Ratan Receives AT&T Instructional Technology Award

Posted on: May 19, 2015


Rabindra "Robby" Ratan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Information, is the recipient of the 2015 Michigan State University AT&T Award of Excellence for Best Blended Course for his Science Fiction, Communication & Technology course, TC 401, which examines the ways in which science fiction portrays the use of communication technologies.

During the course, themes from science fiction works are analyzed in an effort to better understand our own technology use and the ways in which communication technology plays an important role in society.

Zoom videoconferencing was the primary technology used in this synchronous online course. Through the use of Zoom, Ratan and the students watched a science fiction film together each week. With Zoom, Ratan could tell at a glance whether students were engaged in the class or were multitasking, which was discouraged. However, students were encouraged to use Zoom’s text chat feature for back-channel communication while watching the film and during class discussions. This allowed students to engage with the material in real time through interactions with each other.

Robby Ratan with ATT Award"I feel honored to win this award and grateful to the award sponsor,  committee and MSU for supporting faculty using new methods and technologies to enhance their teaching," Ratan said. "I think that synchronous (real-time) interaction between students and with instructors is very important, especially in online classes, and this course provides the opportunity to examine how new interaction tools contribute to student learning."

Ratan is teaching the course again this summer and in the fall. During the fall semester, the course will be taught in a classroom setting, but the technology will continue to be used in innovative ways to encourage constant communication.

Initiated by IT Services and funded by AT&T, the annual AT&T Faculty-Staff Competition in Instruction Technology Awards program recognizes outstanding contributions to the use and development of informational technology for teaching and learning at MSU and encourages best practices in the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning.

“The awards help spread effective practice and share the outstanding work of our colleagues,” said Brendan Guenther, Director of IT Services Teaching and Learning.

Faculty and staff are nominated for the awards by MSU's campus community or by self-nomination in three categories: fully online course, blended course and technology-enabled innovation.

The 2015 awards were presented at an award luncheon April 16 at the Kellogg Center.

To learn more about the awards, see the AT&T Faculty-Staff Competition in Instruction Technology Awards website.

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Wyche to Explore Technology Use and Innovation in Kenya

Posted on: April 1, 2015

Entering Kenya

Department of Media and Information Assistant Professor Susan Wyche's research is being supported by one of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development awards, the foundation's most prestigious award for junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar. Wyche will use the five-year, $582,613 grant to study technological innovation at sites in rural and urban Kenya.

"Technological advances in computing are traditionally understood as coming from industrialized nations, or those that invest heavily in technology research and development," Wyche said. "However, centers of information and communication technology innovation are shifting in the world. Emerging economies, such as Kenya, are no longer simply the recipients of innovative design from industrialized nations – the things we're developing. They're actually developing innovative technologies that are being adopted by the rest of the world.

M-Pesa"In the face of limited technical infrastructures and meager incomes, 'bottom of the pyramid' communities – or the 2.5 billion emerging economy residents who live on less than $2.50 per day – develop ingenious strategies to navigate these constraints when using technology. These workarounds are less obvious to people living in technology-rich environments, such as the U.S., and they have motivated innovative computing applications that are now used worldwide.

An example of this phenomenon is Kenya's revolutionary mobile banking system, M-Pesa (the "M" stands for mobile and "Pesa" is Swahili for money). For nearly a decade, Kenya has been leading the way with this innovative mobile phone technology, which allows you to send money using your mobile phone.

"When you are working in environments where access to electricity isn't everywhere, where people live on much less money than we do here, it spurs creative ideas," Wyche said. "This project is about understanding those creative ideas and how they can motivate solution to globally connected problems in computing."

Susan Wyche main 2Wyche's research will investigate the relationship between the bottom of the pyramid communities' interaction with computing and the discovery of technological solutions to globally connected problems in human-computer interaction (HCI), such as issues of sustainability, managing natural resources, recovering from natural disasters, diversifying online participation and providing employment opportunities.

