CAREER: DataSketch: Exploring Computational Data Visualization in the Middle Grades

PI: Michelle Wilkerson-Jerde
Tufts University
Award Details

Increasingly, the data visualizations used in contemporary science and media move beyond conventional graphs or diagrams to use problem-specific imagery and computational techniques to reveal patterns of interest. K-12 students, however, do not have many opportunities to explore such data visualizations, or to author their own. The goal of this project is to design software tools and classroom materials that make exploring and authoring data visualizations accessible in middle grades classrooms. The underlying hypothesis of the project is that by exploring and constructing their own data visualizations, students can develop data literacy, learn core math and science content, and engage in key STEM practices in powerful new ways.

The project involves two interrelated strands: (1) research on grade 6-8 students’ knowledge related to data visualization, and (2) the development and study of DataSketch, a tablet-based tool for students to create sketches and program them to respond to archival or live data input. Research will include interviews, studio workshops, and classroom-based studies to explore: (1) what knowledge and skills middle school students have, and need to develop, to interpret and construct data visualizations? (2) how data visualization can be integrated into the grade 6-8 STEM curriculum? and, (3) what role data visualization can contribute to middle students’ learning of core STEM practices and content?

Partners include two schools with historically under served student populations in the Greater Boston metro area, and teachers across the greater New England region. There are opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students studying Computer Science and Education at Tufts University to conduct research and outreach at participating middle school sites. There is potential to disseminate resulting classroom activities and software through LEGO, the Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach, and iCreate to Educate.

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