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Educators must start students on their data journey

Kathryn De Freitas 
Head of ICT/Business, Hadlow Rural Community School


Discover how one school has evolved its curriculum to improve their students’ data literacy.

Discover how one school has evolved its curriculum to improve their students’ data literacy.

The students we interact with on a daily basis are immersed in a world that is crammed with information at every level. They have news at their fingertips, advertising on every bend of the road, websites bursting with facts and fiction, and sound bellowing from the radio, YouTube or television. Their choice of entertainment seems limitless. Our students are faced with the world in its entirety, every waking moment of every day.

What do they do with this bombardment of information? Do they know how to filter the information they are receiving, or process it in a way that is useful not only to themselves but to those who they interact with near and far? 

Education for the millennial generation challenges our traditional approaches to teaching; forcing us to engage them in their learning in a more diverse way. This generation has many characteristics unique to the digital age, and the ability to deal with and use data in a way that is useful, conscious and planned has ever increasing importance for their future.

Every career and industry sector requires people who are capable of collecting, managing, evaluating and using data in some form or manner. Our responsibility as educators is ensuring that we are providing the opportunities for our students to gain these transferrable skills to their chosen path for the future.

So, what is data literacy? Graham Cooper, Head of Education at Capita states that “Data analytics is not just about driving efficiency. It is also the power to improve outcomes and ensure every student achieves their potential.”

This raises the question: How do we ensure our students are data literate?

‘Data literacy’ is defined as the ability to collect, manage, evaluate and use data in a critical manner. At Hadlow Rural Community School, our focus for educating young people for the future lies within teaching them the tools and the skills they will need in their chosen career for collecting, managing, evaluating and using data in order to plan, progress and succeed. This is evident across all the subjects on offer from History and Artto Mathematics and IT, as well as the Land-based subjects. It is a daily journey along this road of transformation to data literate people.  

In the IT curriculum, we start our focus from KS3 (pupils aged 11-14), to embed skills in programs such as the MS Suite, ensuring students know what data is and how to use it for a particular purpose, for example the cross-curricular skill of data visualization when creating graphs and charts. Specific topics such as flowcharts, databases and presentation of information, are covered to enhance skills of communication and recognising when data is being misrepresented or misleading. 

In KS4 (pupils aged 14-16), we deepen the skills from collecting and interpreting information to managing it and evaluating it through topics such as project management and engaging in activities around building solutions for outlined scenarios to simulate real work situations. These focused areas are carried across into other subjects such as Business Studies where students engage in entrepreneurial activities and use the data they are surrounded by, such as how many sales have been made to plan for their next trade fair. 

Enabling students to know what data they are collecting, why they are using it and how it will impact the final result is a lifelong skill that is transferable to any career. 

Delivering a type of curriculum that prepares students to be literate in multiple areas is not an easy road to travel. It takes invested time and a commitment to reenvisage the learning journey, to step out of our comfort zone in how teaching is delivered, while also enjoying the journey so it is as fun as reaching the destination. This is what makes the journey worth it.