asked the students to respond to this prompt: Do Disney princesses fall into the traditional female stereotype? Use the data to support or refute your claim. The students had much data at their fingertips. They had information on speaking roles by gender, movie writers by gender, sidekicks by gender, number of compliments to a female character based on looks as well as skill and gross revenue for the movies.

The students were able to select any data they thought would help support the claim. We went through how to use google sheets to help them display and sort the data. The students then went to work. With the support of Ben and Kelsey Gross the students were able to answer some challenging questions. They used Ben and Kelsey’s data expertise to  discuss which graph might work better and why, which data they should use, and most importantly: Is this graph showing me the results I want? Is this data actually supporting my statement?


I was blown away at the ease with which the students interacted with Ben and Kelsey. The conversations they were having with professionals in the field were far beyond anything I could have imagined. Ben and Kelsey pushed and challenged the students to look at the data and connect the data with their findings. Here are some of the student’s reactions to having Edmodo in our classroom:

  • “What we liked most about Edmodo coming to our classroom is that we got to experience what people working at Edmodo do as part of their job and how it works. It was intriguing.”
  • “Some things we liked about Edmodo coming to our classroom are that they told us about themselves and their jobs at Edmodo. Also, we liked how they told us how important data is for Edmodo.”

The students felt comfortable enough to open up to them, and they received valuable feedback from them.

As the students presented their findings they were able to respond to each other using the vocabulary of professionals, and they had precise statements and questions regarding the data that was being shown. They were also able to have critical conversations about what worked and what didn’t work. They found that some data didn’t show them exactly what they were looking for, but they could see that the data would be valuable for a different question. Some of the student reactions were:

  • “We learned that gender biases and stereotypes exist everywhere even though we already have human rights and may not notice it.“
  • “We learned several things about data and how it’s related to the world and life. For example, we learned that movies can be stereotypical and this sends a bad message to women and how they should behave and look.”

The level at which my students discussed the data was inspiring. I believe that this was because of a combination of the topic and the support with which Ben and Kelsey helped engage the students in this activity. We decided to move into a STEAM focus for a number of reasons- one of which was to open the eyes of the students to fields of study that they may never have thought of before. It was clear at the conclusion of this lesson that the students had a different idea of data, how it is used, and that it can be fun!

It was truly amazing to have Ben and Kelsey come into the room and get their hands dirty with the students. Their open dialogue with the students really made the kids feel comfortable with them. Ben and Kelsey talked about their journey through school and careers that landed them at Edmodo. The students got to learn about how their interactions with Edmodo in the classroom help Ben and Kelsey do their job. I think more companies should push for their employees to get into classrooms with students. We owe Edmodo and Ben and Kelsey a huge thank you for taking the time to show students from the east side of San Jose that they are important and they have the ability and perseverance to think critically about real world situations.  

28 responses to “Data, Disney, and a Dash of Edmodo”

  1. Cindy Szwec says:

    Wow! I love to see powerful learning experiences in schools that look like ours! All students have the ability to think critically and share their beliefs about the world around them. Thank you so much for sharing this awesome PBL learning experience!

    Principal, Fair Oaks Elementary School

  2. Jim Lowrey says:

    Great idea!

  3. What a superb learning experience. What a pity it was only in RL and not in VR so more students could partake. Thanks for sharing this inspirational story.

    • Ben Paul says:

      Thanks! Email me at ben at edmodo dot com if you’d like to organize a virtual experience 🙂 I’d be happy to.

  4. Marina says:

    Very interesting, great work, and amusing PBL, what age were the students?

  5. This sounds great. What an innovative way to link data analysis with pop culture and social justice.
    We are just starting our PBL journey and looking for great projects.
    Although we can’t hope to get Ben and Kelsey here in Australia, is it possible to get the data set please?

  6. This is wonderful, are you able to share a copy of the student presentation

  7. Delia Cass says:

    I really enjoyed this article. I liked how you can get the expert help from the professionals so the students get on hand answers.

  8. Kathleen says:

    Interesting! But I was looking forward to how the data was visualized. Any examples available?

  9. Margeurite Coutinho says:

    Sounds amazing! It also sounds rather exciting too. You must have had a lot of fun apart from the challenges you had to face. 🙂

  10. berhan says:

    Another creative example of successful student-centered learning as what PBL is. Congrats!

  11. sarwat says:

    Really impressive!

  12. Sarah Drake says:

    I love this idea and feel like I could use it as a cross-curricular unit with my advanced 7th grade language arts students. Would you please advise me on where you obtained the data for the students to analyze?

  13. Melinda Taylo says:

    This sounds like a great project, in so many ways! Where did you get all the data that your students used?

  14. Matt says:

    Thanks for sharing this great lesson. Are there any resources (rubrics, project guidelines, graphic organizers, etc.) that you might be able to share such that a pitch to use this idea among one of my classrooms could already include documentation-ready materials?

    Thanks in advance! And thanks for the inpsiration.

  15. ashley says:

    I am an academic coach and our business academy is always looking for PBLs to weave into their curriculum, especially math. I love the concept behind this lesson. How can I get more info about it to possibly incorporate it into my building?

  16. Lebo Mokoena says:

    Thank you so much, an interesting information. Definitely one will use the info to classroom advise and share with the rest of the colleagues. Regards

  17. What a great idea! I appreciate your supplying the link. I have a data visualization project coming up in my class and will use this as a resource. If you are interested in extending the lesson, consider Piktochart and

  18. Ryan and I do a podcast and web site called MyDisneyClass

    Would love to connect and share how we work with educators and how to bring Disney into the K-12 classroom

  19. Austin Miller says:

    This fascinates me!

    Do you have lesson plan for this typed up that others could see? I would love to delve into more details of the project! 🙂

  20. I agree more companies should be interacting with the students in the classroom!!! What they can learn from these employees could be life changing for our young adults.

  21. Lidia Bravo de Souza says:

    It must have been really awesome to the kids and Edmodo professionals.
    Good example to be followed by many other schools and companies.

  22. TERESITA Q. DIANO says:

    I find this information useful in my teaching profession. Carry on!

  23. Baby Toonz says:

    Sounds really impressive! This would have made a great unit of students and teachers. Congrats!

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