Talithia Williams’ Keynote: Embrace Data for Social Good

July 8, 2020 Blackbaud K–12

Today, we had the honor of hearing Dr. Talithia Williams deliver the opening keynote for Day 2 of the Blackbaud K–12 UC conference. Dr. Williams not only has an impressive resume as a college professor, book author, speaker and TV host is remarkable in its own right, but her example of living her mission through data made her the perfect speaker.  

As a technology provider for K–12 schools (and part of Blackbaud, whose mission is to power social good), we live at the intersection of data and mission. The rise of the digital classroom—a trend accelerated by the forced adoption of distance learning—means more and more data specific to student outcomes is becoming available to teachers and school administrators. Dr. Williams’ talk helped connect the why to the how.  

She shared a story about how data is being used at her institution with an enrollment of about 800 students, Harvey Mudd College. In this case, the school used data to identify the impact of course enrollment on student outcomes in the Mathematics department (decline in woman mathematics majors). As private K–12 schools embrace methodologies like competency-based education (CBE), the granularity of data regarding student performance opens up exciting possibilities. For example, like Harvey Mudd did, school leaders will be able to embrace data to investigate trends in instructional gaps and even grading disparity.  

Dr. Williams shared an analogy with one of the world’s most data-driven organizations: Amazon. Just as Amazon analyzes our shopping carts to make personalized recommendations, she presents a vision for a personalized educational recommendation system, allowing students and educators to utilize data to adapt the learning path to needs and demonstrated mastery of students.  

Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of Dr. Williams talk is not just her explanation of how organizations can use data for change, but how Dr. Williams has embraced the mission of helping individuals and organizations become data-informed and data-empowered. This includes her work founding an annual technology conference at Harvey Mudd College exclusively for underrepresented girls.  

If you weren’t able to catch her live, be sure to watch the replay available now. 

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