Data ScienceCognitive Constructivism is a suite of easy-to-use web tools for beginners to explore different sets of data. It is a project from the Engagement Lab at Emerson College and the MIT Center for Civic Media. 

DataBasic features multiple tools to help you understand textual and tabular (tables) data, including WordCounter, samediff, WTFcsv, and ConnectTheDots. The tools were tested in classrooms and workshops to make sure they worked well and were easily understandable. Users can visualize the resulted information in a variety of useful formats that facilitate better understanding of the concepts (e.g., color-differentiated tables with graphic cues that can increase retention).

Watch on Vimeo

Tool Snapshot

LearningCognitive Constructivism
Ease of Use★★★★✩
Class SizeUnlimited
ISTE*SKnowledge Constructor & Computational Thinker

Type of learning: Students learn to analyze and construct meaning from data.

Privacy: The Data Basic website stores information uploaded for only the amount of time it takes users to analyze the data, then it is deleted. The aggregate results shown (metadata) are kept for 60 days, and then get deleted. 

Ease of Use: Tool has simple and easy-to-use interface.

Accessibility: Data Basic supports screen readers. 

Power and Bias: Website is available for English, Spanish, and Portuguese speakers.

ISTE Standards for Students: Hands-on approaches to analyzing data. Students construct their knowledge through collecting data and trying to find stories and information within it. 

Main page of the website Overview Video

Watch on YouTube

Data Basic & the SAMR Model

Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model offers a lens for examining how technology is adopted in a classroom. As you strive to incorporate online tools into your classroom, we encourage you to use this model as an analytic tool.

Here is an example of how Data Basic might fit within the SAMR model:

Far too often, technology is used as a direct substitute for other low-tech tools (e.g., pencil and paper). While substitution has some benefits (e.g., students develop their technology skills and knowledge), we encourage you to think about how you might use Twitter to modify or redefine learning.

Learning Activities

WordCounter Activity Guide: Use WordCounter to analyze a musician’s lyrics and sketch a story with their words. Sketching a data story helps participants build their data literacy by finding and drawing a story about what words show up in famous musicians’ lyrics.

WTFcsv Activity Guide: Use WTFcsv to identify some questions to ask your spreadsheet. This hands-on activity helps participants build their data literacy while looking at some fun datasets and brainstorming questions you can ask about them.

SameDiff Activity Guide: Write Your Own Song Use SameDiff to analyze the lyrical styles of two musicians and invent a duet for them.

Lesson Ideas Using WordCounter

Personal Narratives

Write, or copy and paste, a personal narrative into WordCounter. Students will be able to see common themes from the visuals that are produced from the Data Basic WordCounter’s word clouds, Top Words, Bigrams, and Trigrams. These word clouds make great displays for a classroom bulletin board. 

Current Affairs Analysis

Copy and paste a news story into Data Basic WordCounter. Ask students to guess what the story was about and generate a headline based on the results.

Student Profiles

Have all students in your class write a few positive adjectives about each of their classmates anonymously. Compile all the papers, input the adjectives for each student into WordCounter, and generate a student profile word cloud to give back to the student. 

Collaborative Group Work

For the solar system, student teams could each be responsible for creating Word Clouds to describe one of the eight planets or in a Math class student teams could be responsible for creating a visual representation listing all the types of quadrilaterals.

Lesson Ideas Using SameDiff

Compare and Contrast: Compare and contrast the documents of two or more students’ writing, famous speeches, song lyrics, news reports, or book reviews.

How to Use DataBasic


D'Ignazio, C., & Bhargava, R. (2016). DataBasic: Design principles, tools and activities for data literacy learners. The Journal of Community Informatics, 12(3).

D'Ignazio, C. (2017). Creative data literacy: Bridging the gap between the data-haves and data-have nots. Information Design Journal, 23(1), 6-18.

This content is provided to you freely by EdTech Books.

Access it online or download it at