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Data-Driven Art

Data-Driven Art

One of ODI’s NSF-funded projects, Building Students’ Data Literacy through the Co-design of Curriculum by Mathematics and Art Teachers, is creating learning experiences for middle school students which integrate data science with art.

This past spring, the project researchers conducted a classroom pilot study of a 3-week long unit in collaboration with a math and art teacher pair. The study’s goals were to explore how students use mathematics and art to describe and make claims from data, and to examine the concepts and skills in visual arts, mathematics and data literacy evident in their work. The unit—co-designed with teachers—guided students in two data-based inquiry activities. One activity focused on collecting and using data to describe their experiences during the pandemic, and the second focused on exploring data on teen use of social media collected by Pew Research. Both activities culminated in the creation of art pieces based on the data they analyzed.

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Initial results from the students’ culminating art projects suggest that students were engaged in thinking about the patterns in the data, what they meant in context, and how to represent them through art. However, students varied in the extent to which they connected both their inferences and artistic choices to the data evidence, sometimes drawing on personal experience to make inferences, rather than the data, and results from the study suggest students needed more careful scaffolding for making data-based inferences. In the top left example below, a student drew a representation of how many people they saw in the last 5 days of the pandemic and included a key to understanding the data. In the top right exhibit, the yarn represents the percentage of teens who use social media, based on data from the Pew Research survey. And in the bottom left image, a student created a 3-D abstraction of the same Pew data (on teen internet use) using more colorful crayons to represent the teens who use the internet, and using structure to represent the student’s claim that teens who don’t use the internet are more organized and focused.
Due to the pandemic, the research team wasn’t able to pilot test in as many classrooms as they had originally planned, but they were able to adapt the units for online and asynchronous use, using the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment (wise.berkeley.edu) platform. And in this school year, they are working with art and math teachers from four middle schools to build on last year’s findings, and codesign and pilot more arts-integrated data literacy units. This year they hope to incorporate dance as well as visual arts. (Aren’t you curious about dancing to data?!)

We don’t know the form the modules will take this year given the pandemic, but the team is developing curricula designs and plans that are flexible enough to adapt to the different teacher and student contexts—a challenging process, as school circumstances are changing rapidly.

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy holiday!

Randy Kochevar
Director, ODI