Do a Google search on Big Data and Education. Go ahead – I’ll wait for you. What did you find? If your search was similar to mine, what you found was information on how to use Big Data for classroom data collection, educational data mining, learning analytics, or improved research, analytics, and accountability. Some even claim that Big Data is supposed to “fix” education. Let’s get real. If Big Data is really the wave of the future, instead of just collecting data on students shouldn’t we be teaching them WHAT Big Data is, WHY it is the wave of the future, and HOW they can benefit from it?
WHAT is Big Data
What is Big Data? It is huge amounts of data collected, both structured and unstructured. Big Data can be collected via social media, medical or school records, shopping or rewards cards, internet documents, and many other means. The amount of data collected is huge and permeates almost every aspect of our lives. It allows those who use Big Data to leverage information about their clients and customers, providing for a more personalized and targeted experience at school, work, the doctor’s office, even online.
Big Data has allowed companies like UPS to save over 8.4 million gallons of gas by analyzing drivers’ routes, and Visa to reduce fraud, saving roughly $2 million annually. Manufacturers can maximize output and quality while minimizing waste, banks can prevent fraud, governments can reduce crime, and doctors can see a patients’ complete health history. However, only a small amount of the data currently being collected is actually analyzed.
WHY Big Data
Why is Big Data the wave of the future? Almost every industry can benefit from the collection and analysis of Big Data. It is currently used by governments, healthcare industries, schools, retail establishments, and manufacturers. Many businesses and organizations use Big Data to identify opportunities and issues not possible through traditional techniques and tools. Those companies and industries not using Big Data will soon find themselves lagging behind their competitors. In fact, the real importance of Big Data is not in how much is collected, but in the ability to analyze and use the data that is collected.
Companies and consumers both benefit from the collection and analysis of Big Data. Tom Davenport, Director of Research at IIA, interviewed more than 50 businesses to find how they used big data. Here are the top 3:
- Reduced Costs. Big data technologies provide large cost advantages when it comes to storing large amounts of data. They can also identify more efficient ways of doing business.
- Faster, better decision making. Using Big Data, businesses are able to analyze information immediately and make decisions based on what they’ve learned.
- New products and services. The ability to gauge customer needs and satisfaction brings the power to give customers what they want. More companies are able to create new products to meet customers’ needs.
How Can We Benefit from Big Data
How can students benefit from Big Data? An internet search on Big Data and education would have you believe that students benefit from data collection because their education can then be personalized. However, I believe schools are missing the mark. Personalized education is only valuable if it prepares students for the careers that will be waiting for them upon graduation. Teaching students how to collect and analyze data will prepare them for jobs in almost every career field including computer science, psychology, medicine, retail, and education.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, “"The United States alone faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical expertise and 1.5 million managers and analysts with the skills to understand and make decisions based on the analysis of big data." These statistics don’t even mention the jobs available in the computer industry for Big Data programmers.
According to Forbes Magazine, “Big data jobs requiring VMWare expertise spiked in 2015, increasing 798.19%. Additional skills in high demand include expertise with open source technology (333.66%), data warehousing expertise (209.13%) and Python programming expertise (197.19%).” Glassdoor Inc.’s 25 Best Jobs in America report in January 2016 ranked data scientist as No. 1, with more than 3,300 job openings and a median salary of $118,709.
Big Data Education
If you or your child want to really benefit from Big Data, get involved in Big Data analytics or programming. Until recently, this was incredibly difficult and expensive. Roughly 100 universities offer some kind of Big Data education, including classes, certifications, or degree programs. Your options in K-12 education are much more limited.
Those wanting to study Big Data have discovered several obstacles. First is finding a way to store the data they want to analyze. Second is learning a distributed Big Data platform like NoSQL or Hadoop. Third is finding a computer system with affordable parallel processing and clustering options. Gaining access to a data center is very pricey or not an option. Many Big Data students and teachers have crafted virtual data centers on their computers, giving them an affordable, albeit faulty, data center replica that overcomes some, but not all, of these obstacles.
PicoCluster to the Rescue
You don’t need to hack something together anymore in order to learn Big Data. Designed by a Big Data programmer, a PicoCluster doesn’t just try to replicate a data center environment – it IS a data center. Compact and affordable, a PicoCluster can fit any budget and space requirements. For about the same price as a laptop, you can now own your very own data center! PicoCluster has developed data centers with as few as 3-nodes to as many as 100! A PicoCluster can run all of the popular Big Data software including Hadoop, Apache, and NoSQL. You can also learn Linux, Python, and other programming languages. You can collect your own data and learn how to analyze it. Big Data is now available to everyone!