Funding from the National Science Foundation and Bloomberg, Inc. will allow Bootstrap (a CS literacy curriculum used worldwide that's directed by Kathi Fisler, Shriram Krishnamurthi, and Emmanuel Schanzer of Brown CS) to deliver broadly accessible data science to K-12 kids.
"We often use 'lightweight' as a pejorative," says Shriram, "but it nicely represents our goals. It's pragmatic: we can't expect kids to have advanced mathematical or programming knowledge, and we can't expect teachers to be maintaining SQL servers or have esoteric technical expertise."
Bootstrap's solution to the neglect that data science has faced at the K-12 level is to develop a curriculum that's centered on student interests, supported by easy-to-use database and programming technology. With a few lines of code, students will be able to import data that they find compelling, compute a result, and visualize it, answering questions about, for example, their most-played songs or the statistics of favorite sports. Instead of relying on industry-standard but complicated technology, Bootstrap will use Google Sheets and Pyret (a popular pedagogic programming language) for easy data entry, sharing, and computing.
"Lightweight is exactly the word we were looking for," says Kathi. "We wanted a solution that kids would love, and we needed one that we could deliver quickly. Curricula are settling, and any idea that we can't put into place immediately may have to wait several years for adoption. That's why we're offering this now."