One goal of this research is to lead to improved models of innovation and to advance our understanding of where and how transformative ideas emerge. It also seeks to fill a gap in knowledge regarding how constraints that exist in the United States, but are more visible in sub-Saharan Africa, can motivate innovations in computing.

"The challenges facing society – from managing natural resources and recovering from natural disasters to diversifying online participation and providing employment for growing populations – are immense, urgent and globally connected. Results from this CAREER research have the potential to substantially increase the number of technological solutions to these problems," Wyche said.

Susan Wyche KenyaWyche chose to do her research in Kenya because it is considered the tech center of East Africa right now and she has been working there since 2007.

As part of the grant, an interdisciplinary design studio course will be established where students will collaboratively design concepts based on Wyche's research. The course will be taught at both MSU and at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is intended to enable faculty early in their career to build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

Wyche's CAREER grant will begin in 2016. During the summer of 2016, she and a student will do field work in rural Kenya and the slums of Nairobi where they will interview people and observe how they use technology.

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Putting the Dr. Between You and Google

Posted on: March 16, 2015


Often when people get sick or need health information, they turn to the Internet for answers, with health searches being one of the most popular uses of the Internet today. This high demand for health information, coupled with the rising popularity in social networking, has resulted in the creation of many online health communities that offer users the opportunity to interact with others who are dealing with the same disease or health issues.

These peer-patient conversations can be helpful for learning about patients' personal experiences managing their illness, but what they currently lack are clinical moderators and the insight from clinical experts on more clinically oriented information.

Jina Huh, Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Information, is working to solve this issue and has been awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Library of Medicine Career Development Award (K01) to develop a semi-automated system that would infuse clinical expertise into peer-patient conversations in online health communities. The system will aid patient self-management by delivering balanced information from patients' personal experiences and clinical expertise. The three-year, $467,801 grant began in October 2014.

"In face-to-face patient support groups, clinicians moderate patients who share their experiences so they can clarify clinical questions and answer any questions patients might have," Huh said. "From the patient's perspective, they not only get other peer-patient experiences, but also clinical expertise from the clinical moderators. But in the online community setting, that sort of support group dynamic between patients and moderators is missing.

"My proposal is to develop a system that would enable that social dynamic present in face-to-face settings to be augmented in online settings."

Huh has conducted a number of studies with health professionals looking at when such a system should step in.

"They just want the system to interject when there are medical terms being used that indicate any symptoms or treatments, such as 'numbness' or 'severe pain,'" Huh said.

During the first year of the grant, Huh will develop the training data set to train the machine to learn how to classify the patients' posts and find out when the machine can intervene. The second year, she will work on the user interface and develop a feedback mechanism so users can give feedback to the machine's results and the way the machine works with users. Over the third year, Huh plans to deploy a working prototype.

Huh serves as a Trifecta Intellectual Leader (TIL) for the Trifecta initiative, which fosters interdisciplinary research by building relationships among experts in three MSU colleges – Communication Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Nursing – to collaboratively advance the delivery of health services to underserved populations.

"The grant reviewers really liked that MSU offers this Trifecta initiative and that I am a Trifecta faculty. They noted this as part of the positive reviews for the grant," Huh said. "Because of this, they thought that MSU is a very good environment for me to conduct this research."

Huh's mentors on the project include Professor Wanda Pratt, the Information School, University of Washington (mentor chair); University Distinguished Professor Barbara Given, MSU College of Nursing; and Professor Joyce Chai, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, MSU College of Engineering. Consultants on the project are Associate Professor Marianne Huebner, Department of Statistics and Probability, MSU College of Natural Science; Associate Professor of Nursing Amber Vermeesch, University of Portland, Oregon; and John Crowley, Vice President of Consumer Marketing an Online Communities, Alliance Health.

