Students learn data literacy through new Kent State program

Sarah Lelonek

Middle school students visit AT&T classroom

Educational consultant Jason Schenker records data from the group of middle school students in the AT&T classroom in Moulton hall. The classroom is separated from the research room by a two-way mirror. CAITLIN PRARAT | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

Two middle school teachers assign students into groups of three. The 23 students find their group members and take their seats, but today those seats aren’t in Stanton Middle School like usual. Instead, they are in Kent State’s AT&T Classroom in Moulton Hall.

The students are part of a pilot program funded by a nearly $1 million dollar grant through the National Science Foundation called “Thinking with Data,” said Karen Swan, professor at Kent’s Research Center for Educational Technology (RCET).

The goal of the program is to teach data literacy through seventh-grade social studies, mathematics, science and English language arts classes. Swan said they’re trying to help students understand the data from graphs and statistics.

“Today is the first day of the pilot,” Swan said. “The students will be learning about water issues in Mesopotamia dealing with the Tigris and Euphrates.”

Two groups of students will be visiting the classroom three different weeks throughout this school year. The program calls for 10 days of coursework to be done in two days.

Each group is broken up into smaller groups based on three countries: Iraq, Syria and Turkey. The group will use data sets to come up with a simulation treaty on how to solve water-related problems, Swan said.

The teachers will focus on helping students understand data representation, common measurements and proportional reasoning.

“Thinking with Data” calls for many assessments to be made during, before and after the program.

“We pre-tested the students before they started today,” said Mark van ‘t Hooft, RCET researcher. “There are group assignments and some individual reflections here and there. There’s also a post-test for the entire unit and a pre and post-test for math.

“This is the first time ever running through the program with kids,” Hooft said.

An advisory board meeting and a group of teachers edited “Thinking with Data” this summer. After the pilot, the program will still have awhile before it is published.

“We’re testing in the lab to revise the pilot,” Swan said. “We’ll field test with three schools locally and revise once more. Then, it will be published to the National Science Foundation’s digital library so that teachers all over the country can use it.”

The AT&T Classroom, founded in 1998, is the only classroom of its kind in the country. The facility contains a classroom and an observational room with monitors and laptops to record data.

Dale Cook, founder and director of RCET, said, “The research lab is for learning about how teachers teach and kids learn.”

Around 2,000 students and 90 teachers have used the classroom for various six-week programs, Cook said.

The students from “Thinking with Data” will return to Kent State in October and January for the science and language portions of the program.

Contact technology reporter Sarah Lelonek at [email protected].