Data careers #LAK12

Listening to John Rauser from Amazon talking on youtube about working with big data as part of the #LAK12 mooc.

Oh, the pure pleasure of seeing simultaneous equations in action – I haven’t had such a stir of excitement since my college days and working as a mathematical modeller – and all of the repressed mathematician in me that gets squeezed from working in a faculty of business rather than maths started to seep out. Deep joy (and a recognition of how sad this almost certainly sounds…).

Quite a neat little lecture which illustrates really that an ability to solve complex equations by itself isn’t enough. What we also need, fundamentally, is a healthy amount of intuition and common sense and an understanding of what our data is telling us.

But being good at creative and practical problem solving isn’t enough by itself. Rauser also stresses the need for a healthy sense of curiosity, skepticism (a characteristic which he claims is a learnable skill rather than an inherited trait) and clear writing skills which allow us to build upon the work of others and for others to build on our own shared work. It isn’t enough to solve a problem if we don’t share how we’ve done it.

I like the idea that skepticism and curiosity are as vital to being able to successfully unpick the mysteries of data sets as what may be seen as ‘purer’ maths skills – my children, who resist all attempts on my part to embrace maths, can solve equations, but don’t always know why, and more worryngly, care not at all. Perhaps if these are learnable skills, there is hope yet.

About sharonslade

Dr Sharon Slade is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Business and Law at the Open University in the UK working to support both tutors and students on Open University distance learning modules and programmes. Her research interests encompass ethical issues in learning analytics and online learning and tuition. Project work includes the development of a student support framework to improve retention and progression and the development of a university wide tool for tracking students and triggering relevant and targeted interventions. She led the development of new policy around the ethical use of learning analytics within the Open University, UK.
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