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Poor Decision Making Can Lead to Cybersecurity Breaches

Posted on: February 15, 2015

Rick Wash mainRecent high-profile security breaches, such as those at Target, Anthem Inc. and Sony Pictures, have attracted scrutiny to how the seemingly minor decisions of individuals can have major cybersecurity consequences.

In a presentation at this year's meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), one of the largest science gatherings in the world, Assistant Professor Rick Wash discussed how social interactions affect the processes behind personal cybersecurity decision making.

"We all have small supercomputers in our pockets now," said Wash, who has a joint appointment in the School of Journalism and the Department of Media and Information. "Regular people like you and I make a lot of important security decisions on a daily basis."

He said the Sony hack is a great example of smart people making poor choices.

"A lot of people were making bad decisions, sharing passwords, etc., that led to this event," Wash said. "But what's the reasoning process behind these decisions?"

Wash's research shows that how people visualize and conceptualize hackers and other cyber criminals affects their cybersecurity decision making. As people make personal assessments about the risks of their behaviors, these impressions – formed from the influence of media, interpersonal interactions and storytelling – have a great impact.

"People tend to focus on a picture they have in their head when conceptualizing hackers and virus makers," Wash said. "I have found two of these pictured individuals to be the most common and easily recognizable: The teenager on a computer in their parents' basement or the professional criminal in a foreign country. Those who picture the teenager tend to make better decisions in cybersecurity."

He said people's familiarity with the concept of a teenage mischief-maker allows them to readily visualize that person as a legitimate threat, and act accordingly. Those who visualize a foreign hacker believe they are professionals and are more likely to focus on more lucrative targets.

By identifying the social behaviors and rationales behind the decision-making process, this research can in turn help to influence effectiveness in the development of the science of cybersecurity.

Wash's presentation was part of a panel of six researchers exploring the social aspects of cybersecurity. The panel, organized by Indiana University, was titled "Holistic Computing Risk Assessment: Privacy, Security and Trust."

"We're all looking beyond the technological issues," Wash said. "It's about people and society and how it all comes together."

AAAS is the world's largest general science society. Its annual meeting brings together thousands of scientists, engineers, policymakers, educators and journalists to present new research and developments in science and technology. This year's conference was Feb. 12-16 in San Jose, Calif.

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O'Donnell Releases First Book on Secret World of Game Creators

Posted on: December 9, 2014

Casey ODonnell Book mainMedia and Information Assistant Professor Casey O'Donnell just released his first book, "Developer's Dilemma: The Secret World of Videogame Creators," where he examines the creative collaborative practice of game developers and takes readers behind the scenes of the gaming industry, pulling back the curtain on the world of game creators.

"Developer's Dilemma" delves into the technical practice of game developers and why they work the way they do in the gaming industry. O'Donnell said he was inspired to write the book to give credit to those who work the long hours to design and develop video games, adding that some people don't understand that the industry is more than just playing video games.

"I think one of the most important things the book will do is contribute to what game design looks like," O’Donnell said. "There's no reason game development needs to be a secret."

Casey ODonnell Book mainDrawing on extensive fieldwork at game studios in the United States and India, O'Donnell describes the book as an ethnography that took three and a half years of research. He spent time interviewing video game artists, programmers and studio heads. His primary focus was a studio called Vicarious Visions located in New York.

The book describes the process of video game development from pre-production through production, considering such aspects as experimental systems, "socially mandatory" overtime, and the perpetual start-up machine that exhausts young, initially enthusiastic workers.

Mimicking the structure of the video game Super Mario Bros., the book is divided into eight "worlds," or chapters, within which are levels and each world ending with a boss fight, or a "rant" about lessons learned and tools mastered.

"It's an academic text, but I tried to make it more accessible," O'Donnell said, admitting that the text is "goofy and playful" in some parts. "I don’t always take an academic tone."

O’Donnell is an independent game developer himself, having released his first independent game, "Osy," in February 2011.

