Signals or Noise?

Nate Silver’s recent book on the art and science of prediction – “The Signal and the Noise’ (2012) is worth a close look. Silver’s take on prediction in the Era of Big Data gives a strong justification for building the capacity of our young people to  distinguish useful information from all the rest. With so much data to distrust, and so much of it instantly available, we have a lot of work to do to build healthy scepticism in our students as budding researchers. Cynicism is unhelpful as a learning disposition – our kids still need to be eager to learn, but they must also be sceptical learners, not simply trusting ones, given the burgeoning amount of low-quality, misleading and useless information coming at all of us all the time. Ourkids need to unlearn the idea that ‘Google it!’ is the all-purpose solution to their information needs. A simple Google search might be a start, but it is by no means an end point. Brian Mull’s workshops at the recent SGIS Conference in Leysin, Switzerland (March8/9, 2013) were very helpful in providing teachers with explicit ways to direct and support students in finding the ‘best’ information i.e., in detecting the signal among the noise of ‘do-nothing’ data. I would recommend both Silver (for theory about analysing big data) and Mull (for application to teaching) to those who are genuinely seeking to build an eager and sceptical learning disposition in their classrooms.

One Response to Signals or Noise?
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