Data Fluency and Remotely Accessible Interdisciplinary STEMM Education

No one wants to spend a career looking over their shoulder as a robot is trained to do their work. Physics is doing its part to prepare a generation that will look forward and lead. Our focus is on Emerging Technologies & Society and on Reasoning with Data: In what ways can we prepare our students to navigate and use emerging technologies? What skills should we prioritize as we prepare our students for the future?

In Physics, we emphasize the development of data fluency, i.e., the ability to use technology and data science to derive new knowledge. This goes beyond digital literacy. For example, when learning a new language, a literate person can read and speak, while a fluent person can use it to create a story or a poem. All students and life-long learners must be able to learn and use the new technologies that they will need to solve problems in the future, including those technologies that do not exist yet. The UAB Physics approach to 21st-Century education combines the development of data fluency with experiential learning in the experimental or computational Physics research lab.

To facilitate the above goals, Dr. Lauren Rast leads project RAISE, Remotely Accessible Interdisciplinary STEMM Education. Rather than simply developing new online courses for life-long learning, RAISE explores innovative ways of using emerging educational technologies to broaden participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM). In particular, RAISE provides a STEMM-personalized support framework not limited by geography or by social, gender and economic disparities. This is especially important for empowering underrepresented groups and life-long learners to participate in 21st century job opportunities, now made possible through Physics. In recognition of success, Dr. Rast received the Provost’s Award for Transformative Online Courses. More information on RAISE may be found in this article.

Dr Rast implemented the Magic City Data Collective project, which reinforces UAB’s commitment to making sure our students have the ability to develop skills that help them look at large amounts of data, find patterns and trends, and ask questions to better understand the world around them. By growing our partnerships with the local business community and expanding the program to reach larger student populations, we plan to continue to develop a curriculum and offer experiential learning opportunities that are tailored to the needs of employers and beneficial for students over the course of their lives and careers.