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Research to Gather Data on Adolescents with Type-1 Diabetes

Posted on: October 22, 2014

Bree Holtz mainBree Holtz, Adjunct Research Professor in Media and Information, is leading a team of researchers recently awarded nearly $9,000 in project funds from the MSU-Sparrow Center for Innovation and Research (CFIR) to support focus groups in gathering baseline data on adolescents with Type-1 diabetes (T1D). The data will be used to prepare a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grant Proposal, titled "Using an mHealth app to transition care of Type-1 diabetes from parents to teens."

Focus groups and interviews will include adolescents with T1D, parents of children with T1D diabetes, and pediatric diabetes nurses who care for T1D children and adolescents. The goal is to better identify what characterizes the transition period between parent management and self-management, what the biggest challenges are, what communication is like between parents and children, and what a proposed mobile phone app could do to aid in that transition.

"Being able to gather this pilot data will provide a better perspective on what it is like for both parents and adolescents during this time and where an app will be able to help," said Holtz, who received her Ph.D. in Media and Information Studies from Michigan State. "The ability to have this preliminary data and additional resources during the grant preparation will significantly improve the quality of our grant proposal."

T1D affects about 3 million people in the United States. Each year more than 15,500 children from birth to age 19 are diagnosed with the disease. T1D typically presents when the patient is a child and the parents play an active role in the management of the disease. As these children mature, however, they must learn how to care for and manage the disease on their own.

Holtz's team includes CAS faculty members Shelia Cotten, Professor of Media and Information, and Amanda Holmstrom, Associate Professor of Communication, as well as MSU Assistant Professor of Nursing Denise Soltow Hershey and Dr. Michael Wood, a pediatric endocrinologist at Sparrow Hospital, and Julie Dunneback, an Advanced Practice Nurse who specializes in pediatric endocrinology at Sparrow Hospital.

The Center for Innovation and Research, created as a major joint initiative between MSU and Sparrow, aims to seek new projects to continuously improve care and deliver patient-centered, evidence-based best practice care to individuals who receive care at Sparrow.

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Study on Internet Use and Quality of Life Presented Sept. 18

Posted on: September 16, 2014

Shelia Cotten main 2Shelia Cotten, Professor in the Department of Media and Information, led an interdisciplinary research team that conducted a five-year randomized controlled trial with older adults in assisted and independent living communities designed to teach them how to use computers and the Internet. Over the course of this study, more than 300 older adults in 19 assisted and independent living communities were trained on Internet and computer use.

A presentation on this research, titled "The Relationship Between Internet Use and Quality of Life Among Older Adults in Assisted and Independent Living Communities," will take place Thursday, Sept. 18, at 4 p.m. in Room 145 of the Communication Arts and Sciences Building. The presentation is part of the Media and Information Studies (MIS) Ph.D. Program Research Seminar Series.

This research went beyond other work in this area by controlling the level of interaction among participants and researchers, in addition to the technology use.

The study shows that older adults in different types of living communities have the ability to cross the digital divide and become users of the Internet and that Internet use has beneficial aspects on varying aspects of quality of life for older adults, which Cotten will discuss in her talk.

Participants of this study were most likely to use the Internet for email and information searching, whereas social media use was very low.

"Older adults have concerns over privacy and disclosure of too much information in online environments. In addition, the average social networking site can be overwhelming to older adults," Cotten said. "There is too much information and too many types of information, much of which can be confusing to novice older adult users.

"While being able to connect with social network members via these sites could be beneficial for many older adults and their quality of life, currently the design of many of these sites does not appeal, nor is it conducive, to many older adults using them."

Funded by the National Institute on Aging, Cotten's research from this project has been published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology, Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), and Journal of Educational Gerontology, among others. She also will publish a book, which is under contract with CRC Press, a division of Taylor and Francis publishers.

Cotten is the Director of the Trifecta Initiative and Interim Director of the MSU-Sparrow Center for Innovation and Research. Her research focuses on technology use across the lifecourse and the social, educational and health impacts of that use. She conducts large-scale community based intervention studies designed to use technology to enhance various aspects of quality of life.

