The amount and variety of information generated and shared online requires young people to be adept at effectively producing, analyzing, assessing, using, visualizing, and circulating data. They must be data literate. This project investigates how adolescents develop data literacy by teaching young people to analyze their own online participation and to learn how to make their digital footprints have greater impact. Specifically, researchers will build and test a suite of visualization tools called the “Impact Studio” that will give students access to data about their online interactions. The “Impact Studio” will be developed and tested with students and educators who participate in a global online community called “Write4Change” (W4C). In this virtual community, youth and their teachers communicate online about issues of local and global concern — for example, climate change, immigration, peace and conflict — and explore how their own ideas and activities can contribute to solutions. Using the “Impact Studio,” students will learn to deploy data visualizations as a means to test, revise, and more clearly express their concepts and proposals. Designing, developing, and testing digital tools that support students in becoming productive, civically engaged 21st century citizens, this project will contribute to scientific knowledge about how young people learn to strategically leverage data in order to produce, assess, and circulate information in a global arena.
As a design-based research study, the project develops and tests theories about how youth engage in data literacy practices to write for impact. Though the use of data is an essential part of analyzing, producing, and circulating information in STEM fields, this study broadens that focus to consider how the strategic use of data can inform digital writing. Across four iterative design phases that focus on building, testing, enhancing, and implementing the integrated visualization tools in the Impact Studio, the researchers will study 1) how the Impact Studio’s visualized data displays influence student collaboration; 2) how students use data from the Impact Studio in communicating cross-culturally; and 3) how the capacity to create, critique, and manage multimodal representations allows students to leverage visualized data in their writing process (including the content of what they write, how they share and circulate their writing, and how they revise). The research team will first conduct design workshops and user testing on a prototype to refine the feature requirements for Version 1 of the Impact Studio. Researchers will then collect quantitative and qualitative data that track network activity and Impact Studio usage from W4C members (including interviews; participant observation; content analysis; temporal, frequency, citation, and interaction data from the network; surveys; digital competencies; skill inventories; and knowledge measures). After a period of data analysis, tool redesign, and user testing, the research team will undertake another period of data collection and analysis. This project will develop key principles about how to support students in generating and navigating vast amounts of data, critically interpreting and creating visual and textual representations of those data, and measuring the impact of their work on cross-cultural audiences.