TrendFinder: Educational Trends from the Past Decade (guest post)

Pranav Badami
Jun 5, 2018 · 8 min read
Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash

What is TrendFinder?

TrendFinder is a tool that can alert DonorChoose.org about trending words in their underlying data; it also includes several demographic and geographic analyses to break trends down and ask deeper questions. Here are some questions (and answers) TrendFinder can explore:

  • Is the “insect” trend correlated with a recent spike in Google searches for the word “insect”?
  • Where is “insect” trending? In what cities or geographical regions? How has the “insect” spread geographically over time?
  • Is the “insect” trend seasonal?
  • Have multiple subjects been driving the “insect” trend over time, or just one (e.g. science)?

The “Big 3” Trends in Education

The three biggest, unmistakable trends we discovered using TrendFinder on the DonorsChoose.org data (2008–2018) were the rise of iPads, Chromebooks and … wobble chairs. What is a wobble chair, you ask? Read on to find out, as we unpack these trends with TrendFinder.

iPad: The Granddaddy of them All

Without question, iPads were the most prominent trend we found over the last ten years of DonorsChoose.org data. As of 2018, iPad projects represent over 10% of all DonorsChoose.org projects since 2008. While this in itself may not come as a surprise (who hasn’t seen kids begging for their parents’ Apple devices?), we can use TrendFinder’s features to examine how the iPad’s presence grew in classrooms over time.

A trend proportion of 0.2 means 20% of projects contained “ipad” at that particular time.

Chromebooks: An Affordable Classroom Computer

Chromebooks are no-frills laptops that run Google’s ChromeOS. Chromebooks are sold at a lower price point than Macs or PCs , which means that teachers can get more Chromebooks for their classrooms than premium laptops with the same funding. The first wave of Chromebooks, released starting June 2011, didn’t gain very significant traction on the platform. However, around November of 2012, we see a massive spike in the proportion of Chromebooks being requested:

Left: Trend proportion graph for “chromebook”, Right: Screenshot of “Chromebooks for Classrooms!” campaign
Source: Wikipedia

Wobble Chairs: Flexible Seating for Kids

TrendFinder picked up a variety of high-proportion trends that we didn’t expect: words such as “wiggle”, “wobble”, and “flex”:

Seasonal Trends: Falling down and Springing back up

iPads, Chromebooks, and flexible seating all exhibited some degree of seasonality, or repeating pattern, on a yearly basis. We can see a really clear example of seasonality when we look at basic resources, such as sheets and markers:

Learn more about Google Trends here

Pop-culture and education

Often, pop cultural phenomena become hot topics of discussion on the internet and also start trending on the DonorsChoose platform. TrendFinder, with its Google Trend analysis feature, is a useful tool for identifying and making sense of keywords pertaining to popular books and movies.

Ratio difference graph over time for “frozen”. Note: high y-value indicates overrepresentation.

Moving Forward

Finding these thought-provoking observations was one of the most rewarding parts of building TrendFinder for the CKM Pro Bono Team. As non-educators, we definitely learned a lot about how trendsetting teachers are adopting innovative products for the classroom.


Making DonorsChoose.org

Insights and stories from the Product & Engineering team at DonorsChoose.org

Thanks to Michael Zhang and Thomas Vo.

Pranav Badami

Written by

Sustainability + Software + Data

Making DonorsChoose.org

Insights and stories from the Product & Engineering team at DonorsChoose.org