The MIS Ph.D. Program Research Seminar Series presents speakers drawn from MSU and other universities whose research should be of interest to MIS Ph.D. Program faculty and students. Speakers are a mix of faculty and graduate students who have completed their coursework and are doing independent research.

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Cotten Part of Team Studying Ways to Improve Alarm Safety

Posted on: September 8, 2014

Shelia Cotten main 2Shelia Cotten, Professor in the Department of Media and Information, is part of a research team studying ways to improve alarm safety, which is a health care priority across the nation.

The study will investigate alarm safety interventions in Sparrow Health System's Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (RNICU). As more monitoring equipment is used, there is an increase in alarms, which can result in alarm fatigue or desensitization, especially if the majority of alarms are false alarms or nuisance alarms.

"As technology continues to advance, we have more and more ways of monitoring our patients. With that monitoring comes alarms, and unfortunately, not all alarms are clinically relevant or helpful in the care of our patients," said Piper Probst, MSN, RN-BC, who is leading the research team and serves as the Director of Nursing Practice, Research and Outcomes for Sparrow. "For example, we sometimes will get a false alarm because a patient moves. Our goal is to decrease false alarms and nuisance alarms so most of the alarms our nurses hear are clinically relevant and help us provide safer and better care."

Throughout the country, alarm desensitization has been connected with delayed responses to alarms, failed responses to alarms, and in some instances the alarms were shut off.  Such conditions compromise patient safety, so The Joint Commission (TJC) has a new National Patient Safety Goal for 2014 to improve the safety of clinical alarm systems.

The research is being funded by a $25,000 award from the MSU and Sparrow Center for Innovation and Research. The funds will be used to test proven alarm safety interventions with neonatal monitoring equipment as there is less known about improving alarm safety in the neonatal care environment.

"The center was created to focus on high-priority translation projects that can be rapidly developed and deployed for the benefit of our patients," said Interim Director of the Center for Innovation and Research, Barbara Given, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, MSU Distinguished Professor and Director of the Ph.D. Program, College of Nursing. "We hope this project will document effective strategies to improve alarm safety for this neonatal environment."

One part of the project involves surveying nurses in the NICU and other units at Sparrow. Cotten, who recently was named Interim Director of the Center for Innovation and Research, replacing Given, will serve as the survey design expert and research mentor on the project.

Other members of the research team include Kathleen Marble, MSN, RNC-NIC, a RNICU Nurse expert and the Director of Women's and Children's Services at Sparrow; Sarah Collins, BSN, RNC-NIC, the Nurse Manager and Educator for the RNICU at Sparrow; and Jonathan Watt, an advanced Biomedical Technician for Sparrow. Additionally, Wenjiang Fu, Associate Professor of Biostatistics, is consulting on the project.

The Center for Innovation and Research, created as a major joint initiative between Sparrow and MSU, aims to seek new projects to continuously improve care and deliver patient-centered, evidence-based best practice care to individuals who receive care at Sparrow.

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Shelia Cotten Named Trifecta Director & CFIR Interim Dir.

Posted on: July 22, 2014

Shelia Cotten main 2Shelia Cotten, Professor of Media and Information, has been named the first Director of Trifecta as well as Interim Director of the MSU-Sparrow Center for Innovation and Research (CFIR). As Director of Trifecta, Cotten will lead the Trifecta Intellectual Leaders (TIL), a group of faculty members leading the effort. She also will guide efforts to expand the reach and impact of Trifecta.

The Trifecta initiative connects researchers in three MSU colleges - Communication Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Nursing - with the goal of maximizing research innovation and collaboration to advance the delivery of health services to underserved communities.

The three colleges have joined forces to focus on the use of new communication and engineering technologies to deliver nursing and health services.

The TIL consists of nine faculty members, three from each college, who are working toward maximizing the full potential for interdisciplinary research at MSU. Cotten, who came to MSU in fall 2013, is a founding member of the TIL.

