Using Technology to Change Behavior

Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 12:11 pm

 

Grinnellians are helping Grinnellians get enough sleep.  

This summer four computer science majors worked on project designed specifically for Grinnellians that will help students track their sleep and encourage good sleep habits.

Janet Davis, associate professor of computer science, is leading the students — Kyle Moorehead ’15, Benjamin Wagnon ’14, Nediyana Daskalova ’14, and Nathalie Ford ’15 — in a Mentored Advanced Project this summer and fall. Ann Hu ’14, psychology and neuroscience, stopped in regularly this summer and officially joins in the fall.

They are learning to use participatory design, a process in which those who will be using a new tool help design it. 

If you’ve ever struggled to find something — whether it’s a web app, an alarm clock, or a messenger bag — that is exactly what you need, you can appreciate the process.

Instead of coming up with a design on their own, the MAP students collaborated with students from around campus. The diverse group, Wagnon says, “can see nuances and approaches we might overlook. The variety of approaches helped us design something for all of Grinnell. “

Daskalova says “first we tabled outside the dining hall asking what the basic issues were on campus.  We focused on sleep because so many people are concerned with it.”  They refined their ideas through several workshops with student volunteers.

Moorehead says “because we already know these people, we’ve been able to get very specific and honest responses that have really helped the MAP.”

In one workshop, Wagnon says, the volunteers made cardboard and paper mockups of “a piece of hardware, a mobile app, a website, anything they could think of.” Based on the workshop feedback and their research, the MAP students decided to focus on a web application that they will develop this fall. They’ll continue to work with fellow students as they test their design, eventually offering a Grinnell-specific tool to help their fellow students get enough sleep

The project has one added benefit, they say: they are all more aware of their own sleeping patterns.