JumpStart launches School of Data

29 January 2016

JumpStart launches School of Data


JumpStart aims to continue its pioneering leadership in bringing data literacy, journalism, and visualization education to Georgia. In the late 2015, JumpStart launched its School of Data, equipping people to use and communicate data effectively one course at a time.

Even though JumpStart has been designing and implementing various study programs, workshops, and seminars about data journalism and data visualization during past 3 years, it has been on an ad hoc basis. We travelled to Beirut and Yerevan, held public and private training sessions for various groups in Tbilisi and outside, guest lectured at several Georgian universities, and designed and taught an MA course at Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA). Increasingly, we have received requests from journalists, researchers, designers, and communication specialists to share our experience with them through training programs. We decided to establish JumpStart’s School of Data to systemize our educational activities, improve our study programs, and proactively bring data education to interested groups. As our school’s mission statement puts it: equip everyone with data skills one course at a time. 

The first program launched by School of Data is a 12-month long Training of Trainers program funded by UNESCO to cover the spectrum of concepts, techniques, and skills a journalist needs to communicate the complex processes in our societies. 

The program brings 4 journalists from Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to Tbilisi to attend four 1-week-long intensive workshops throughout the 12-month-long program. Between the training sessions, participants are required to complete reading and assignments, as well as finish online courses on CodeSchool in various programming languages. In addition, each participant is required to share this new capacity among their colleagues in a series of localized workshops. 

The first week of the school took place in early January at JumpStart’s office. We covered data collection methods, advanced spreadsheet functions, HTML & CSS,  and introduced R, a statistical programming language, to the participants. The group is coming back to Tbilisi for the second week of training in April, aiming to master data formatting, cleaning, and analysis. We will continue working on R, talk about SQL and relational databases, and scraping with Ruby in order to enable participants to use code to access a web page and get data in structured format.  The third week of training later in summer will cover design issues for data visualization and communication. During the final fourth week of training, school participants will get acquainted with Javascript and various advanced tools for interactive data visualization, and will finalize their course projects. 

School of Data participants with Eric Barrett and Nino Macharashvili

Meet the course participants: 

Kristina Taskevich has more than 10 years work experience in Journalism. She has been reporting on economics for most of her career and has also served as a web editor at Radio Free Europe. Kristina is eager to learn new skills and popularize data journalism in Georgia, as she believes that the interactive approaches in making data accessible for audiences is the tool every journalist should learn and use in their work. 

Gegham Vardanyan is a recognized media expert from Yerevan, Armenia. He works at Media Initiatives Center and has more than 15 years experience in journalism, production, and media training. Gegham has produced and written scripts of tens of documentary films and more than 200 stories and features highlighting social and economic issues. He is planning to deepen his knowledge in data journalism at JumpStart’s School of Data and take his knowledge back to Armenia and share among journalists and students through training and study programs. 

Ilkin Hasanov is a GIPA graduate from Azerbaijan specializing in media management. He has worked as a reporter at ANS TV and is planning to add data analysis and visualization to his skillset. Ilkin will be training journalist and students in data journalism back in Baku as part of his studies at JumpStart’s School of Data. 

Nvard Hovhannisyan is an Armenian journalist based in Tbilisi. She is a media coordinator at Chai-khana, a Tbilisi-based NGO for alternative multi-media storytelling in the South Caucasus covering various topics in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Nvard will be sharing her new data skills to her colleagues at Chai-khana. 

With the UNESCO-funded ToT program, JumpStart’s School of Data aims to begin filling in the gap of media professionals with data skills in the region. But this is not where we stop: upon successful completion of our first program, we plan to continue introducing new courses to various groups as well as to deepen collaboration with institutions to expand the reach of our educational programs in Georgia and beyond.