not an educator, but a believer in critical data

I am not an educator.

The more events and conferences that I attend for work make that clear and evident.  I do enjoy working within the realm of education, I’m a full supporter of knowledge sharing and growth.  But I am not a pedagogical person, I don’t think about the theories and constructs of education and I don’t do course design.  I don’t teach.  I like to facilitate learning and help people understand, but I am not a teacher.

I am a data person, through and through.  This becomes clearer the more I try to branch out to do other things.  A visualist and enthusiast of all things data!

data defn
Source: Google

I am once again leaving an education event feeling out of place, largely because I am a straight, Christian female among those who are…well…not like me.  We have different values and beliefs, and walking out of this morning’s keynote, I feel like I am not part of the “open” movement because my views do not align with those of other participants who are in this movement.

Let’s be clear, this does not mean there is something wrong with me or wrong with the individuals around me.  I believe the world needs to be a diverse place, otherwise it would be very boring and we wouldn’t get anywhere or achieve anything.  Just because I do not “fit” with this crowd does not mean that I don’t “fit” somewhere else.  We try to create inclusive environments, but one when agenda is continually pushed, the inclusiveness disappears.

There was one silver lining of attending this event, I attended a workshop held by Penny Andrews on “Teaching Critical Data…Critically”.  It’s the first time in a while that I have felt excited about something professionally.  Penny has been doing work with graduate students to get them to look at data beyond how it is perceived, as just being a neutral entity that we assume tells it how it is.  Data is not neutral, because it represents agendas and human actions and emotions.  It can be swayed to tell one version of a story or another.  There are so many things that can be pulled out of data, so many stories and explanations.  Data is complex and it should be challenged and looked at critically.  It should be questioned and validated, tested and retested.  Data is not black and white.  This is inspiring and exciting, and if I have any take away from this weekend, it’s this.   Those of us who work with data and present its findings are responsible to look at it honestly and critically, otherwise we are not doing our jobs and we are doing a injustice to those around us and to society.

And here is a Stephen Few quote to back me up on this:

“Good data analysts have developed a broad range of skills. Training in analytical technologies is of little use if you haven’t already learned to think critically.”

This whole experience of transitioning to a new job, new work direction, has only reaffirmed what it is I want to do and should be doing.  I can’t just do a job.  I have to be invested in my work, if I can’t be invested, then I can’t do it.  I have to feel challenged, but not out-of-place.



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