Help middle school students understand how their everyday food decisions impacts climate change.
Research assistant & designer
Two iterations of a multitouch table application called Food for Thought were designed to help students explore how their food effects the environment through data-based, collaborative conversations among groups.
Kelly, S. B., Lawrence, L., & Mercier, E. (2017). Engaging everyday science data to help make sense of data. In Making a Difference—Prioritizing Equity and Access in CSCL: The 12th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning. Philadelphia, USA: The International Society of the Learning Sciences. [pdf]
Kelly, S., Lawrence, L., & Mercier, E. (2017). Food for Thought: User and resource guide. CoLearnLab Resources. www.colearnlab.org/resources
ABOUT THE FIRST ITERATION
The software allows students to create meals as a group by dragging foods on and off the plate in the center. Graphs on the table were used to visualize the cost and calories of each food per serving, along with the carbon and water footprint it takes to produce them. Students engaged in dialogue about how they can make choices about what they would choose considering the tradeoffs between the four variables.
ABOUT THE SECOND ITERATION
Findings from the first iteration of the software indicated that students did not engage in as much data related discussion as anticipated and that when they did discuss the data, students often only discussed the graph in front of them rather than drawing inferences from all four. Therefore, as part of my master's thesis, I redesigned the software to account for these findings. In the second design, I repositioned the graphs so that all students had access to all data and added representations of the two key variables to engage the students in more discussion.
Both iterations of the software were used with middle school students who were working on science topics around the environment. Results from my thesis, show that students engaged in more data related discussions when using the second iteration compared to the first.
After successful implementations of the software and interest from the community, we designed an iPad application called Food for Thought: Your food, your footprint.
More information at
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