Preparing Youth for the Data-Filled Future

A new report details the successes of an afterschool program designed to engage and empower underrepresented teens in using data to explore issues of societal importance. Coauthored by Concord Consortium president and CEO Chad Dorsey, Andee Rubin of TERC, and Michelle Mann of NetApp, Preparing youth for the data-filled future (PDF) describes essential takeaways for curriculum designers, adult volunteers, and others who are designing data-focused learning experiences to engage learners, including in out-of-school settings.

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The report’s key finding offers a true sense of hope about the next generation and their growing sense of agency for solving pressing problems. Youth who explore data about equity issues and other social concerns learn firsthand how data can help them to make a difference in the world.

Preparing youth for the data-filled future looks at lessons learned from NetApp’s Data Explorers program. Middle school-aged youth who participate in the 12-week program examine data related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and investigate social and environmental challenges. The program’s four stages immerse students in data awareness and inspiration, exploration and investigation, visualization and interpretation, and problem-solving and taking action. The teens experience data in the context of global issues while learning to collaborate with others on teams and with adult volunteers to connect global issues to local problem-solving opportunities.

According to the report, analyzing social issue data helps youth learn about the world—and their questions about the world lead them to explore data more deeply, in a virtuous cycle of discovery with data at the center. The report also highlights the importance of visualization as a key strategy for finding meaningful patterns in those data and emphasizes the role of technology, such as our web-based CODAP data analysis software, to help learners gain insights into complex datasets.

The report concludes, “As a model for how to involve youth in learning with data, Data Explorers is planting the seeds for a global movement in data education focused on social issues. As a program, Data Explorers is focused on the most important mission of all: providing an expanding source of inspiration for youth around the world.”

Together, NetApp, TERC, and the Concord Consortium are helping ensure that today’s youth gain the skills, knowledge, and experience they need to thrive as citizens and to enter relevant careers. With actionable strategies and tips, Preparing youth for the data-filled future encourages the uptake and spread of data education programs like NetApp’s Data Explorers. For more information about the report or to learn about the Concord Consortium’s data science education research and projects, contact