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Feb. 28, 2017
Doctoral student Melissa Hahn helps a Kenwood Elementary School student build an app. (Photo by L. Brian Stauffer)

Students at Kenwood Elementary School in Champaign are building their own phone apps. Some hope their apps will help solve big problems, such as curbing pollution or money management. Others will let users fight monsters that are trying to take over the world, or let users design a look for their nails.

Through an after-school program called App Authors, the students are getting an idea of what the career of a software designer might be like, as well as gaining experience in coding and learning to work as a team to solve problems.

The program was designed by researchers at the iSchool. The goal is to get students – especially those with limited access to technology...

Aug. 18, 2016

Martin Wolske, senior research scientist and lecturer, takes a critical look at digital literacy for the twenty-first century in his paper, "A Radical Reconsideration of Digital Literacy." The article was published in the Summer 2016 issue of Information for Social Change.

Supporting the transformation of information into knowledge for human flourishing within an "information age" and a "knowledge economy" especially points out the important role library and information workers have in advancing people's digital literacy skills. But is it possible that we approach digital technology generally, and digital literacy training and programming specifically, through dominant paradigms that keep invisible the various ways our digital technology and media are controlled and mediated so as to privilege a few over the many? Is it possible that that in our very efforts to "bridge the digital divide...

Jul. 8, 2016

At the same time that humanity shifts toward digital ways of living and working, the proportion of senior citizens among the world's population is growing. Rejecting the idea that aging is just a matter of declining minds and bodies, iSchool doctoral candidate Noah Lenstra (MS '09, CAS '11) has explored digital literacy among older adults in Champaign-Urbana using information infrastructure theory and the extended case method.

For his dissertation research, Lenstra conducted one year of participant observation in senior centers and public libraries. This included two hundred and sixty-seven computer help sessions with two hundred and nine seniors; interviews with seniors and staff; and examination of institutional documents. Throughout this study he practiced the reciprocal research method.

Reciprocal research, devised in the Community Informatics Research Lab, entails providing service as you collect data and reporting findings back to community partners. Lenstra's...

Jul. 8, 2016

What happens when you give kids the opportunity to create their own smartphone apps? A developing interest in STEM, a boost in their critical thinking skills, and some really cool kid-created apps like "Jumpy Horses" and "Escape the World."

Those two titles are among the apps being created at the Douglass Branch Library in Champaign in a free six-week program that gives children a chance to explore, play, and eventually create their own apps, regardless of their level of experience. Recently featured in the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette, the app program gets high marks from the youth participants.

The program is part of the App Authors project led by Deborah Stevenson, professor and director of the Center for Children's Books (CCB), and iSchool professors Kate McDowell and...

Jul. 1, 2016

Doctoral candidate Shameem Ahmed successfully defended his dissertation, "mHealth Literacy: Characterizing People’s Ability to Use Smartphone-based Health-related Applications," on June 30.

His committee includes Associate Professor Kate Williams (chair), Professor Emeritus Abdul Alkalimat, Professor Linda Smith, and Tiffany Veinot (associate professor, University of Michigan School of Information and School of Public Health).

From the abstract: This dissertation investigates the following research question: what literacy does a user need to gain benefits from using a health-related app on a smartphone? It coins the term ‘mHealth Literacy’ to refer to all such necessary literacies or skills, and identifies ten literacies which are required to use mHealth apps.

More than one-third of the adult population in the USA suffers from the problem of inadequate Health Literacy. With the emergence of new forms of information technology, the focus of Health Literacy...

Jun. 21, 2016

Doctoral candidate Noah Lenstra (MS '09, CAS '11) successfully defended his dissertation, "The Community Informatics of an Aging Society: A Comparative Case Study of Public Libraries and Senior Centers,” on June 20.

His committee includes Associate Professor Kate Williams (chair), Professor Linda Smith, Professor Michael Twidale, and Bo Xie (associate professor, University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing and School of Information).

Lenstra will present his findings to the public this Friday, June 24 from 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. at the Douglass Annex located at 804 North Fifth St. in Champaign.

Abstract: The information society is also an aging society. This means that as information technology becomes woven into the fabric of daily life, the median age of humanity continues to rise. The participation of this growing population of older adults in the information society is often seen in the popular press and even in scholarship as dependent on their...

Jun. 21, 2016

Martin Wolske, senior research scientist and lecturer, participated in the event, “Digital Skills: A Gateway to Opportunity,” on June 13 at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago. The event was hosted by Chicago Public Library (CPL) and Digital Promise, a nonprofit that works to improve opportunities to learn by encouraging innovation in education. Wolske participated in the event as a representative of the Center for Digital Inclusion (CDI).

The gathering brought together experts and practitioners of digital literacy and adult learning to discuss their experiences and ideas regarding ways to increase the number of people who have the digital skills to work, learn, and engage in modern society. Ideas generated from the meeting will be incorporated into the strategic plans of CPL and Digital Promise.