Data literacy is all about how you handle data as a special form of information. Data is used in many ways from monitoring key performance indicators to generating new theories. Our own data – personal and organisational – can also be used, sometimes in ways, we might not want. We all need a basic understanding of legal, ethical, and security issues when we handle data and good habits of personal data security.
Jisc defines data literacy as:
The capacity to collate, manage, access and use digital data in spreadsheets, databases and other formats, and to interpret data by running queries, data analyses and reports. The practices of personal data security.
An understanding of: how data is used in professional and public life; legal, ethical and security guidelines in data collection and use; the nature of algorithms; of how personal data may be collected and used.Jisc, Data Literacy
Data is a bit like marmite it is usually either loved or hated. Data is, however, an important aspect of most job roles or courses of study. The importance of data goes beyond just work and studies. In our daily lives, we are often presented with data on a regular basis. Data literacy is important whether you are comparing data for bills you have to pay, your student loan repayments, or looking at figures related to the coronavirus pandemic.
When considering data in the context of digital literacy, the focus is often on data management, analysis and visualisation.
Things to consider when using data
Data can be very difficult to make accessible particularly if it is raw data (essentially just a series of numbers or information). For accessibility purposes, the focus has to be on interpreting, presenting, and summarising data. Just a hint the gif below is not a good way to make your data accessible or as you will see below the best way to store it.
This may not be as much of an issue as a student but can be incredibly important in the working world. Whenever we create, use, or produce data we need to consider where it is stored. There are many legal, ethical, and security issues in how data is stored, accessed, and shared. These dimensions of data management are driven based on the type of data you are working with, and whether it contains any personal, sensitive, or commercially sensitive data. If you do have any sensitive information, make sure it is protected by a password or stored in a safe place. Here are some useful ways you can store data.
- Store it in the Cloud.
- Save to an External Hard Drive.
- Burn it to a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray.
- Put it on a USB Flash Drive.
- Save it to a NAS Device.
Data communication and presentation
Often, data is poorly communicated. The diagram on the left well represents the difference between raw data, and data that has been sorted, arranged, presented, and explained. We will now look through a few useful software tools to present and communicate your data.
Software tools to aid your data literacy
Here are a few useful tools for handling data with some links to tutorials and downloads. (Tutorials and guides are linked on the left and download links are on the right)
Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet developed by Microsoft for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. It features calculation, graphing tools, pivot tables, and a programming language called Visual Basic for Applications. With a Microsoft 365 account, you can install Microsoft Excel on all your devices.
NVivo is a qualitative data analysis computer software produced by QSR International. It is designed for qualitative researchers working with very rich text-based and/or multimedia information, where deep levels of analysis on small or large volumes of data are required.
Access is probably the least well-known application in the MS Office suite. However, it is incredibly useful for a small number of student/staff researchers who need to store and manage large amounts of related data. You may use Access when the program you are using to keep track of something gradually becomes less fit for the task.
ArcGIS is a system used to make maps and for geographic information. It can create and use maps, compile geographic data, analyze mapped information, share and discover geographic information, use maps and geographic information in a range of applications, and manage geographic information in a database.
Microsoft Power BI
Power BI is a collection of software services, apps, and connectors that work together to turn your unrelated sources of data into coherent, visually immersive, and interactive insights. Power BI lets you easily connect to your data sources, visualize and discover what’s important, and share that with anyone or everyone you want.
R is a programming language and free software environment for statistical computing and graphics supported by the R Foundation for Statistical Computing. The R language is widely used among statisticians and data miners for developing statistical software and data analysis.