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100 Million Students By 2021

What does it mean to be data literate?

At the Oceans of Data Institute, we think about data literacy every day. One might think that defining what we mean by “data literacy” would be simple. It isn’t.

Over the past two years, we’ve consulted with a variety of experts from a range of professions where “big data” isn’t a new idea. Last October we combined some of these folks with experts in education – from across grade levels and disciplines – and we asked them to talk about what data literacy means to them; and more specifically, to help define what a data literate high school graduate might look like.

The discussion that followed was fascinating. Facilitated by ODI’s Joyce Malyn-Smith and Joe Ippolito, the panelists developed the following definition of data literacy:
The data-literate individual understands, explains, and documents the utility and limitations of data by becoming a critical consumer of data, controlling his/her personal data trail, finding meaning in data, and taking action based on data. The data-literate individual can identi­fy, collect, evaluate, analyze, interpret, present, and protect data.

From there, the panelists went on to define key skills associated with data literacy. They talked about the importance of analytical thinking, and how it relates to an individual’s ability to effectively use data. And they developed a series of recommended next steps in launching a global data literacy initiative – with a mission of, “bringing data literacy to 100 million students by 2021, with the ultimate goal of everyone becoming data literate over time.” These recommendations are helping to shape ODI’s directions over the coming years.

Want to learn more? All of this work has been captured in our new report entitled, “Building Global Interest in Data Literacy: A Dialogue.”

100 million data literate students by 2021 is an ambitious goal, but we need to start somewhere. Join our expert panelists in our Call for Action to Promote Data Literacy.


Randy Kochevar, Director
The EDC Oceans of Data Institute

P.S. If you are interested in obtaining a print copy of the report, please contact us at 

Portrait of Randy Kochevar
Read the workshop report.

Do you believe that data literacy should be integrated throughout K-16 education? Sign our petition
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