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Using Online Social Networks to Build Healthy Communities


ED-MEDIA 2010 Presentation

ED-MEDIA 2010 Presentation

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  • Many causes for adult and childhood obesity
  • Childhood obesity rates
  • Adult obesity rates
  • Obesity is a symptom of the problem, but the real problem is growing social inequities and poverty in the US. What you really need to address this problem is to fix the inequalities in US society that run along the lines of race and class. This I believe is the real fix for the problem.
  • Radical social change is not going to come tomorrow, so I am more interested in what we can do today. As a educator and technologist, I, like many of you I am sure, are interested in finding ways that technology can be a catalyst to transform individuals environments. However, Technology as contributed more to the problem than the solution.
  • Growing awareness in the medical community that there is a potential to use ICTs to alleviate childhood obesity; for example, the Robert Wood Johnson foundation.
  • New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia
  • Design-based research  would move into the (re)design phase before being implemented again.
  • To balance privacy and individual expression, students could choose an avatar to express their identity but could not use a personal photo or their last name. However, unlike the profiles on commercial social network websites, the social network’s profiles focused more on the goals of the program (healthy eating and living). Hence, participants could fill-out fields for favorite fruit, vegetable, and exercise, as well as a healthy goal for the year.
  • Communication across school and geography . A feature that was enacted was the ability for participants in one program implementation site to be able to see the activity of other sites. This is a feature that is unique to ICTs that could not be easily accomplished without them, and provides a way for students to comprehend that they are apart of a larger network of young people working on a common goal. Furthermore, a “blog of the week” is publically featured on the program’s home page. In all cases, students have the ability to respond or comment to participant postings. At the same time, all student comments need to be approved by a back-end administrator before being published to the community. Moderation is designed to be ongoing as not to interfere with the fluidity of communication. This process is not ideal, but arguably critical when dealing with sensitive topics and young children.
  • Developmental Appropriateness. The Social Network website was designed for students in grades 3 to 8. To make the site usable for the younger children, we eliminated aspects that are common to adult websites that we thought would be difficult for a young child to use. For example, most adult websites mask your password when you type it in. This adds a level of complexity to the task and is a security precaution we dispensed with for the sake of making the site easier for young children to use. We also eliminated many of the features common in blogging software, such as WYSIWYG text editors, that can be very complex and could easily frustrate a child. Instead, we opted for simplicity and clarity. To make the site appealing to the older children, such as the middle school children, we avoided the types of imagery and design choices that are associated with young children’s media and instead opted for a bright yet mature design that could appeal to both age groups.  
  • Asking good questions * : Poses dilemmas – engaging and thought provoking. Has no obvious “right” answer. There could be many answers! Uses “kid friendly” language. Often begins with “how” or “why”


