Why All the Fuss About Data?
Most of you are aware that the United States is just completing one of the most ambitious data collection projects ever – the U.S. Census 2010.
Why do this? First of all, it’s required. According to the U.S. Constitution, we must count every resident in our country every 10 years. How come? Well, census data help the government determine which communities receive billions of dollars in federal funds for schools, hospitals, senior centers, bridges and public works projects, job training centers, and emergency services. Census data also determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. Yep, those are the folks who speak up for your community.
According to C.N. Le, Professor at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, "...an accurate count of the U.S. population forms the basis for many important but often overlooked political, economic, and social decisions that are made that end up affecting our daily lives." In other words, it’s significant! You can learn lots more here.
So how many people live in this country? As of November, the number is 310,733,393. You can even track current data online with a clever “population clock” that shows data for a specific time on a given day. BTW, did you know that one child is born in the U.S. every seven seconds, and someone dies every twelve seconds? That helps you appreciate the rate of change. You can also zoom into a state to find quick facts about your community.
But we are counting more than just people. Plenty of work went into the Census of Marine Life, a ten-year study just completed in October 2010 to record all organisms that make the ocean their home. All this information helps scientists better understand life in the ocean, the impact of oil spills, climate change, and other human activities at sea.
At K¹², we’re collecting data all the time, too. How many students are enrolled? Where do they live? What courses are they are taking? Believe it or not, I am fascinated by this kind of information. Analyzing data is actually part of my job in Product Development at K¹². OK, don’t start groaning that I’m weird! Data can be very useful – not numbers in isolation, but how those numbers relate to real life. Just as you want to know how products perform before buying a computer or cell phone, we want to see what’s happening in our learning environment. Check out a few examples.
I hope I’ve convinced you to dig into those mysterious numbers that continue to add up and get re-arranged in the world around us. Hey, check out the international data base to be even more impressed!