"Shelia Cotten has a strong track record of leadership in working with interdisciplinary teams of researchers and students," said Maria Lapinski, CAS Associate Dean for Research. "We are excited to have her lead the Trifecta initiative."

At the MSU-Sparrow Center for Innovation and Research, Cotten will replace Barbara Given, University Distinguished Professor of Nursing, who was appointed Interim Director of the center when it was first created in 2012.

The Center for Innovation and Research was created through a formal partnership agreement between Sparrow Health System and Michigan State University. Together, MSU's intellectual capital and Sparrow's community-based clinicians work collaboratively to develop innovative approaches to high-quality, safe healthcare. The center aims to transform the delivery of healthcare through the implementation and evaluation of research that improves patient outcomes and lowers costs.

Cotten's own research focuses on technology use across the lifecourse and the social, educational and health impacts of that use. She conducts large-scale community based intervention studies designed to use technology to enhance various aspects of quality of life.

One of her more recent research projects examined the relationship between Internet use and depression of thousands of retired older Americans across six years and found that Internet use among these older adults reduced the chances of depression by more than 30 percent.

Cotten sees overlap between Trifecta and CFIR, "There is substantial synergy in the goals of these two organizations. By leading both these organizations, I believe we will be better poised to do even greater research and outreach to improve the lives of people in Michigan and around the world."

Cotten's appointments as Director of Trifecta and Interim Director for the CFIR start August 16, 2014.

Trifecta is holding a kickoff event for the 2014-2015 academic year on Tuesday, Aug. 26, from 10 a.m.  to 1 p.m. The event is focused on facilitating new research collaboration relationships. It will include brief presentations of Trifecta-related research interests, a speed-networking poster session, and a networking lunch. For more information, email trifecta@msu.edu.

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Casey O'Donnell: Is crowdsourcing the future of scientific research?

Posted on: May 21, 2014

Casey O'Donnell
Most scientists like to collaborate, at least with other scientists.

However, that scenario is starting to change thanks to something called crowdsourcing, a term first coined in 2006 that basically means groups of people coming together to solve a common problem.

The concept is now moving into the realm of science, where scientists and "normal" people are coming together to advance scientific endeavors. A Michigan State University scholar is looking at it a bit more closely to see if it truly is the future of research.

Casey O'Donnell, an assistant professor in the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media, has received a grant from the National Science Foundation of $156,000 to examine how collaborative online games are being used to solve problems in the world of biochemistry and molecular physics.

"The grant is really to try to unpack what is going on with crowdsourcing science and why games have become a part of the focus," he said.

O'Donnell and colleagues are looking at two specific games- Fold.It and EteRNA - that simulate protein and RNA folding. These games take the collective knowledge of a wide range of people - from Ph.D.s to serious gamers - to try to decipher the three-dimensional structure of a protein or nucleic acid.

"We're asking, 'what are the long-term consequences for science? What does it mean that science happens this way?'" he said. "Large numbers of players are collaborating to solve complex problems through games, and we need to understand the broader implications."

Generally speaking, O'Donnell said crowdsourcing could play a very integral role in the advancing of scientific research.

"Increasingly," he said, "we're seeing the rise of crowdsource science coincides with the drop in science funding."

Another advantage to crowdsourcing is that it makes science accessible to more people, allowing most everyone to be a part of the process.

"For a long time the results of science have been, for the most part, incomprehensible," O'Donnell said. "This subverts that because suddenly you have people that are part of the 'normal' population that are acting as advocates for and participants in science."

So is it helping to advance scientific research? Time will tell, O'Donnell said, but already some results are showing. For example, data gathered through the EteRNA game are being put to the test in a lab at Stanford University.

"Ultimately, for me, it's how technologies come to contain knowledge and produce new kinds of knowledge that neither the scientific community nor the gaming community could produce on their own," he said.

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