What has Big Data ever done for me?
The term Big Data is used quite frequently today and it seems that it is an important facet of our daily lives. Is it something that we should be worried about or should we be looking at what it is and work out how to incorporate it in our teaching?
What is Big Data?
Big data is a term for data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing application software is inadequate to deal with them. We produce 2.5 exabytes of data every day which is the equivalent of 90 years worth of High Definition Videos. The idea of Big Data is not just the amount but the variety of devices which are abe to store the or collect the Data. Being able to analyse data from a variety of sources and being able to draw conclusions from the data is really what the idea behind Big Data is all about. Big Data is information gathered from anywhere be it number of Tweets in a day to the indexing the DNA.
In my view we should be actively teaching data analysis or data handling. We need to make sure that our young people are able to understand the information they are given on a daily basis from a variety of sources. From the moment they wake up they are making sense of their world. The clock or the mobile tells them what time it is. The weather app provides information so that they can make decisions about what to wear. The television or a buzz feed app lets them know what is going on their world depending on what information their mobiles have about their likes and dislikes based on the information they share with the various apps that they interact with. Having the ability to understand and process this information is a key part of growing up in a digital world so why wouldn’t we teach how to collect and understand the data that is out there.We need to teach data handling so that we have a source of expertise for the future. The decision makers of tomorrow will be very much dependent on the data collected, especially in real time, which could effect the way they do their jobs. We need people who can analyse and report back.
The skills needed can be taught in a cross curricular fashion which takes account of Computing, Science, Mathematics, History and Geography. As an example we can gather data collected about earthquakes from the USGS or BGS. We can use this data to simulate an earthquake and allow the young people to make decisions based on the data that they have, this will involve Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Once the young people have made decisions based on their interrogation of the data they can put together a presentation for an assembly to the rest of the school. This would allow writing and presentation skills to be worked on and celebrated.
The presentation could involve the use of data visualisations which allow information to be shared in an image format aiding understanding.
A person in a local authority responsible for highways needs to have information about weather conditions and traffic data both in real time and historically so that they can plan for adverse weather conditions. Having the ability to interrogate data in a variety of locations and bring it together for a particular purpose is a skill we need to ensure our young people acquire. Analysing Big Data has its own problems. The very fact that there is more data to analyse means that there will be a bigger error rate and it is really important that we have people who are able to decipher the information and record accurately what is happening.In our example regarding the local authority highways person if the data is analysed incorrectly it may result in too much salt being purchased or too many wagons being deployed on the roads when there is no real weather threat.It is worthwhile looking at the data provided by Traffic England as this site provides real time updates of traffic around the UK and is an excellent resource for interrogation.
As we are all governed by data collected by us or on our behalf. Recent revelations around data collection of personal data by social media companies has come as real surprise to many people and we should be teaching our young people about the way personal data is used and how we can protect them in a digital world. I think it is only right to make sure that our young people are able to make sense of the data around them and interrogate it confidently and make the correct value judgements.