Learning to discern

September 25, 2006

Individuals use data every day to determine the nutritional value of the foods they buy, compare one car brand to another, and much more. Societies use data to set public policy and evaluate programs such as Medicare or Welfare to Work -- but are we teaching the nation's students how to judge the data we use for fairness, accuracy, bias?

The National Science Foundation has awarded Kent State University's Research Center for Educational Technology (RCET) a three-year grant of nearly $1 million to develop a curriculum for 7th grade students, to teach data literacy across the curriculum.

The materials, to be produced in collaboration with SRI International's Center for Technology in Learning, will support four two-week units to be taught in social studies, mathematics, science and English courses, utilizing real data on water use and quality in the Middle East. Extensions to the units will involve data on water use and water quality in Ohio. Principle Investigator Dr. Karen Swan says the data was chosen because other communities will have comparable data to modify the curriculum to meet their needs. The curriculum will be pilot tested and field tested in three Ohio middle schools.

Research also will be conducted on the efficacy of an instructional model called Preparation for Future Learning (PFL), developed by John Bransford and Daniel Schwartz. The underlying tenant of this model is that learning is enhanced if students become familiar with a problem and its context before learning formal concepts that might be applied to its solution. The study's findings will thus advance understanding of the application of PFL theory, as well as how data literacy can be better integrated throughout the K-12 curriculum.
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For more information about this study, contact Swan at 330-672-3317 or kswan@kent.edu.

RCET is a national leader in the study of the impact of technology on teaching and learning, with an emphasis on ubiquitous computing. Ubiquitous computing environments are learning environments in which all students have access to a variety of digital devices and services, whenever and wherever they need them - the technology is always available but not itself the focus of learning.

For expert sources on learning and technology, contact Dr. Dale Cook, Summit Professor for Learning Technology and RCET founder and director, at 330-672-0611 or dcook@kent.edu. Visit http://www.rcet.org for further information about RCET.

Kent State University

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