Another exciting development in data science coming from our department at UCLA is a high school class called Introduction to Data Science (IDS). This project has been made possible by a National Science Foundation grant to support Mobilize, for which Rob Gould (mentioned in my previous post on DataFest) is the Principal Investigator.
The year-long IDS course is piloting in 10 LAUSD high schools this academic year. For the pilot year, we’ve recruited 10 brave classroom teachers who were willing to learn a lot of new material and pedagogy. Most of the teachers have taught statistics before (either “regular” statistics or Advanced Placement) however they are not experienced with data science.
IDS is a computation-heavy course, as a major component of the course are completed using hands-on labs using R within RStudio. The team has written an R package to simplify some of the R syntax issues that trip up beginners, and instead of teaching traditional statistical tests and formulas the course is focused on randomization as a basis for making inference, both formal and informal.
Another exciting component of the course is that it incorporates participatory sensing, an idea developed at UCLA to describe when people become participants in the data collection process using hand-held, ubiquitous sensors to collect data. Typically, when we speak of sensors in this context we actually mean smartphones, since they are embedded with many native sensors such as GPS and accelerometers. The Mobilize technology team has developed a mobile app that makes it easy to deploy surveys to phones, for example, and students get to collect data on themselves and their habits (for example, what they snack on during the day). When they work on their laboratory activities in class, the students’ own data is involved and they are better able to “see themselves” in the data and feel connected to the process.
The course has been approved by the University of California Office of the President (UCOP), the body that determines if a high school class in the state of California can be considered during college admissions. The UCOP has approved the course as a “C” course in the “A-G” requirements, which means that it will count toward the three required years of math. This is very exciting, as it means that the course won’t only be seen as an elective, but instead as an integral part of the standard college preparatory curriculum. Great news indeed for the next generation of data scientists!
With projects like IDS the future of data science seems bright! Send us a note with other projects that make you feel inspired and optimistic at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’d love to hear about them!