When Gemma Coleman, editor of Raspberry Pi’s “Hello World” magazine, went searching for contributors to talk about data, there was one name that continuously got recommended: Kate Farrell
Kate Farrell is the head of the project “Data Education in Schools”, a committee based in Scotland whose primary goal is to teach students about the significance of data in our rapidly accelerating technological world. Her team is developing materials and approaches to shift the curriculum so that data education is given proper consideration.
The initiative began in 2019 with the committee analyzing what could be done to incorporate data literacy into different subjects currently taught in Scotland schools. The main challenge was to create a broad, all-encompassing, positive approach to data education so it wouldn’t be dismissed as simply boring numbers and symbols.
Interestingly, Farrell’s take on data science is not the common conception most people have when they hear the word “data”. She wants students to recognize all the ways data is and can be used in their daily lives going beyond just science and math to the arts, social studies, geography, fitness, and many other fields of interest.
For example, the Data Education project ran an imagined data-themed seminar for children to simulate how data works and influences their lives. The students were given a toy cellphone and “apps” in the form of stickers that they could install by sharing data such as their favorite color or sports team. Then it was announced that this information could be sold to marketing companies or other businesses. The exercise got the students to reflect on the data that they were giving up in just a few clicks.
This workshop also included other different scenarios of how the shared data could be used not just for businesses but for the betterment of society. This thought experiment showed both the danger and the benefit that data sharing might bring. Hopefully it will get the students to think twice and weigh the pros and cons before sharing personal information.
One useful framework developed by Farrell and the Data Education in Schools team goes by the acronym PPDAC: Problem, Plan, Data, Analysis, and Conclusion. It involves a structured approach to data problem solving and statistics in order to solve problems that arise in daily life. With this method, students will be more aware and able to take more control of their data as they venture into the world.
Accompanying this framework, the exam board of Scotland created a National Progression Award in Data Science which is believed to be the first data science school qualification in the world. The award is an introductory qualification in data science for high school and college students as well as those just entering the workforce.
For intrepid advocates like Kate Farrell, the democratization of data science literacy is crucial for the world’s success. As she told “Hello World” magazine,
“Being able to interpret and analyze data is hugely important. We need learners to be able to look at the news, and their social media stream, and question what they’re looking at, or ask: where is the evidence? This is so important, whether or not they go on to become a data scientist… although we’d love it if they did!”
And don’t forget you can always learn more about significant initiatives from Raspberry Pi and Arduino here on our Vilros blog!
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