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.
The ability of a computer to process the data varies and even when the
analysis is carried out on a subset of the data the amount of information can be colossal. So why should we consider including data analysis in our teaching plans? Firstly we need to have a skilled work force which can obtain information from data. Governments, schools and businesses make decisions based on the information which has been provided by data collection. If we do not teach our young people these skills then we will be unable to make sense of our world because we are unable to interpret the data being provided.
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
. 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.
Today I received a link into my inbox to an online newspaper celebrating the fact that children all over the region would be starting their first week back and especially for those who would be starting their first ever week at school. Nothing wrong so far. The article focussed on a family and their young child. it explained the issues for parents and gave some tips for new starters and had comments from the reception teacher. However the article features a photograph of the parents and the young boy in school uniform. The caption displayed their names and the school to which they were sending their son along with a video of the family. There was also a picture of the son and some classmates at school. The captions identifying the school. There was also a series of pictures showing the pupils enjoying learning in the school on the first day. The newspaper then invited other proud parents to post their first day at school photos on the site by filling in a website form
“5.2 The information gathered may be used by XXXX and companies in the same group as XXXX (i.e. companies which share the same ultimate parent company) internally, for purposes relating to your use of the Site and the Interactive Services and for marketing activities, and may be passed to carefully selected third parties to use for marketing activities. By marketing activities, we mean the communication directly to particular individuals (by e-mail, post or telephone) of any advertising or marketing material. If you do not wish to receive marketing material from XXXX, from companies in the same group as XXXXor from carefully selected third parties you should tick the appropriate box on the registration form(s) or notify us by email. If you subsequently decide you no longer wish to receive direct marketing/information from XXXX or companies in the same group as XXXX or no longer wish us to pass your information to third parties you should again notify us by email”.
There was no box that I could see to tick to say do not send marketing material only a box to agree to the terms and conditions.
The site has a gallery where visitors are able to scroll through and see pupils in their uniforms and which schools they go to.
I decided to see how easy it would be to find someone and so I picked a photo at random and did a normal internet search, straight away I found the person (the mother of a new reception child) and then clicked a link to a social media site with her name and found a picture of her son ( the new starter) .
I try not to be paranoid when using the internet as I am a great believer in people using technology. However I question how responsible the Media site is when they can publish this amount of personal data about a child including the name of the school. Don’t get me wrong it is great for the school to show how well they are looking after the pupils and it is great that parents can “show off” their beloved children to the world. However, I thought we as teachers had a duty of care to protect children from danger? The internet is a dangerous place as educational professionals know so why provide anyone in the world with really high level personal information about your child?
I would welcome comments about this posting. Tell me if you think I am being overprotective. Also share your views on this topic.
I have not identified the Media or the school to avoid advertising further information about children.
Department for Education Statutory guidance for schools and colleges:
This is statutory guidance from the Department for Education issued under Section 175 of the Education Act 2002, the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 and the Non-Maintained Special Schools (England) Regulations 2015. Schools and colleges must have regard to it when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. This means that they should comply with it unless exceptional circumstances arise
This applies from September 2016
Download document here
This information has been lifted from the main statutory guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education which staff may also wish to read.
8 page summary
Statutory guidance for schools and colleges
This is statutory guidance from the Department for Education issued under Section 175, Education Act 2002, the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2010 as amended by SI 2012/2962 and the Education (Non-Maintained Special Schools) (England) Regulations 2011. Schools and colleges must have regard to it when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.