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Canadian Science Policy Centre | Panel 501 - A Data Native Generation's Approach to Science: Science Instruction Vs. Inquiry into Science

Panel 501 - A Data Native Generation's Approach to Science: Science Instruction Vs. Inquiry into Science

Conference Day: 
Day 1 - November 7th 2018
Takeaways and recommendations: 

A Data Native Generation's Approach to Science: Science Instruction vs. Inquiry into Science 

Organized by: STEM Fellowship, Mohammad Asadi Lari
Speakers: Suzanne Kettley, Executive Director, Canadian Science Publishing; Sacha Noukhovitch, Founder and Executive Director, STEM Fellowship; Bonnie Schmidt, Founder and President, Let's Talk Science; Alan Winter, British Columbia’s Innovation Commissioner

Moderator: Mohammad Asadi Lari (), Managing Director, STEM Fellowship & MD/PhD Candidate, U of T

Takeaways and recommendations

  • “Data natives”, individuals who have grown up with ready access to digital technologies, acquire information differently than did their predecessors who had less or no access to these innovations. This distinction is especially true in education, which includes everything from formal classroom activities to on-the-job training. Organizations engaged in any kind of educational initiative must consider how to deal with this new generation.

  • Governments at all levels have become interested in how scientific and technical talent is being developed, since talent has become a key resource that attracts desirable high-tech employers to specific jurisdictions.

  • Canadians are eager to discuss the future of STEM education, as members of Let’s Talk Science discovered when they launched a national dialogue on the subject called Canada 2067.

  • Scientific publishers are confronting the changing information needs of data natives, such as a growing emphasis on open access models.

Digital content

  • It is not enough to digitize existing curricula; the curriculum and teachable subjects must be redefined to reflect new economic, technological and cultural realities.

  • Computer coding isn’t the main skill data natives need. Students need to be taught higher level reasoning and critical thinking with Big Data.

  • Canadian educators have benefited from Canada’s robust natural resource economy, which makes the country rich enough to acquire digital technologies and the expertise to manage them. In places that cannot afford to do so, educational systems have been radically redesigned to ensure that technological innovation takes place at the domestic level, a goal that means fostering the necessary talent to do so.

In the classroom

  • Educators who have incorporated digital technology in their classrooms have found that consumers and producers of such technology have differing perceptions of its value and application. These groups need to be brought together as such products are being designed so that the result reflects a shared vision of its purpose.

  • Although data natives are presumed to be literate and comfortable with digital technologies, students expressed a need for technical training that would ensure they reap the educational benefits of these innovations.

  • Student-driven learning, centred on particular projects or inquiries defined by students, can be highly rewarding and inspirational for participants. This approach is also effective outside of traditional classroom settings, such as when industrial users need to learn how to apply new technologies in their work.

Future of educational institutions

  • Digital teaching methods may not reach all students in Canada to the same extent or in the same way. This is an unavoidable fact of national life, given that education comes under provincial authority with standards that can vary across the country.

  • The actions and demands of data natives might be expected to shape the way education is conducted, but many of their aspirations have not changed, such as earning credentials to gain access to medical school.

  • Teachers who are trying to reach data natives must themselves be steeped in the same digital technologies as their students, sharing a similar knowledge and comfort level with how these systems work.

  • Data native students are not looking to teachers to provide specific educational solutions. Rather, students want tools that enable them to define and solve educational problems for themselves – skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.