Be Data? . . . . . . . .Or . . . . . Do Data?

The “Middle School” years are a time of choices. The K-5 years are cut and dried. They are the years when kids equip themselves to learn. They acquire the ability to read and write and, hopefully, the ability to program their computers, but without clear insight into how those learning skills will ultimately be used. “High school” can be equally channeled. These are the years when students dig into their learning path of choice. If they follow the old STEM path, for example, they become expert in what it means to be dead via their chemistry, physics, and calculus classes. Other paths teach them what it means to be alive.

It is in the middle years that students start leaning one way or another. These are the Destiny Years, when their habits of thought start to jell. One such fork in the road looms over all the others. Will a middle schooler become a young data scientist and start to process Big Data on their own. Or will they just let themselves be data for someone else to exploit?

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It is an urgent question becuase the plague of "gamification" is spreading into the middle school years, starting kids on the road of passively being data rather than actively using data. If that is the path your school is laying out for you, there are alternatives. Data Stories: Data Science For the Middle School Years is your gentle introduction. Wolfram|Alpha takes it from there, providing a wealth of additional curated data appropriate for youngsters.

Middling School Choices

School systems and graduate schools of education love games because of the way they secretly record every mouse click of every student and then ship all that personal information off to Big Data algorithms that develop behavioral profiles of every one of them. In the words of one graduate school professor, games provide:

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embedded or stealth assessments which are assessments that are … integrated seamlessly into a game or activity

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These games do not even try to prepare students for the world they are actually growing up into.

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Games are about giving people an opportunity to step away from all their daily concerns and worries and cares … So just have some fun … If it isn’t fun, nothing else matters … when students smell content, they sometimes become deeply disengaged.

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Data Stories and Wolfram|Alpha are solidly grounded in the world we actually live in.

Our Three Areas Of Special Interest For the 2017-2018 School Year

Depending on the way they are leaning coming out of their middle school years, kids will habitually experience their world in different ways. If they know how to do data, for example, they can use it to zero in on the ecology of the landscape right around them, which they can actually influence. They can learn to act local, not just think global. If they are skilled with apps, they can see politics playing out in a network, not on a chessboard. And they can balance the message about truth that they get from the mathematics teacher ("It works because it's true.") with the reality of life (“It’s true because it works.”)

 Self Schooling is focusing on these three forks in the middle years’ road during the 2017-2018 school year. You can follow our progress at the BEADed Eye blog.

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Looking Ahead To the World Within Us

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The World Within Us is Only Available To Big Data Habits Of Thought

Proteins and DNA are the stuff of life and yet, as recently as the 1950s, nobody even knew what they looked like, because they are tiny and huge at the same time. Only our computers can cope with their molecular vastness and only our high-resolution computer monitors can overcome their atomic-level tininess.

To old-school habits of thought these molecules of life make no sense. Our grandparents were trained to "reduce everything to the lowest terms" where gradual change is impossible. Life is not so silly. The molecules of life are huge so they can evolve. A slight change in a big protein does not necessarily break it. Once in a while, as we now know, it makes it better. In life, unlike algebra class, terse is worse. Data Stories: Data Science For the Middle School Years concludes with the look ahead to the role of Big Data in the life sciences mentioned above.