Category Archives: Publications

HackHealth: Engaging Tweens in Seeking and Utilizing Health Information

HackHealth: Engaging tweens in seeking and utilizing health information. Research poster to be presented at the American Library Association Annual Conference, Las Vegas, NV, June 26 – July 1, 2014.

Abstract: The American Medical Association (2007) reports that “literacy is a stronger predictor of an individual’s health status than income, employment status, education level, and racial or ethnic group” (p. 13). Aiming to help improve the health literacy of disadvantaged tweens and reduce health disparities, researchers at the University of Maryland collaborated with three Title 1 middle school librarians to co-design HackHealth, a program funded by the National Library of Medicine. Participating tweens improve their health literacy skills by looking for and evaluating online health-related information so they can use this knowledge to make smart and healthy life choices. In addition to learning about a specific health topic of their own choosing, students learn about different aspects of digital literacy, such as identifying keywords, refining search terms, analyzing/interpreting search engine results, and evaluating the relevance and credibility of websites. Students create final projects of their research using a medium of their choice to present their findings to their families and each other. At the end of the program at each school, feedback about the program is gathered through follow-up interviews with the students as well as focus groups with the students and their parents. Additionally, a pre-program survey and post-program survey are administered in each school to gauge changes in the students’ perceptions regarding their interest in health, their health literacy, and their health-related self-efficacy. Photographs, student and parent quotes, and sample final projects will be used to showcase the impact HackHealth has had on participating students’ health and digital literacies.

“Nobody will have to suffer what I suffer”: Weaving personal relevance into interest-driven learning pathways


PDF Icon.fwIn order to address the underrepresentation of minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), it is important to understand identity development in non-dominant youth; more specifically, how do these individuals come to desire to become someone? (Ahn et al., 2014). Recent efforts in this regard include leveraging young people’s new media participation and interest-driven practices (Ito et al., 2010; Pinkard & Austin, 2010; Subramaniam, et al, in press). However, engaging non-dominant youth in sustained interest-driven learning experiences that motivate them to pursue STEM learning pathways continues to be a challenge.

Building on these efforts, we introduce personal-relevance practices interwoven within interest-driven activities to a set of socioeconomically disadvantaged tweens (ages 11-13), through HackHealth. HackHealth is an after-school program funded by the National Library of Medicine that aims to increase tweens’ interest in health and the sciences, their health literacy, their health-related self-efficacy and their awareness of the important connection between their everyday health behaviors and their ability to maintain their health and prevent disease.

We present the learning pathways of focal tweens who engaged in health explorations that were personally relevant to them: managing Type 1 diabetes, helping a friend who is engaging in self-harm, and assisting a parent who is suffering from an illness. The tweens utilized technology to investigate their topics, created and shared media artifacts, and engaged in or encouraged health behavior change. Utilizing qualitative methods, we highlight how such explorations assisted these tweens in seeing themselves as health ambassadors for their family and their communities, and map the relationship of personal-relevance practices to sustained interest in STEM learning pathways.


Ahn, J., Subramaniam, M., Bonsignore, B., Pellicone, A., Waugh, A. & Yip, J. (2014). “I want to be a Game Designer or Scientist”: Understanding the Developing Identities of Urban, African-American Youth. Proceedings of the 11th International Conference of the Learning Sciences.

Ito, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti, M., boyd, danah, Cody, R., Herr-Stephenson, B., … Tripp, L. (2010). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT press.

Pinkard, N., & Austin, K. (2010). Digital Youth Network: Creating New Media Citizens through the Affinity Learning Model. International Journal of Learning and Media, 2(4). doi:10.1162/ijlm_a_00055

Subramaniam, M., Ahn, J., Waugh, A., Taylor, N. G., Druin, A., Fleischmann, K. R., & Walsh, G. (in press). The role of school librarians in enhancing science learning. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science.

HackHealth: Engaging youth in health-related information seeking, sharing, and use

HackHealth: Engaging youth in health-related information seeking, sharing, and use. Ignite talk delivered at the 2013 ASIS&T SIG-USE Symposium: Information Behavior on the Move: Information Needs, Seeking, and Use in the Era of Mobile Technologies, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. November 2, 2013.

Abstract: Over the past several decades, our conceptualization of health has gradually shifted from one that is primarily passive and state-based (i.e., one is either well or ill) to one that is more active and process-based (i.e., one is working toward preventing or managing disease), from physician-centric to patient-centric, and from treatment-focused to prevention-focused. Along with these shifts have come an increasing desire, need, and expectation for patients to actively engage in identifying their health-related information needs, seeking information to fulfill these needs, and putting this information to use to maintain and/or regain their health. As a result of these emerging trends, people’s information behaviors, their health behaviors, and the crucially important interdependencies between these two come to the fore as central areas of focus within both information behavior research and information professional practice

From eye rolls to “I can!” – Understanding the Health Literacy of Disadvantaged Tweens

PDF Icon.fwThis poster will present preliminary results from an afterschool program that aims to increase tweens’ interest in health and health science, their health literacy, their health-related self-efficacy, and their awareness of the important connection between their everyday health behaviors and their ability to maintain their health and prevent disease. The program is centered in the school library and the school librarian serves as a partner in facilitating the literacy activities. In this poster, we will focus on the divergent experiences of two seemingly similar tween participants in our program, Danielle and Tamira, and how their differing experiences may have contributed to differences in outcomes, such as the degree of changes in their level of interest in health and the broader sciences (science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields), in their health literacy levels, in their levels of health-related self-efficacy, and in their engagement in relevant health behaviors.

Poster accepted for iConference 2014.

HackHealth: An Introduction

slide1.fw “HackHealth: Improving the Health Literacy, Health-Related Self-Efficacy, and Long-Term Health Outlook of Disadvantaged Youth through the Facilitation of Scientific Inquiry and Information Literacy Skills.”

Presentation introducing HackHealth prepared for visit by Dr. Shigeo Sugimoto, Director, Research Center for Knowledge and Professor, Graduate School of Library, Information and Media Studies, University of Tsukuba, Japan.