11月 222011
I my past blog posts I have written mostly about K-12 education. This is mainly because I think K-12 is over-ripe for reform in so many ways. School districts could learn a great deal from other industries and higher education in terms of data usage, reporting and analysis of students, programs and [...]
11月 032011
In the last year, SAS CEO Jim Goodnight and a group of R&D, Education, Sales and Marketing executives visited several universities that are in the early stages of adopting analytics within their business programs. To that effort, Goodnight addressed faculty and students at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business on [...]
10月 102011
Once you have watched the movie “Waiting for Superman”, you can't help but worry for children in school. It was very eye-opening for me to see what challenges students and parents face to get a quality education. Being the parent of three children and given my role at SAS as a marketer [...]
8月 232011
In this day and age, you hear a lot in the news about education. You hear about dropout rates, low graduation rates, technology use, 21st century learning, college and workforce readiness, etc. During my many years at SAS working with the education industry, I have heard and witnessed a lot. [...]
7月 142011
Contributed by Chad Austin, Internal Communications

Roughly a year ago, Bruce Friend, Director of SAS Curriculum Pathways, participated on a technology advisory team at a school in Raleigh, North Carolina: a place he described as a "technology-rich environment" that was not being maximized by teachers. During a lunchtime forum, he remembered one student pulling out his smartphone and asking a group of teachers to identify it.

Bruce Friend
"'It's your phone,' they said. 'Yes, and therein lies the difference between you and me,' the student responded, 'because what you see as a phone is my connection to learning. It's my connection to knowledge. It's my connection to friends.'"

It was a moment in which Bruce realized that schools cannot deliver the same instruction taught five, 10, 15 or 50 years ago. He shared the story in a keynote address at the Summer Technology Institute for Educators, at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina.
Continue reading "Why technology in education is important "
7月 142011
In recent blogs posts, I discussed my tour of Mooresville Graded school district and the video project that we are working on with them. At that time I was only able to share the video interviews of Dr. Mark Edwards, Superintendent and Dr. Scott Smith, CTO from the project.

The remaining seven video interviews are now available. So you can learn more about their data driven culture from multiple viewpoints at all levels: their principals, teachers and technology facilitator. Through these videos the school employees share how:
  • The district culture has changed.
  • Data influences professional development.
  • Teachers use data in the classrooms.
  • Students have embraced the data use.
  • The school district achieved successful results.
It is amazing to learn about their best practices and how they have used data to become such a successful district. It is truly a breath of fresh air to see what they have been able to accomplish, especially in the wake of the economy and budget constraints. Mooresville Graded school district is a great example how a school district’s data use and the intelligence derived from it can be used to assess effectiveness and pinpoint areas of concern in order to catch issues early and resolve them to positively impact instruction.

4月 132011
This morning I delivered a talk to visiting high school students at the SAS campus. The topic: using SAS to analyze Twitter content.

Being teenagers, high school students are well familiar with Twitter. But this batch of students was also very familiar with SAS, as they all have taken SAS programming as a course within their schools. (In fact, at least one of the students had earned a SAS certification!)

The organizers of today's program had asked me to keep it very interactive, so I left it to the students to help select what topic we would search for and then analyze from Twitter.

Before we began, I warned them. "This is the Internet," I said. "Participants on Twitter don't always use words that are acceptable in polite conversation. If any bad words appear on the screen during our exercise, I'm going to behave just like I do when it happens in front of my young daughters at home: I'm going to pretend that it's not there."

(However, knowing that I was scheduled to present this morning, I did take precautions and asked Twitter to watch its mouth.)

The students offered several great suggestions of trending topics on Twitter; in the end we settled on #Thor (as in, god of thunder), which should provide interesting content thanks to an imminent theatrical release. (Hence, my "hammer time" title on the blog. Get it?)

And that's when I did something I've never done before. I showed SAS program code to high school students. And they understood it.

After a brief description of some of the key statements and constructs, we ran the program to retrieve 1000 tweets that were tagged #Thor (presumably mostly about the movie, but who knows? Maybe Odin is out there promoting his brand.)

We ran a frequency chart (using the SGPLOT procedure) to show the distribution of tweets over the past 90 hours. Looks like there was a spike in activity around midnight EDT. One student guessed: A new trailer being promoted, perhaps?

Because Twitter content is unstructured text data, we can use what we know about Twitter "conventions" and parse out some extra information, such as how many of the tweets are retweets, and who was the original "tweeter"? We used DATA step and regular expressions to identify the retweets, and then ran a frequency analysis (FREQ) to identify the accounts who had the most retweeted content.

We noticed that @Marvel dominated the conversation, at least for our small sample. I guess it makes sense that they have a vested interest, since they "own" the Thor character. And @DrPepper had quite a lot to say. We guessed that maybe the soft drink is a sponsor for the film and we'll see a few cans of Dr. Pepper on the big screen? (I checked later and it looks like, yes indeed, Thor is a Pepper - wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too?)

I couldn't have been more pleased with how this session went. Together, the students and I used our SAS programming skills and critical thinking to investigate a topic, and we learned things that we didn't know before. We gathered raw data that we had never seen before, and we turned it into information. And that is a life skill that will never go out of style.

1月 202011
Tomorrow I'll be taking a few hours away from work to build something important: the self-esteems of a handful of middle-school-aged children.

I'm volunteering as a judge in a middle-school science fair. And even though I'm not a scientist ("computer science" isn't a category), I understand enough about physical science and the scientific method to contribute to the event. If you ever get a similar opportunity, take it! It's fun for you and rewarding for students. Here is a useful guide for how to be an effective judge.

I've participated in this event in previous years, but this year is different for me: one of the middle-school students is my 6th-grade daughter. Of course, I won't serve as a judge for her age group so there will be no chance for impropriety. However, I have enjoyed watching my daughter work on her project, from the time when it was just an idea (well, several ideas) to seeing the completed work. Like any parent would, I helped (when asked) with a few logistics, but the content is one-hundred-percent hers.

I'll admit that it was a little painful for me to watch as she recorded her results in Excel, summed and averaged the numbers, created tables and built graphs. It's so easy to veer off into the weeds of formatting and colors and lose the real content. Readability is important, and so is an attractive presentation. But nothing is more important than an accurate portrayal of your results. (And no, I didn't try to convince her to use SAS; that would be too overbearing.)

I know you're wondering: what was my daughter's project? Here's what it's not:

  • Can you teach a hamster to dance to music when food is on the line? (We don't have a hamster, let alone another hamster that would be needed as a control. I think this was an end-run effort to get a hamster in the house.)
  • Does the time of day that you were born have an effect on how early a riser you tend to be? (If that's the case, I think that most teenagers were born after noon.)

The real project: which brand of soda reacts more when you add Mentos to it: Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi? It won't win a Nobel prize, but it is testable and measurable. What's your hypothesis? Add it to the comments, with your reasoning. Then I'll follow up with my daughter's observations.