Home » Education Technology » Helping young learners be part of tomorrow’s data-driven workforce

James Reid

Head of Services, EDINA

Going forward, people will need better data skills to thrive in their personal and work lives. That’s why data literacy needs to be further up the educational agenda.

Everything we do — from shopping to banking or updating our social media accounts — is data-driven, and we all have digital devices. Making sure that young people gain the requisite data skills is essential, argues James Reid, Head of Services at EDINA, a centre for data and digital expertise at the University of Edinburgh.

Making proper use of data

“On one hand, it’s an exciting time because the pace of technological change is unbridled,” he says. “On the other, data literacy is sometimes perceived as hard to teach or needing very complex knowledge of statistics or coding.”

Good data literacy teaching is therefore vital, says Reid. Indeed, he believes that fun data skills — such as handling data, finding patterns and collecting information — should be taught at the earliest stages of education. However, he concedes that teaching data literacy to older students can be challenging, largely because data is hard to contextualise.

Maps are a great way to engage
children and young adults.

To help address these issues, EDINA has developed a user-friendly, cloud-based platform, Noteable, which allows teachers to create and share coding lessons to help pupils analyse data and draw their own conclusions from it. “Coding is the next big thing,” says Reid.

“Students will have to know how to program and manipulate data if they are to be fit for the new workplace.” Platforms like Noteable are ideal tools to learn not just coding but also good data handling techniques, data etiquette and ethics.

Using maps to bring data to life and engage students

There is another impactful way to contextualise data, notes Reid. You simply put it on a map. “Maps are a great way to engage children and young adults,” he explains.

“Particularly if it’s a map of their local neighbourhood. For example, a map can tell a pupil that the field they cycled past this morning was once the site of a coal mine. What’s more, maps that have been moved into the digital realm can be overlaid with data from different sources which contextualises complex issues and brings a bigger picture to life.”

It’s why EDINA has developed two online map and data delivery services for education and for research: Digimap (which is now 23 years old) and Digimap for schools.

Next article