About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Thompson: The False Promise of "Big Data"

BigdataEducation reformers have taken to invoking "big data" as education's next big frontier.  However, linguist Geoff Nunberg, in the NPR's Fresh Air report,"Forget YOLO: Why 'Big Data' Should be the Word of the Year," explains that "Big Data is no more exact a notion than Big Hair."

The quantity of digital data has increased, and true believers in number-crunching still claim,"'With enough data, the numbers speak for themselves.'"  But Nunberg says "The trouble is that you can't always believe what they're saying."  That is no problem when algorithms predict "that I'd be interested in Celine Dion's greatest hits, as long as they get 19 out of 20 recommendations right." But even when we get to the point where we are measuring information in "humongobytes," we will still need people to ask the question of what are patterns for?-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Of course people are necessary. Even the big Big Data report from McKinsey & Co (http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/mgi/research/technology_and_innovation/big_data_the_next_frontier_for_innovation) talks at length about the number of skilled analysts that will be needed to gather and manipulate data directly, and of leaders/managers needed to make decisions based upon it.

But that doesn't take away from the fact that putting significant amounts of real-time, quantitative, objective data (aka "big data") in people's hands can be a powerful addition to the intuition and other information that otherwise drives our decisions.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.