In this video — first made for students on the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University and shared as part of a series of video posts — I explain what computational thinking is and how it can improve your ability to work with data as a journalist, with some exercises and examples that help you exercise your own computational thinking.
This latest group of frequently asked questions comes from an interview with Source, published here in full just in case it’s — you know — useful or something…
1. What are the essential computational skills that a journalist should develop?
Firstly, an ability to recognise patterns, or structured information. Spreadsheets are explicitly ‘data’ but some of the most interesting applications of computational journalism are where someone has seen data where others don’t.
Today I will be introducing my MA Data Journalism students to computational thinking techniques (you can read my post about why that’s important here). As part of my preparations I’ve been collecting some of my favourite examples of computational thinking being used to spot and execute data journalism stories – and I’m sharing them here…
Story 1: Which singer has the biggest vocal range?
In this second extract from a forthcoming book chapter I look at the role that computational thinking is likely to play in the next wave of data journalism — and the need to problematise that. You can read the first part of this series here.
Computational thinking is the process of logical problem solving that allows us to break down challenges into manageable chunks. It is ‘computational’ not only because it is logical in the same way that a computer is, but also because this allows us to turn to computer power to solve it.
“To reading, writing, and arithmetic, we should add computational thinking to every child’s analytical ability. Just as the printing press facilitated the spread of the three Rs, what is appropriately incestuous about this vision is that computing and computers facilitate the spread of computational thinking.”
This process is at the heart of a data journalist’s work: it is what allows the data journalist to solve the problems that make up so much of modern journalism, and to be able to do so with the speed and accuracy that news processes demand. Continue reading →