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Helping Students Get a Handle on Data

A day never goes by that I don't hear some mention of data (big or otherwise) that has create problems or is being used to solve a myriad of problems. "If only we had more data on Flight 370" or "The government has too much data on our citizens".

So in a world that simultaneously experiences too much and not enough data, how do teachers help their students understand what all the hub-bub is about and to feel in control of data rather than victimized by it?

The topic of data is not one that we, as CS educators, can ignore. Data Science is a part of Exploring Computer Science (ECS) curriculum and in the upcoming AP CS Principles course. It's popping up in many other curricular areas and you might be called on to help colleagues incorporate it into their areas as well. The challenge is that that many of us need nearly as much help in learning about data as our students do!

While the topic of data is not exactly new to CS curricula, the availability, abundance, and the importance of data, not to mention the tools for powerful analytics and visualizations, are certainly beyond anything most CS classrooms and K-12 teachers have typically been equipped to handle. The list of data topics and skills that our students will need to be effective citizens is long.

But there is good news! CSTA is going to be part of the solution in providing resources and opportunities to members. Take a look at the agenda for the 2014 CSTA Annual Conference in July. There are several sessions on data. In addition, a set of professional development kits will be coming online soon. While the kit resources were specifically created to enhance ECS, the lessons, teaching tools, and ideas for student activities will enhance any classroom. The kits will be perfect for Chapters to offer two to six hour workshops. My guess is that it won't only be CS teachers knocking at the door!

Watch for news about these new PD resources in the next month. We'll let you know when they are ready.

Pat Philips
Editor, CSTA Voice

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