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Sunday, 23 May 2021 21:32

SAS launches free data literacy course to all for essential life skills


Data overload hits us every day - some data true, some false, some useful, some not. It's a data world and there's no going back. SAS has announced free data literacy e-learning and K-12 resources to help everyone navigate a world of data and questionable information, no matter their background.

The announcement was made at last week's annual SAS Global Forum, aiming to provide all people with the ability to consume, interpret and understand data.

SAS understands the power of data to help us understand our world, to do good and to solve problems,” said SAS chief executive officer Dr Jim Goodnight. “In our connected and data-rich society, the ability to apply and use data in everyday life is essential for everyone, not just data scientists and mathematicians.”

Data is all around us in conventional forms - information we seek out and research or work with - as well as new, evolving and even overloading forms - like social media content, smartwatches and home health monitors. There’s no doubt data is fundamental to life today and our problem is less on finding data but more on understanding how to leverage it to make decisions.

Another important aspect is recognising the difference between quality data and that which is not so reliable. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the problem of misinformation with people of all backgrounds flooded with information - some true, some false, some biased, some misleading.

The new SAS data literacy course, Data Literacy Essentials, introduces data basics as well as what it means to be data literate. The course will be released in six modules, with the first two available now. The course teaches strategies for seeing the value in data, analysing it to find meaning, making data-driven decisions and communicating information.

The course does not mandate any pre-existing qualifications in data analytics or data science. It follows the journeys of three regular folk - a concerned parent, a small business owner, and a public health expert - as they use data to navigate and solve problems.

The course also focuses on the ethical challenges of working with data, ensuring responsible use, recognising and avoiding bias, and moral judgments.

The course will help people gain the skills and capabilities to differentiate information presented that is trustworthy and that which is not.

The announcement also provides data literacy resources for schools ranging from Kindergarten through year 12, providing the data native youth of today and tomorrow with important tools and course materials.

These include:

  1. DataFly - coming later this year - a free tool for K-12 teachers and students offering a simple, fast and engaging way to collect and explore data in real-time
  2. CodeSnaps, a collaborative coding environment requiring only one iPad and one robot. Students solve problems while building a program using printed coding blocks, then run the program using a connected device like Sphero, SPRK, SPRK+ or Ollie.
  3. Data Drives, helping students reconsider how their school engages with the community, providing critical thinking skills around factors that influence outcomes.
  4. GatherIQ, a free app and website teaching students about the United Nations' 17 sustainable development goals, and inspiring the next generation of leaders to take action in making the world a better place.
  5. A partnership with the News Literacy Project, helping people become critical consumers of data in the media.

The resources are available globally.

"SAS has invested over one billion dollars in artificial intelligence and education,” said Gavin Day, SAS’ senior vice president of technology. The products and courses here are a component of this investment. “The resources let kids solve problems and prepare them with data and analytical thinking.”

At no cost, and with no required knowledge, taking on the SAS Data Literacy Essentials course is a no-brainer - that's one piece of information you can act on right now. 

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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