Research and Development of Web-based Systems to Support Disadvantaged Populations

Research and Development of Web-based Systems to Support Disadvantaged Populations

Lead PI:  Jeannette Andonian, School of Social Work

Co-PI: Glenn Wilson, Technology; and Director, Information and Innovation

USM Team Members:

David Bantz, Computer Science

Dennis Gilbert, Communication and Media Studies

Lenny Shedletsky, Communication and Media Studies

Community Team Members:

Melissa Cilley, Susan L. Curtis Foundation

Valerie Costello, The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center

George LaRou, Maine College of Art

Terri Mulks, Camp Susan Curtis

Project Abstract:

This proposal requests support for an existing unfunded year-old cross-department, cross-college, cross-institution research and development cluster, initially formed to address the academic-year needs of campers at Camp Susan Curtis, but now with a broader agenda to support disadvantaged populations in general. The cluster encompasses new media, information technology and social work because all of these are essential to provide effective support for the target populations. The cluster includes nutrition and environmental science as curricula for the campers. The research tasks of the cluster are to develop a methodology for best serving the needs of the target populations, propose solutions, and evaluate those solutions using real online data, oral storytelling, interviews, focus groups and feedback from parents and schools. The development tasks of the cluster are to build innovative instrumented systems to support a series of operational pilots. Research results are expected in the areas of promoting and monitoring social interaction, safe online environments, methodologies for addressing the needs of specific disadvantaged populations, real-time data analysis, user dashboards for more effective monitoring of user progress, dynamic archives of oral histories, new ways to integrate real and synthetic imagery, aural soundscapes, cultural analyses of disadvantaged populations, integrating data from multiple sources for evaluation and a lasting database supporting ongoing research in the support of disadvantaged populations. IT sector impact is expected from new and potentially very large audiences for services, new technology for real-time and retrospective data analyses, new approaches to using media to create beautiful, enticing online experiences and new insights as to how to create a safe online experience for vulnerable populations. Societal impact is expected in the near term in the areas of increased high school graduation rates, increased nutrition, literacy and STEM skills, increased financial responsibility and increased admission rates to and retention rates in higher education. Longer-term societal impact is expected from new members of the Maine workforce with the life skills and habits necessary for lifelong achievement.