social science departments need to innovate the teaching of method by embracing new approaches to big data, statistics, computational modeling and complexity

The title of this post says it all: social science departments need to innovate the teaching of method by embracing new approaches to big data, computational modeling and complexity.

As I discussed in a previous post---CLICK HERE---the UK is currently implementing a major, new academic initiative to address, at the undergraduate level, the underdeveloped methodological skills of students majoring in the social sciences, particularly in the areas of quantitative method and statistics. The initiative is called, appropriately enough, the Quantitative Methods (QM) Programme.

In response, a variety of UK scholars from different disciplines and areas of study are innovating the teaching of method.  One major area of advancement, which I address on my map of complexity, is data visualization--a whole new field of study that intersects data mining, art, design, web science, computational science and so forth.

For example, I am on a UK listserv for teaching method and came across the following SEMINAR that was held on teaching data visualization.  Here is how they describe the even on the website for the seminar, which includes two of the keynote presentations:


The Department of Social Sciences at Loughborough University is currently undertaking a pedagogical research project, sponsored by the ESRC, which involves introducing a new 22 week quantitative data analysis module for first year criminology and sociology students. The module emphases visual learning and teaching strategies and resources. It also assesses students using a portfolio of achievement rather than relying solely on the more traditional ‘statistical report’ format. The new module will be delivered for the first time in the academic year 2013-14 at undergraduate level 1.The objectives of the HEA sponsored workshop are to discuss the progress of this project as well as to explore more generally the types of visual learning and teaching strategies used to teach research methods and quantitative data analysis across Social Science departments in the HE sector.

Time to Play Catch Up

Social Scientists in the states and elsewhere need to "get on-board" as they say, with these types of advances taking place in the UK and elsewhere.  And (this is key) not just at the elite institutes.  These sorts of innovations need to be taking place at "anywhere and everywhere" colleges and universities and community colleges and technology schools.  We live in a world, now, where virtual and physical reality are almost entirely blurred.  Mean, median and mode and a few bar graph charts don't "cut it" anymore as effective techniques for measuring and presenting this reality.  C'mon folks, there are lots of exciting things happening and we need to share them with our students!!!!!!!

Here is a list of a few examples to explore on the topic of data visualization and data science:

Places and Spaces: Mapping Science project, run by Katy Börner and Todd Theriault.

A good introductory article summarizing the field

A Wikipedia article introducing the field of data visualization

A Wikipedia article introducing data science and big data

A website by one of the top people in the field, on visual complexity

A great interactive map, found at TIME Magazine, of the USA and population sizes by cities.

A good review of two recently published books on visual complexity

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