  • 1. Using Online Social Networks to Build Healthy Communities Anthony Cocciolo ~ Pratt Institute ~ School of Information and Library Science Caron Mineo and Ellen Meier ~ Teachers College, Columbia University ~ Center for Technology and School Change
  • 2.  
  • 3. Obesity in the U.S.
    • Trust for America’s Health. (2010, June). F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2010
      • 38 states have adult obesity rates above 25%. (No state had an obesity rate above 20% in 1991.)
      • High rates of obesity are associated with lower incomes, race, ethnicity, and less education
      • Adult obesity rates for African-Americans and Latinos are higher than obesity rates for whites in at least 40 states and the District of Columbia.
      • Diabetes, hypertension, early death
  • 4.  
  • 5.  
  • 6.  
  • 7.  
  • 8.  
  • 9.  
  • 10.  
  • 11. Research Questions
  • 12. Design Cycle
  • 13. Design Cycle
  • 14. Design of the Social Network Site
  • 15. Design of the Social Network Site
  • 16.  
  • 17. Profile & Privacy
  • 18. Communication
  • 19. Developmental Appropriateness
  • 20. Design Cycle
  • 21. Professional Development
  • 22. Professional Development Sample Topic: Developing Engaging Questions Natasha, Jeremy, and I were working on a project after school together last week. I got hungry and pulled out a chocolate bar. Natasha said chocolate is bad for my health. Jeremy said the opposite. He thinks it can be good for me. Who’s right and why? There’s a saying that foods that taste really good must be really bad for you. I don’t think that’s always true. What do you think? Can you give me an example? Before After Can you name three facts about chocolate? Pick a food that tastes good and is good for your health. What did you choose?
  • 23. Design Cycle
  • 24. Implementation Stage
  • 25. Design Cycle
  • 26. Evaluation Methods
    • a program facilitator survey to measure perceptions of how the online social network impacted student learning and engagement
    • a quantitative content analysis of the communicative exchanges amongst students and program facilitators
    • an informal content analysis of general communication patterns
  • 27. Survey Results (1)
    • N = 14 Responses , for a 61% response rate (total of 23 facilitators)
    • This is indicated by the overwhelming agreement (agree or strongly agree) that the social network site is a useful tool to engage students in:
      • awareness of healthy living topics (90.9%),
      • personal reflection (81.8%),
      • development of personal goals for healthy living (100%),
      • realization of personal goals for healthy living (90.9%),
      • communication with peers around health issues (90.9%),
      • building relationships with peers (72.8%),
      • conversations with parents about healthy living (72.8%), and
      • community action (72.8%).
      • 72.7% would want to use the social networking site again and thought the social network site played an important role in the after school program.
  • 28. Survey Results (2)
    • How it was used:
      • 60% used it at least occasionally to maintain a blog for their site and 63.7% used it to read the student blogs from their own site
      • 35.8% believed that access to technology was an issue and 41.5% thought that usability of the site was an issue
  • 29. Content Analysis Results (1)
    • Data:
      • 128 students and 23 facilitators logged into their accounts at least once
      • 100 distinct students and 18 distinct facilitators made at least one blog post
      • 70 facilitator written prompts and 317 student responses were coded
      • Achieved inter-rater reliability with 2 independent coders (Cohen’s Kappa = .60)
  • 30. Content Analysis Results (2)
    • 52% are presentations of the work from the face-to-face context, 4.3% discussion of current events, 45.7% no question was asked of students, 27.1% a question was asked that would require a one-word response, and 25.7% of questions asked were more complex “how” and “why” questions
    • For each teacher communication, the quantity of student responses can be characterized as the following: 30% prompted high student response (more than 6 responses), 5.7% prompted medium student response (four to six responses), 27.1% prompted low student response (one-to-three responses), and 37.1% prompted no student response.
  • 31. Content Analysis Results (3)
    • Not clear to facilitators that the online social network is used for communication with students in the program, not reporting back to program administrators (e.g., 52% are presentations of the work from the face-to-face context, 45.7% did not ask student anything).
    • Not engaging questions asked by facilitator:
      • For example, 27.1% of all facilitator discussion posts were questions that could be answered with a one-word answer (e.g., what is your favorite exercise?). 25.7% of discussion posts were questions that would require more thinking (for example, how and why questions).
      • Traditional teacher-student model, student responds succinctly to teachers question
  • 32. Findings
    • The survey results from program facilitators indicate that online social network can support meaningful communication and psycho-social support; however, the content analysis indicates that the types of communication achieved did not reach a level that could be described as “meaningful” communication and psycho-social support.
  • 33. Redesign Considerations
    • For the Social Network
      • Emphasize Purpose
      • Scaffold Social Presence
      • Scaffold Critical Thinking
      • Spaces for Play and Social Activity (Student Ownership)
    • In general
      • More professional development for facilitators
      • Better integration of technology into the curriculum and daily activities of students
  • 34. Thank you. [email_address] Anthony Cocciolo Pratt Institute ~ School of Information and Library Science