Sayamindu Dasgupta, Assistant Professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), has been awarded funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a two-year project aimed at fostering data literacies in middle-school and high-school-aged children.
Dasgupta will lead the development of a data-focused visual, block-based programming environment, which will be adjusted and improved iteratively through formative research studies with children.
“The broad goal of this project is to discover ways in which we can support children in inventing and developing their own data tools, rather than just using them,” Dasgupta said. “This process offers children opportunities to not only develop their understanding of important data concepts and practices, but also to recognize the ethical risks and pitfalls of data collection, access, and analysis.”
The findings from the research will help the scientific community better understand what it takes to meaningfully engage children in a broad spectrum of data-related activities. Additionally, the software product and educational materials from this project will be made publicly available for learners and educators to use. The NSF funding will also support a graduate research assistant, who will help develop the system.
“As society and everyday lives become more data-driven and data-mediated, everyone—not just STEM workers—needs to have some degree of fluency with data concepts and practices,” Dasgupta said. “This project seeks to find ways in which children can become prepared early on for a STEM competency that is becoming increasingly important.”