Since 2011, cohorts of LAUSD high school math, science, and computer science teachers have attended the Mobilize Summer Institutes to learn to use the participatory sensing (PS) methods, tools, and materials to deepen their knowledge of CS concepts and to support student CS, math, and science learning.
Through the Mobilize Algebra, Biology, and Introduction to Data Science (IDS) curricula, teachers learn the relevance and power of “professional data”, or those data that are used in professional work: science, business, law, etc. These data always come from random samples, or controlled experiments with randomized assignment to treatment groups, or through some other ‘formal’ procedure. These are the data on which the AP Statistics course is built, for example, and on which 99.9% of all high statistics and introductory college-level courses are built as well.
More specifically, through Mobilize professional development, teachers learn about the “Big data” that students see every day, or data that:
- Twitter gathers from its tweets
- Facebook uses to create tailored advertising
- Create weather maps and are used in discussions over climate change, and
- Cellphones collect and transmit.
These data are very relevant to the everyday lives of students because (a) harm can come to them if they’re not aware of how these data are used, and (b) they have the tools to use these data themselves for their own purposes. Mobilize exists to bridge the gap between these two types of data, so that students know how to employ the tools to gather data about their community. The purpose of Mobilize is to leverage these data to enhance math and science education. This entire endeavor is supported on a groundwork of statistical and computational thinking tools. Together, statistical and computational thinking provide students with strategies for thinking critically about data, making decisions based on data, revealing patterns and understanding about the world through data.
It is important for teachers to realize that they most likely have not been taught these skills in their own undergraduate education, as very few institutions teach this to undergraduates. It is also important to realize that they are not all that different from mathematical and scientific thinking practices, and so not a big stretch. But they are different, and the Mobilize training is about helping teachers to make connections between data and their own classrooms.