Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Data is the new oil - Someone forgot to tell the teachers" via @SiliconRepublic and @MrJohnFKennedy #Analytics #HDSDA #75

There's an interesting article published last week by John Kennedy in Silicon Republic entitled "Time to educate teachers about data science". Kennedy pulls no punches in stating that our new young teachers are undervalued, and points the finger both unions and Government for this valuation (or lack of it).

Image source:
Clip Art Kid.
I agree with much of what Kennedy states - there is a need for greater value placed on young teachers to keep them in the profession and to inspire their students to do well in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects. He is correct in the "data is the new oil", though often there is an over expectation that data will yield treasure troves of information and solutions to problems. Every modern business is a digital business, and teachers will need to play their part in preparing students for this.

Of course, in our public systems, the front-of-line teachers do not decide policy or the curriculums taught in our schools (they do contribute, but in the main are not the decision makers). It is therefore up to the Department of Education and teacher advisory bodies to form teaching for the 21st century. And in turn to prepare (and value) our teachers to drive digital learning in the digital economy. 

But... just how far do we go? 

I am in favour of education as a general preparation for life. We do not teach (yet) programming in schools, yet this is a skill much in demand and many school leavers will end up in the IT sector. We don't teach driving in school, yet many school leavers will end up as taxi, bus, truck, and van drivers. We don't teach nursing or caring for the sick in our schools, yet many school leavers will end up in the healthcare profession. We don't teach crime prevention in our schools - yet many school leavers will end up in the Guards. My point is that we can't provide a school system that focuses on specific areas, but what we can focus on is in enabling students with the skills to adapt to a wide variety of opportunities. I agree with John Kennedy that "tech skills and data science skills in particular will always be in demand" - so we need to build this into our curricula for existing subjects before we start to think about introducing new subjects. Data science skills have still to be developed, but tech skills I believe are very good amongst our your people. Schools all over the country are using technology in innovative ways like putting up videos on YouTube of their activities - all with the help of teachers. Here's a brilliant example of what students in Bush Post Primary School (on the Cooley Peninsula near Dundalk) are doing mixing fund-raising, traditional music, and technology - our future is in safe hands:

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