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CS Spotlight: Suyen Machado on teaching CS through data science

January 26, 2021
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Without a strong foundation in computer science, and specifically data science, our students will be ill-prepared to enter the 21st century workforce. We must integrate computer science skills with other disciplines. 

We recently interviewed Suyen Machado, a LAUSD educator, liaison between UCLA and LAUSD, and author of the Introduction to Data Science (IDS) curriculum for high school students.

Curious to learn more? Check out our interview with Suyen below! 

How did you get involved in computer science education?

I was brought to this work when I was selected to be the administrator/liaison between UCLA and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for the MOBILIZE Project--an NSF grant that came about out of the work that created the Exploring Computer Science course. The goal of MOBILIZE was to bring computational and statistical thinking to high school mathematics and science classes while using the Participatory Sensing (PS) data collection method.

Why is computer science equity important to you?

As one of the authors of the IDS curriculum, it was important to me to design a course that provides access to rigorous learning that fuses mathematics with computer science and specifically supports learning for women and minorities — groups that have been A) traditionally underrepresented in the field, and B) shown to particularly benefit from interactive mathematics and science curricula. IDS also provides access for english learners by focusing on an inquiry-based instructional approach.

Can you tell us more about your work?

One MOBILIZE Project's legacy was the creation of the Introduction to Data Science (IDS) high school course — the first data science course created for public schools. IDS instructs teachers to teach critically with data and provides the tools to do this. IDS students learn how to work with Participatory Sensing (collecting data through their smartphones) and R, an open-source programming language that has long been the standard for academic statisticians and analysts in the industry. It is a UCOP-approved "C" statistics course that is currently taught in 26 school districts, in 4 states: California, Idaho, New Jersey, and Oregon. Since 2014, our work focuses on providing data science professional development, technology access, and support to new IDS teachers through UCLA Center X.

Can you tell us more about the integration of math and computer science at UOCP and why this is important?

Computer science and computational thinking are at the heart of STEM education. Integration of CS into mathematics and science is no longer a luxury — it's a necessity and a reality of 21st century careers and college education. We can't afford to wait until students leave high school for them to have their first experiences with computer science. Data science, in particular, offers unique opportunities to students — it arms students with employable skills and tools for 21st-century-citizenship.

Can you give an example of a student, class, or teacher who was particularly impacted by the IDS course, or how CS education equity plays out in the course?

Emilio Jaime, an LAUSD/Banning High School and UC Berkeley graduate, was significantly impacted by the IDS course he took his senior year of high school, during the 2015 - 2016 school year. 

He initially chose to enroll in IDS because of the coding aspect, as there were no other coding classes at his high school, at the time. He’s glad he took the class and feels it set him up for success in college.  

The IDS course was very different compared to the more generic mathematics courses he previously took. It taught him a different form of thinking — combining the quantitative aspects of a traditional mathematics course with more qualitative thinking. Additionally, the course provided him with the opportunity to implement data from his own life experiences into class projects. This real-world application and connection between his personal life and what he was learning in school was something he had not experienced in past curriculum. 

To hear more from Emilio on his experience in the IDS classroom, listen to his 5-minute interview.

Visit the IDS website to learn more about the Introduction to Data Science course.

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