Be data lit - Empathy

Allen Hillery

11 November, 2020 01:00 |

Data literacy Story telling Data literacy for children
Be data literate - use empathy

Welcome to the first of several ‘Be Data Lit’ blog posts, a series focused on helping young people understand and interpret data in a fun and engaging way! No matter where we turn, data is all around us, so it’s best to get a head start in understanding the world of data as soon as possible for the next generation, and I aim to help make that happen.

Today, Sarah, Veronika and I were lucky enough to craft a story using an awesome Kids in Data platform in our newest blog post. Kids in Data helps students to learn about data in a fun and interactive way. We all know kids need to be stimulated when they learn, and sometimes teaching data can be hard for them to get their heads around which is how Kids in Data came to life.

Kabir and Ross run data literacy workshops on their Kids in Data platform using the Space Invaders game. They review the game results with the class and use these statistics to create visualisations. Through this, the team is introducing the students to data journeys in a fun and engaging way.

Meet Hero…

Mr Morales was teaching his class data literacy and having trouble keeping them interested
Data literacy in classroom. Illustrated by - Veronika Hammond

In today’s story, Mr Morales is having a hard time getting his class interested in data literacy. Frequently, when presented with something new, kids tend to have a short attention span and often withdraw from the content in fear of not understanding what is being shown to them. Drawing charts and symbols on the board was not going to get these kids excited, Mr Morales could tell…

So, Mr Morales rolled up his sleeves and had a good long think about who he could bring in to help get these kids interested, and then it came to him! His friend Hero of course! So without further ado, Hero arrives at the classroom and is welcomed by very excited children who are all playing video games and seeing how each other are doing. Hero showed the kids the awesome new program, Kids in Data, his friends Kabir and Ross had made which uses gamification to help get school kids excited about data.

Students playing and learning about data literacy using Kids in Data workshop
Students learning about data literacy using KiD. Illustrated by - Veronika Hammond

After Hero showed the kids the interactive platform on the Kids in Data program, they were so excited to try it out for themselves., They played some games, started to explore their results and learn how to visualise data using their scores.

Empathy in data literacy, how does it add value?

Hero uses something very important to help encourage data literacy in young children: empathy. Empathy is simply the concept of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and taking a few steps along their journey. Hero understands that young school children will need gamification to make learning about data enjoyable and engaging.

Data journeys and perseverance

Our “Hero” in the story did not start his journey as a data expert, and much like the “Hero”, my data literacy journey started as an engineer where I was tasked with a database project, recording traffic patterns for different intersections in New York. These traffic patterns would later be used to understand how traffic flowed in the city and help design future streets. Once I learned the table structure and how to store and query the data, I became fascinated with showing others how to use the database.

As my career progressed, I took on roles where I was the ambassador between business users and data teams.

Looking back on my journey, I’ve soon realised that my most important asset was empathy. Having technical expertise to understand data is important, but it is not the sole requirement, you have to be able and willing to listen to your audience, something I call data empathy. Understanding how users consume data is important as everyone is different.

Takeaway from this story

Takeway from this blog - use empathy
Illustrated by - Veronika Hammond

Luckily for Mr Morales, Hero helped his kids respond to gamification and even got them to create their data with gameplay, see where the data was stored and how to create visualisations with it.

Your data literacy journey may not include an afternoon playing Space Invaders (if it does, lucky you!), but it can be one where we begin to listen to each other and understand the roles we play with data. I believe leading with data empathy and perseverance will make the literacy journey a more much more enjoyable one.

Allen Hillery

Allen Hillery serves as part time faculty at Columbia University’s Applied Analytics program. He has spent the greater part of his career being an ambassador for business teams and championing the voice of the customer. Allen is very passionate about data literacy and curates an article series that focuses on the importance of creating data narratives and spotlighting notable figures on how their use of storytelling made major impacts on society.