The Collaboratory Creates a Platform for Pedagogical Innovation Across Columbia

“There is a transformation in peoples’ mindsets that changes the way they operate,” said Adam Cannon, Senior Lecturer in Machine Learning at Columbia, at a recent Collaboratory debrief.

Cannon was referring to the impact of innovative curricula that weaves data and computational science into courses taught in all disciplines across Columbia.

The Collaboratory, jointly founded by Columbia Entrepreneurship and the Data Science Institute, now has 14 new courses that teach data and computational science in the context of disciplines ranging from urban planning and advertising to humanities and storytelling.

The Collabatory was founded to prepare tomorrow’s leaders for a data-rich world and for data-driven careers. Students can no longer be considered literate in their respective areas of study unless they are also digitally literate and armed with an understanding of how data science has impacted their domains.

Now they are learning how to use powerful analytical and computational tools in the context of the courses they are already taking in their majors.

All benefit from this transformational mindset that opens them up an interdisciplinary and data-literate understanding the world around them.

Take, for example Data: Past, Present, and Future, which is offered to undergraduates.

The science requirement of the Columbia Core, like its humanistic components, proposes to enable students “to understand the civilization of their own day and to participate effectively in it.” The civilization of our day is one saturated, improved, manipulated, and transformed through the accumulation and analysis of data. Data: Past, Present, and Future gives students the background and skills to understand our civilization of data and to be critical and effective participants in it.

The diversity of classes that the Collaboratory has facilitate reflects the fact that the knowledge needed to enable tomorrow’s graduates to meaningfully engage in today’s data-rich world varies by academic background and discipline. In What is a Book for the 21st Century, a class co-taught by historian Pamela Smith, computer scientist Steven Feiner, and librarian and scholar of the digital humanities Terence Catapano, challenged students to use technology to make the modern equivalent of a 16th century manuscript through  the use of 3D interaction, augmented reality, and simulations. Programming, Technology and Analytics for Columbia’s Business School was oversubscribed by business students interested in careers that require digital literacy, either in startups, consulting firms, financial services firms, or “traditional” corporations that strive to make use of data and analytics to innovate their business practices.

The coming year promises to bring an even greater variety of interdisciplinary courses, as well as refined versions of the innovative classes brought about in the 2016-2017 academic year.

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