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Researcher awarded $1.1 million in grants

A Bermudian educator and researcher who has won two grants totalling $1.1 million said her findings will eventually benefit young people in Bermuda.

Katie Davis, an assistant professor at the University of Washington's Information School, received a grant of $759,000 from the National Science Foundation to fund research into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, as well as a $385,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. They are the biggest grants she has ever received as a principal investigator.

With the larger grant, Dr Davis will explore opportunities to use networked technologies to promote students' STEM identities and connect their STEM learning in meaningful ways across formal and informal learning environments.

The smaller of the grants will build the capacity of librarians to incorporate digital media into their work with young people.

Dr Davis told The Royal Gazette: “I am interested in using my insights to figure out how we can use and leverage technology to enrich learning and to make learning more engaging and personally more meaningful for young people.

“A lot of the time kids do one thing in school and have an after-school activity or maybe they are staying at home with friends.

“A lot of the activities are disconnected even though there may actually be some connections to be made. In my work I am informed by the idea that we can connect these different contexts and show kids how they relate.

“Eventually I would love to be able to use the models that I am creating now to bring the work into Bermuda. I could see that happening both in schools and also in after-school settings.

“In Bermuda's economy the STEM fields are so important. You need these types of skills no matter what but in particular Bermuda's economy depends on young people who are educated in STEM fields including technology and engineering and the sciences.

“This is a particularly important area to focus on for Bermuda.”

Dr Davis's latest projects will support her pioneering work into the effects that digital media has on the development of young people.

She co-authored the book The App Generation: How Today's Youth navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World.

As part of her dissertation she conducted a survey with about 80 per cent of Bermuda's secondary school students, the results of which were included in the book.

“The focus there was to get them to describe in their words what technology means to them, how they use it in their everyday lives, what they like and don't like, and how they use tech on their own when no one is telling them what to do.

“I was focusing on development and how young people use technology to express themselves and form and maintain relationships.”

Dr Davis is the granddaughter of David Critchley, the late social worker and civil servant who had an interest in tackling social problems including racism and drug addiction.

Dr Davis said her work has been greatly influenced by her grandfather.

“He is definitely the inspiration for my work,” she said. “He was really concerned with issues of social justice in education in Bermuda. My work is really all about using technology to support social justice and to even out the playing field so that all kids have an excellent education.

“If we are not careful, the kids who already have a lot will benefit the most from new technologies and I really want to use my work to make sure that all kids benefit from new technology.”

• For more information, visit http://katiedavisresearch.com

Funding: Katie Davis recently wrote her Harvard Doctorate on the Island's young people, which included sections on social media. (File photo by Tamell Simons)

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Published April 14, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated April 14, 2015 at 11:17 am)

Researcher awarded $1.1 million in grants

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