When students hear the word data, they may envision measurements that scientists collect, or perhaps it has something to do with the social media platforms they love. Many students struggle to understand where data comes from and how it can help us make decisions and better understand our world!

They may not make a connection with computer science either. Just as data literacy and data science are critical to students’ lives and in their decision-making, data is essential to building modern applications and is a critical component of computer science.

It stands to reason then – just as computer science caught the attention of many organizations and educational institutions – that data science and at a more foundational level, data literacy, are doing the same.

International Literacy Day and data literacy 

Data literacy is one focus of SAS’s educational outreach program, and we wove it into our International Literacy Day initiative this year. SAS has long celebrated International Literacy Day (ILD) as part of our commitment to education. But in today’s world, literacy goes beyond books as students are immersed in data every day and everywhere.  

This year’s ILD outreach initiative was a month-long event to promote data literacy using SAS DataFly– a free, interactive, real-time data visualization tool for the classroom. The goal was to help students learn to read and analyze data they produce and consume.

screenshots of visualizations from the app, SAS DataFly
Screenshots and visualizations from SAS DataFly.

SAS volunteers were paired with teachers/classrooms and talked to students about the importance of data, how it is collected and how that makes a difference in what we can learn from it. They also shared key strategies for collecting high-quality data, by introducing concepts such as sampling bias, the law of large numbers, geographical bias and the importance of a representative sample. 

The culminating event allowed students to see their class data amongst the broader sample of classes throughout the US that participated in the activities. Decisions made at a class level suddenly look different when viewed through a countrywide or global lens. Jessica Pucci, Associate Dean of the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, explored the importance of evaluating samples and credibility when hearing about data in the media.

Are you interested in conducting a data literacy activity with your class?    

SAS DataFly was built for educatorsThis instructional tool is accessible on any device and can be used in person or virtually. You can use this lesson plan to bring engagement and interest to students learning about data.

Image of the lesson plan
Data literacy lesson plan, which can be found here.

This lesson allows students to identify, interpret and communicatabout data– important foundational skills for understanding our data-rich worldStudents use data to make decisions and better approach problem solving, similar to how modern computer applications use data at the heart of their operationsAs data and technology are influencing every job and discipline, it is important for students to build these skills in context making this lesson appropriate for STEM and humanities classes alike.  You can also use this lesson during #HourofCode as part of #CSEdWeek and encourage students to make discoveries about the world around them.

SAS DataFly being used in the classroom

Whether you are an English language arts teacher or a math teacher, data plays an important part in your classroom. We are excited to see educators threading data literacy into all disciplines and look forward to seeing how data will change students’ perspectives. 

Still curious? Check out this free training course which helps give a clear understanding of data literacy and track your progress and goals!


About Author

Lee Ellen Harmer

Outreach and Collaborations Manager

Lee Ellen Harmer is a member of the Social Innovation Division at SAS, a team committed to finding innovative ways to apply SAS® technology to the world's most pressing needs. While focused heavily on global sustainability issues, the Social Innovation team also works to support the next generation of innovators, introducing young learners to data, how it can be used to better understand global issues, and how to turn those insights into action in their own communities. Lee Ellen's role encompasses marketing, communications, and partnerships to help promote the adoption of data literacy, coding, and AI for K12. SAS believes in promoting learning for all, with the goal of building a global community of innovators. Lee Ellen has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business with a marketing concentration from Wake Forest University (Winston Salem, NC).

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