COLLEGE PARK — Two teams that include students and faculty from the Philip Merrill College of Journalism have won $25,000 grants to develop innovative digital information projects.
The Future of Information Alliance-Deutsch Foundation Seed Grant Competition funds will allow one team to develop a project aimed at teaching middle school girls online skills and another team to develop a guidebook to help people collaboratively document large events.
“All Merrill students — and many more young people and others in the Washington Metropolitan area and beyond — will benefit from the results of these exciting projects,” Merrill College Dean Lucy Dalglish said. “The Philip Merrill College of Journalism is an enthusiastic member of the Future of Information Alliance. We’re very pleased that four of our students and two faculty are members of winning teams in the FIA-Deutsch Seed Grant Competition.”
The first project, “Wikid GRRLs – Teaching Girls Online Skills for Knowledge Creation,” was developed by Merrill doctoral candidate Stine Eckert and doctoral student Joanna Margueritte-Giecewicz in partnership with students from the University of Maryland’s College of Education and Department of Computer Science. Merrill professors Dr. Linda Steiner and Dr. Kalyani Chadha will serve as faculty mentors.
The second project, “The Digital Cookbook: A Friendly Guide for Making the Local, Global” was developed by Merrill undergraduates Jennifer Hottle and Kelsey Hughes, in partnership with University of Maryland computer science and business school students and faculty.
“We are excited by the innovative ideas coming from students collaborating across disciplines during the first year of the seed grant competition. The four winning teams included 22 students and faculty mentors from six colleges working with several of the Future of Information Alliance’s founding partners. We’re looking forward to seeing what these teams will accomplish over the next three months and beyond,” said Merrill associate dean and associate professor Ira Chinoy, co-director of the Future of Information Alliance.
Two other teams — comprised of University of Maryland students and faculty from computer science, the Department of American Studies, the College of Education and the College of Information Studies (iSchool) — also won $25,000 grants in the competition. Grant funds were generously provided by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, which helps fund innovations in science, technology and education.
To develop their projects, the four winning teams will collaborate with Future of Information Alliance founding partners like the National Park Service, the Newseum, the Barrie School and WAMU.
Students at the Barrie School, a private school in Silver Spring, Greenbelt Middle School and Northwestern High School in Hyattsville will participate in a series of after school workshops developed for the “Wikid GRRLs” project.
“It’s thrilling that the grant for Wikid GRRLS allows us to combine specific research with workshops that will concretely benefit girls in the area and improve strategies to teach online skills to young people,” Eckert said.
The project will encourage girls to think of themselves as tech-savvy and give them confidence and skills to contribute to online knowledge projects. They will practice online writing and research skills, and learn basic Web coding and to produce multimedia content.
“The gender gap begins early. This project is an important intervention, so that girls feel comfortable with computers, think of themselves as tech-savvy, and regard online activity as fun,” Steiner said, noting that only 13 percent of the people who edit or write articles for Wikipedia are women, according to a global UN study.
“Our project exemplifies what we represent as a journalism school: To have a public impact while teaching skills and researching what works and what does not work,” Chadha said.
The “Digital Cookbook” project will work with the National Park Service to develop a guidebook to help people more easily document and share information from a large event online. The group will use the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as a laboratory to develop the guidebook.
“We chose the National Mall because the diverse number of events taking place there every year provides a good starting point for our research — in the same place, we can cover a rally, a cultural event or even a speech like the inaugural address,” Hottle said.
The team is considering developing a mobile app to help people document large events.
“We’re excited to be partnering with the National Park Service. They’re already helping us to gain access to the necessary resources to complete our project. FIA has also allowed us to explore interdisciplinary collaboration,” Hughes said.
About the Future of Information Alliance
The Future of Information Alliance was launched at the University of Maryland in 2011. It was created to serve as a catalyst for dialogue across disciplines and to promote research on issues related to the evolving role of information in our lives. By identifying shared challenges and encouraging innovative solutions, the Future of Information Alliance seeks to facilitate a future in which information in all its forms can be an effective resource for all. The founding partners include the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Geographic Society, the Newseum, Sesame Workshop, the U.S. National Park Service, the Barrie School, the Online Academy, WAMU 88.5 and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. The Future of Information Alliance is co-directed by Ira Chinoy, a University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism associate professor and associate dean, and Allison Druin, a professor at the University of Maryland College of Information Studies (iSchool).
About the Merrill College
The Philip Merrill College of Journalism is a leading journalism school offering a hands-on, professionally oriented curriculum designed with an eye on the future, a world-class faculty, innovative programs, state-of-the-art facilities, intimate class sizes, and a location just minutes from Washington, D.C., Annapolis and Baltimore. The Merrill College is home to three Pulitzer Prize winners, as well as other leaders in the fields of print, broadcast and online journalism and internationally renowned communication scholars, including: Deborah Nelson (Carnegie Visiting Professor and Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter); Haynes Johnson (Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, best-selling author, national TV commentator); Ira Chinoy (an expert in computer-assisted reporting and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist); George Solomon (former assistant managing editor/sports at The Washington Post and ESPN Ombudsman and currently the director of the Shirley Povich Center on Sports Journalism); Susan Moeller, Professor of Media and International Affairs & Director, International Center for Media and the Public Agenda; Mark Feldstein, holder of the Richard Eaton Endowed Chair in Broadcast Journalism; and Kevin Blackistone (ESPN’s Around the Horn and former Dallas Morning News reporter).