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Public data analysis discussed in partnership with German university

Classes delivered in English took place simultaneously with use of digital tools

29/11/2019 - 09h16
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Photo: Diego Freitas Furtado

The independent program Intercultural Math & Data Reporting, which began in October, came to an end. It was such a unique program in that it focused on the analysis of public data. The initiative was inspired by data scientists who work together with journalists. Students from the School of Communications, Arts and Design – Famecos and the School of Humanities of PUCRS as well as graduate students in Mathematics from the University of Potsdam (UniPotsdam), in Germany, were involved. The last class took place on Nov 11.

The project was headed by Dr Ana Cecilia Nunes (PUCRS) and Dr Claudia-Susanne Günther (UniPotsdam). Classes were delivered simultaneously, in English, using digital tools to help participants interact. In groups, students were taught certain aspects of Brazil after analysis of public databases suggested by the professors.

For senior year Journalism major, Marina Gil, this was an opportunity to better understand how data can contribute to journalism. “They [UniPotsdam students] taught some things to us, such as the importance of defining your questions for the material, for instance. It was interesting because we didn’t have much idea how to work with it,”she says.

The project is expected to be included in the curriculum of the Journalism course Data reporting and visualization applied to the Brazilian context, taught by Professor Marcelo Fontoura. The inclusion of the activity in the curriculum, however, can only be confirmed in the coming months, given the need for correspondence of the academic period of the two universities. The program is coordinated by Mr Fabian Chelkanoff.

“Projects like this are essential for the training of students. Besides the work experience, the experience with international students, from different countries and language backgrounds, is something students would only get if they were in the partner country “, Fabian Chelkanoff says.

Communication challenges under discussion

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Photo: Diego Freitas Furtado

The way Ana sees it, one of the challenges was to think of intercultural communication in a different language and different academic areas – since the initiative included Journalism and Modern Languages students, from Brazil, and Mathematics majors from Germany. To her mind, the initiative counts as an international experience without leaving the country. “In all classes, we went to Germany and faced the same barriers that we would face in person, both in terms of language and topics,” she says.

The primary difficulty in communication was also mentioned by sophomore year Journalism major Gabrielle Barroca Cruz. However, I beat the challenge: “I think the whole experience with people from outside our social group or where we live can be fruitful, because we can get to know new perspectives and different views of the world,” she says.

The fact that students had different language backgrounds ​was seen as something very positive for Claudia-Susanne. Since her students aim to teach math, she considers the experience a differential. This is because Germany welcomes many students from all over the world, and educators are often faced the challenge of teaching to students whose native languages are varied. “I believe this experience will make students more aware and sensitive about the importance of language skills,” she says.

Next steps

The activities developed in the project Intercultural Math & Data Reporting will result in an article addressing how new teaching methodologies can be thought through the use of digital tools and interculturality. The idea is to think about what can still be improved and publish the initiative in order to inspire other similar actions. For the next semester, the project should be included in the curriculum of the course Data reporting and visualization applied to the Brazilian context, at Famecos.