May 4, 2016

Building Global Interest in Data Literacy

WALTHAM, MA | What does it mean to be data literate in the world of big data? What should we be teaching students to prepare them for participating in today’s workforce and society? For answers to these questions, EDC’s Oceans of Data Institute (ODI) convened an expert panel of data analysts and educators for a workshop on data literacy. Their recommendations are now included in a new report, Building Global Interest in Data Literacy: A Dialogue.

The workshop was held by ODI and IBM at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California, in October 2015. The group gathered to engage in a structured dialogue that produced new insights into the nature of data literacy in today’s big data society, envisioning what the data-literate person does and delving into the meaning of analytical thinking and how it might be taught in K–16 classrooms.

The experts on the panel see a growing urgency for the promotion of global data literacy for the following reasons:

  • Our world economy and our jobs are increasingly shaped by data and by the knowledge and skills required to use it effectively.
  • We are all perpetually, and often unknowingly, producing streams of data, which we need to be more aware of and to shape and manage to ensure our privacy and personal security.
  • Effective use of data empowers us to make objective, evidence-based inferences and fundamental decisions affecting our lives, both as individuals and among societies.

“We believe that someone considered data literate is someone who can understand, explain, and find meaning in data,” said EDC’s Randy Kochevar, director of ODI. “We believe every student in school today needs these skills to thrive in a data-centric world.”

To achieve their ambitious goal of bringing data literacy to 100 million students by 2021, the panel stressed the importance of making progress in three areas:

  1. Engaging stakeholders and building a global data literacy community
  2. Developing and disseminating educational resources
  3. Incorporating data literacy into the international standards and assessments that are used to define well-educated students

The group also invited the public to join the call for action on data literacy in education.

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