Susan Slaughter

What is Data Literacy?

In Everything on October 16, 2019 at 3:52 pm

It has recently become fashionable to talk about data literacy. This is an important idea so I’m glad to see people discussing it.

To me, data literacy means understanding that data are not dry, dusty, abstract squiggles on a computer screen, but represent living things: people, plants, animals. Having a deep understanding of data enables people to engage with data, to explore data, to interpret data, and to use data to impact their lives and work.

Data literacy necessarily comes with a degree of skepticism, recognizing that data can be not only used, but also misused. In this age of “alternative facts,” it is important to recognize when assertions are supported by data, and when they are not.

Everyone knows that technology is becoming more and more a part of everyday life. Without data literacy, people become passive recipients; with data literacy, you can actively engage with technology.

You know you are fluent in a foreign language when you are comfortable speaking it and can communicate what you want to say. The same is true for data literacy; it is about reaching a level of comfort, about seeing the meaning behind the data, and about being able to communicate what you want to say.

Here is how Wikipedia defines data literacy.

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