Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Art of the Report

I always really enjoyed stories but a confession - and I hope Mrs. Karnes is not reading thi s- I rarely read an entire book.   Generally, the beginning was interesting and so was the end but everything else was just filler.  Most  of the time after I got to know the characters a bit – I would just make up my own story.   (That's why now I stick with non-fiction)

The challenge with reading for school was the book report….due at the end of the designated reading time.  As I have started working with my kids on their book reports the reason behind the reports is becoming clear.  It’s less about the “report” of the book and more about the function of the activity.
A book report had several purposes but mainly it helps a child move from basic reading skills to true understand of the authors intent.   It teaches you to look into the materials you are reading and disect important information.  You don’t start out in 1st grade being able to read a book and describe the message.   You must first start with pulling the phonograms (sounds) into words – the words into sentences – the sentences into paragraphs – the paragraphs into stories – the stories to interpreting the materials to find its meaning. 

This is the way I look at data – right now it’s pretty dispirit – it’s a lot like phonograms.  If you don’t know about phonograms – they are a single or small group of letters that makes a sound.  My favorite is “er” as in her.   As in that example, however, “er” is part of several words – such as deter – same ending phonic but when coupled together with “de” instead of “h” it’s a different word.  Data is kind of like that too – depending on how we look at it – what pieces we add together the different pieces of data can give us different words.  The phonic does not change but the word does.  Once we build those words we can begin to link them together into sentences and so on. 
All the pieces of information could be pulled together to tell an overlying story but today – in health IT  - as we look at data most are just trying to make the phonograms say a word.    Once we are able to get the words we will be able to pick out simple attributes such as  characters names, locations, time period, etc   Once we are able to move past those simple attributes - We can progress to inferred things such as attitudes.   For example, she cried when she found out her beloved dog died.  Nowhere in the sentence does it say she was sad but you can figure it out based on what you know about crying and what you know about the death of a beloved pet.  As you progress to high school you are asked to identify big picture items such as theme.  We apply knowledge filters every day to assumptions – what do we already know to be true and how does that influence what we are looking at to get to the next level.  We reference other materials - we talk to teachers who know.

Eventually, we will be able to take the attributes and the inferred understanding of situations then apply it into a bigger picture understanding of the story – what is the theme – what is the message – what is it saying about society in general.
So what?  My small group leader at church says that at the end of each Bible Study – meaning so what does this mean to me – how do I apply this towards real life today.

The data in the medical devices, the medical records, and other technologies are independent data sets – the parts and pieces within them are the phonograms which need to be pulled together into words and will tell us a story about the patient.  As we begin to compile that data – review it across a population – it will tell us more.  Think about research papers you wrote in college – did you reference only one book? The challlenge before us is the sheer quantity of data that will need to be analyzed to get to the final answers.  Note: Not impossible.....just a challenge. :-)

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Kourtney Govro