DataBasic: Design Principles, Tools and Activities for Data Literacy Learners


  • Catherine D'Ignazio Emerson College
  • Rahul Bhargava MIT Media Lab/Center for Civic Media



Data Literacy, Learning, Design, Journalism, Data visualization, Popular Education


The growing number of tools for data novices are not designed with the goal of learning in mind. This paper proposes a set of pedagogical design principles for tool development to support data literacy learners.  We document their use in the creation of three digital tools and activities that help learners build data literacy, showing design decisions driven by our pedagogy. Sketches students created during the activities reflect their adeptness with key data literacy skills. Based on early results, we suggest that tool designers and educators should orient their work from the outset around strong pedagogical principles.

Author Biographies

Catherine D'Ignazio, Emerson College

Catherine D'Ignazio is Assistant Professor of Civic Media & Data Visualization in the Journalism Dept at Emerson College. She is a research fellow at the Engagement Lab and the MIT Center for Civic Media. Boston, MA, USA. E-mail:

Rahul Bhargava, MIT Media Lab/Center for Civic Media

Rahul Bhargava is a Research Scientist at the MIT Media Lab's Center for Civic Media and co-founder of DataTherapy. Cambridge, MA, USA.






Articles, Special Issue on Data Literacy