How far we’ve come

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In February 2018 the Australian Data Science Education Institute was born. The last two years have been a whirlwind of speaking tours, teacher workshops, and resource development. I’ve barely had time to look around. So it’s time to celebrate everything we’ve achieved. We planned to celebrate our second birthday, but a little distracted by everything we had going at the time, our celebration was scheduled March. Like many events, the celebration was cancelled by covid 19. And, like a lot of educational organisations, March and April were spent frantically adapting materials for online learning.

Now that online learning has begun, and ADSEI has some breathing space, it seems like an excellent moment to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come in the last two years.

As Founder and Executive Director, in 2017 I reluctantly decided to leave classroom teaching to achieve my larger goal of ensuring that every student has the opportunity to become data and technology literate, and to develop data science skills in the context of authentic projects with real world impact. I looked around to find the organisations working in this space so that I could join them and make this happen.

I looked.

And I looked.

And I looked.

Eventually it became clear to me that there was no organisation with population-wide data literacy as its primary goal, and so the Australian Data Science Education Institute was born. I was told that small organisations could not be successful, and what I was doing was hopeless. But it seemed to me that what I was doing was vital.

I’ll admit, I imagined that technology companies in Australia would fall over themselves to support the enterprise, which is not the way it has worked out. In ADSEI’s first year we were awarded a grand total of none of the grants we applied for – not surprising, since we had no track record at the time. Despite that, in that first year we achieved a lot.

In April of 2018 I did a speaking tour, thanks to YOW! Conferences, in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, to talk about our mission.  In May I delivered an invited talk at YOW! Data, called Kids Can Change the World with Data.

I started working with the Education Group at CSIRO to develop the Educational Datasets lesson plans, working with CSIRO scientific datasets to create Data Science projects that could be run in schools.

I worked with Martin Richards at Educational Services Australia to develop Data Science projects for the Digital Technologies Hub, based on data from the West Australian Marine Science Institute, together with Luke Edwards from Pawsey Supercomputing Centre. We did lessons with data on Humpback Whales and Turtles, and there’s one still coming on Dugongs. I’ve also developed projects for Digital Technologies Hub on Renewable Energy, Biodiversity and Mini-beasts, among others.

I’ve championed Data Science on Q&A, including a bonus question on sugar, and delivered a keynote for the Education track at Pycon AU. I’ve had an opinion piece in Fairfax newspapers, a profile piece in the Australian Financial Review BOSS magazine, and been a guest on ABC Radio Sydney, Stemiverse, Fizzics Ed, and PonderingDan Podcasts. I’ve one a CSIRO STEM Professionals in schools webinar on Data Science Education, a panel for YellowFin BI, and other talks that weren’t recorded.

Going very meta, in April 2019, I taught Pawsey Supercomputing Staff how to teach teachers about Data Science and STEM.

I ran teacher Integrated STEM and Data Science workshops with the support of Google Australia in Melbourne hosted by Thoughtworks, and in Perth hosted by Pawsey Supercomputing Centre.

I joined forces with Science Under Sail to run teacher workshops in regional Queensland, in Bundaberg, Innisfail, and Mackay, on Seagrass Citizen Data Science, thanks to a grant from the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

I’ve worked with the Victorian Department of Education and Training to develop 8 Connected STEM packages for Foundation to year 10, covering topics as diverse as schoolyard litter, mindfulness programs, conservation, solar energy, and evaluating the quality of science journalism. When Covid19 hit and schools started teaching online, I adapted 6 of those 8 packages for remote teaching (they should appear on the Victorian Education Department’s FUSE website shortly, in the meantime if you would like a preview so you can give me feedback, send an email!). These resources have supporting videos to make them easier to deliver.

I’ve developed data science explainer vidoes around the data of covid19, including ones on Exponential Growth, Why we need to flatten the curve, how the death rate is calculated, and other timely topics, which you can see on my Youtube Channel.

I’ve delivered talks about the Sceptical Data Scientist, a keynote on Raising Heretics, for the NSW ICT Educators Conference, a talk at Hopper Down Under about Using Data Science to Engage Kids with STEM, and countless talks at meetups and conferences around Australia.

I’ve worked directly with schools, giving talks, running workshops, and developing curriculum. I’ve talked with countless businesses about why Data Science Education is crucial. And I’ve started writing a book – my manifesto! – about exactly that.

That’s just an overview of the last two years, but it’s a lot. We still have an enormous amount to achieve, but we’ve come a long way from the blank canvas we had at the beginning.

You can support us by donating at givenow.com.au/adsei, and you can download resources from the ever increasing set on this website.

Share our resources, like and share our videos, talk about us on the socials, and join in our Data Science Education hack days (a virtual hack day coming soon!) to help us develop materials to engage kids with Data Science and Technical skills.

Our long term goal is to put ADSEI out of business by ensuring that this is the way teachers teach and curricula are developed, but we have a long way to go.

We are so grateful to the organisations listed above who have supported us on our journey.

Our society’s response to the pandemic in which we find ourselves has made it incredibly clear that we need a data literate population in order to chart our future in these extraordinary waters. ADSEI is dedicated to making that possible.

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