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Project Description

With the advent and increased use of the internet, social media has become an integral part of people’s lives. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok generate a large volume of data that can be analyzed for a range of insights. This underscores the need for educational opportunities in which students can explore big data approaches to extract, visualize, and critically analyze complex algorithms and data structures. This demonstration project will develop a big data curriculum that uses cutting-edge social media data mining techniques via Twitter and a culturally relevant design to engage students from underrepresented groups in the West Texas/El Paso region. The curriculum will be co-designed by a team of teachers and students, and then piloted in El Paso high schools, which have a large population of students who are underrepresented. The outcomes of this project have the potential to transform models of computing and data literacy in which students access their own personal interests to participate in the creation of computational artifacts and navigate the products of others.

This BPC Demonstration Project aims to provide evidence-based insights on “Big Data”-centric computer and data science teaching and learning with underrepresented pre-college student populations. The team will iteratively develop and pilot a culturally relevant data mining and analytics curricular unit with groups of teachers and students who, respectively, serve or come from underrepresented groups. The team will leverage mixed-methodological approaches to examine learning outcomes for CS education and the learning sciences. This research is guided by two research questions: (1) What critical learning and instructional resources are needed to productively sustain a CS curricular intervention that emphasizes culturally relevant data mining and analytics?, (2) What learning experiences and outcomes result when implementing a CS education program that emphasizes culturally relevant data mining and analytics?

Key Collaborators


Elsa Q. Villa is a research assistant professor at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) sharing her appointment between the UTEP Office of Research and Sponsored Projects and the UTEP College of Education where she is director of the Hopper-Dean Center of Excellence for K-12 Computer Science Education.  Villa received her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from New Mexico State University; and Master of Science degree in Computer Science and Master of Arts in Education from UTEP. Holding permanent secondary teaching certification in the State of Texas for secondary mathematics and science, Villa has taught at numerous levels: grades 7 through12, community college, and university in the disciplines of mathematics, science, education, engineering, and computer science. Villa has also taught mathematics and science methods courses for elementary and secondary pre-service teachers. Villa led a NSF-funded grant Latinas in Computer Science and Engineering, an investigation of identity and agency of undergraduate Latina students; and is currently PI of a U.S. Department of Education grant with co-PIs from the UTEP Departments of Computer Science and Teacher Education. Since 1994, Villa has led and co-led numerous STEM grants from corporate foundations and state and federal agencies, and has publications in refereed journals and edited books. Her research interests include communities of practice, gender, STEM teacher education, transformative learning, and identity.

Elsa Villa, PhD
Clinal Assistant Professor


I embrace active learning activities and field-based experiences because they stimulate the creation of a community of learners, discussions, and cooperative problem solving and lay the groundwork for life-long collaborative practice. I love teaching when the learning in my classroom is evident: When I can sense it in the quickening pace of a discussion or a student’s visible delight in using newly learned knowledge and vocabulary; when I can hear the excitement in students’ feedback and comments about mastering skills that “made a difference” or theories that transform practices and perspectives. As an educator, I am responsible for knowing who my learners are, what kinds of knowledge and experience they bring to the group, and what they want to achieve so that I can adapt a curriculum that fits their needs and yet leaves enough room to accommodate topics that emerge from group discovery. By assessing where my students are with respect to our mutual learning goals, I can provide the scaffolding they need to build connections between what they already know and the new knowledge they seek to create.  

Joyce Cashman, PhD
Assistant Dean


Kris Yeager is a former high school special education teacher, working mainly with students with learning disabilities and emotional/behavioral disorders. Currently, he conducts research on developing strengths-based and supportive transition plans, and he teaches university courses on transition, research, and legal issues in special education.

Kristopher Yeager, PhD
Assistant Professor

Key Outcomes


U.S. Department of Education Funded


Graduate Student Research Assistants Mentored

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