iSchool Professor Receives $1 Million NSF CAREER Grant to Develop Data Science Curriculum

Hayleigh Moore - March 28, 2022

Dr. David Weintrop will be working with D.C. Public Schools to address inequities in high school data science education.

Two students sitting in front of laptops with the screen's reflection showing in their glasses

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

Dr. David Weintrop, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland College of Information Studies (iSchool) and College of Education, received a $1 million NSF CAREER grant to develop a data science curriculum for high school students in District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). Designed as a Research-Practice Partnership with the DCPS, this five-year project is in response to the increasing roles data and data-informed technologies play in our daily lives. It will also address the lack of equity in data science education, and provide students with foundational knowledge on data science best practices so they can make informed decisions about how and when their data is used.

“This project is in part a response to the inequitable use of algorithms in society and the often invisible ways that data impact us. I think it’s essential that all students have a foundational understanding of the role data is playing in our lives. This especially true for students from populations historically excluded from computing who are often most directly impacted by inequitable uses of data and technology” said Weintrop.

Within the project’s first year, Weintrop will be running participatory design sessions with high school students from DCPS to better understand their experiences with data and the role that data plays in their lives. He’ll also be using these sessions to understand what the students are passionate about and how they can use publicly available datasets to explore their interests. A follow-up series of participatory design sessions will be held with high school math and computer science teachers to co-design some of the materials that will be used in the curriculum.

“I care a lot about urban education and my work having an impact in classrooms that have historically not had the opportunity to use innovative, cutting-edge technologies or curricula” said Weintrop.

The resulting curriculum from the project will be made freely available online to anyone around the world. Additionally, Weintrop plans to share his research at educator-oriented conferences, as well as with other educational entities, such as the Maryland State Department of Education, which he is currently working with to aid the department’s mission to develop more data science courses for Maryland school districts.

This project also aligns with the DCPS’s ongoing mission to develop a data science course that can serve as an alternative to current math offerings like pre-calculus. By collaborating with DCPS, the idea is to create a curriculum that’s open to all high school students across DCPS.

While this is Weintrop’s newest project, he is immersed in several other initiatives centered on providing more accessible, engaging, and culturally responsive data and computer science education to students at various levels. Some of his current work includes Scratch Encore, an equity-oriented computer science curriculum for upper elementary learners designed with teams from the University of Chicago and Chicago Public School District, HEX of the Turtle Islands, a free online video game to broaden participation in the field of cybersecurity, and INFACT, a 3rd-8th grade learning trajectory for computational thinking for neurodiverse learners.

Weintrop has a joint appointment in the iSchool and the Teaching & Learning, Policy & Leadership (TLPL) department in the College of Education. Within TLPL, he leads the Technology, Learning, and Leadership specialization. He is also a co-PI for IMPACT Libraries, a project focused on computational thinking (CT) programming and assessment in libraries and other informal learning environments. Weintrop received his Ph.D. in the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University working with Uri Wilensky in the Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modeling.

Read the full “CAREER: Situating Computational Learning Opportunities in the Digital Lives of Students” abstract.

About NSF CAREER grant:
The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Activities pursued by early-career faculty should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research. NSF encourages submission of CAREER proposals from early-career faculty at all CAREER-eligible organizations and especially encourages women, members of underrepresented minority groups, and persons with disabilities to apply.