Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Article excerpt

November 2014, Notes From the Field Editor


Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Our world is awash in a sea of data. We encounter more data on a daily basis than ever before, conveying information about weather, health, politics, finance, and science. Data arrives via sensors, social media, digital photos, weather stations, patient measurements, and many other sources. The data revolution has led to an emerging occupation of "data scientist," which Harvard Business Review calls "the sexiest job of the 21st century" (Davenport and Patil 2012). (Also see this month's Career column on p. 74.)

As our ability to store and share data increases exponentially, our students must develop the skills and habits of mind necessary to analyze and interpret information. Global climate change is a case in point. As authors Caroline Dash and Barbara Hug point out on p. 51, climate science provides a wonderful opportunity for students to visualize and interpret complex data sets. Understanding climate change requires comprehending patterns over time and recognizing the importance of long- and short-term data--the differences among a 420,000-year ice core record, a 50-year data set of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, and the past month's weather. Analyzing data like these requires advanced critical-thinking skills.

Real-world data can be messy. Roy Gould and his coauthors demonstrate how a nuanced analysis of untidy data can help students understand the true nature of science, as they search for planets outside our solar system using remote telescopes and computer-based visualization tools (p. …

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