Reimagining Science Education: DataClassroom

In classrooms across the United States, science experiments are often the core experience through which middle and high school students gain experience with the scientific method, experimental processes, and recording data. However, an accessible data analysis tool for teachers and students to simplify data collection and get students familiar with basic data analysis has yet to be widely implemented in schools. “In all of my experiences working with teachers, I saw the piece that they were really missing was that they didn’t have a tool for students to analyze this data… and the role of data analysis is going to become increasingly larger in solving the world’s most pressing problems,” explains Aaron Reedy.

Aaron is the co-founder of DataClassroom, a web application designed for students in grades 6 through 12 to learn data skills by recording and analyzing data they collect through science experiments. By making DataClassroom available to students, Aaron hopes to prepare them for a world that is rapidly gaining massive interest in the information to be gleaned from data analysis. “People are really waking up to the power of big data and data analysis,” Aaron comments, “and it’s just permeating every industry.” 

A 2017 study by Dresner Advisory Services has reported that the adoption of big data analysis in the companies interviewed was 53%, up from just 17% in 2015. Howard Dresner, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services, expanded on this, adding that “across the three years of our comprehensive study of big data analytics, we see a significant increase in uptake in usage and a large drop [in companies] with no plans to adopt… This is an indication that big data is becoming less an experimental endeavor and more of a practical pursuit within organizations.” 

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Aaron is hoping to equip students with the tools they need to succeed and innovate in a future that will be fueled more and more by data. But that’s not all -- Aaron also wants to enable teachers to dream up bigger and bolder experiments and manage them effectively. In an earlier article Aaron published in the popular science magazine Scientific American, Aaron questions the way science is taught in high schools around the country. “While inquiry-based instruction has long been a science education buzz phrase, all too often when kids engage in developing experiments, the answers are in fact already known to science and could be discovered through a quick Google search on the topic.”   

To address this lack of interesting experiments, Aaron previously co-founded an organization called Evolution Education, which runs programs with middle and high school life science teachers to, as Aaron puts it, “come up with ambitious experiments for the teachers to run with their students, and the goal with this was for them to make a novel contribution to science, to create an experiment that had never been tested before.”

“In my time as a high school biology teacher, I always tried to push the envelope with classroom experiments,” says Aaron, and that ultimately, “my passion is trying to make it easier for teachers to do really cool things in the classroom.”

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To facilitate more growth for DataClassroom, one hope Aaron has is that his time at the iLab incubator this summer will allow him to progress even faster by expanding his network. “It’s clear that… the connections that you make here at the iLab can really accelerate things,” says Aaron. “Already, I just got off the phone with the technology integration officer at a local high school, and he really responded well, and is asking, you know, ‘How can we get you into the school starting on day one in the fall?’, and that’s really exciting.” 

Despite his success thus far, however, Aaron still has some concerns about moving forward with his venture. When asked about his biggest fear regarding DataClassroom, Aaron responded that he’s worried that “the tool isn’t going to be exactly right; I just want DataClassroom to be exactly the way that I envision it, but I’m worried about translating that vision for the tool into workable software.”  

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IBM has called data and data management an organization’s “most valuable asset.” Anita Chung, IBM’s current Global Industry Marketing Leader, emphasizes that data is “a core asset… [for] organizations of all sizes,” and that information and its management “is going to drive [any] business[’s] performance.”

Aaron wholeheartedly agrees. “Data has recently become the world’s most valuable commodity,” Aaron says enthusiastically. “It’s everywhere, and I think it’s pretty easy to say, yeah, this is important, these data skills are valuable for kids to have. If we want people as adults to have these data skills and apply them to pressing problems, the time to start teaching that is not when you get to a university course. There’s no reason to wait. I think that the education system is calling for data skills, but teachers and schools are struggling to figure out how to integrate it right now, and I hope DataClassroom can be part of that answer.”

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About the Founder

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A self-described “evolutionary biologist + educator”, Aaron Reedy recently received his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Virginia. He holds a B.A. in Zoology from Southern Illinois University and an M.A. in Teaching with a concentration in Secondary Education from National-Louis University. He can be contacted at aaronmreedy@gmail.com, and further details about Aaron and his research can be found at aaronmreedy.com. More information about Aaron’s venture, DataClassroom, will soon be available at dataclassroom.com.

 

About the Author

Christopher Nelson is a rising second year at New York University in Shanghai, China. He has experience in business operations as well as legal research and contract work. Christopher is currently interning at the UVA Darden School of Business Innovation Lab this summer as an interviewer and journalist. 

Edited: August, 6th 2018. Website is live now.