May 14, 2009 Margo Frink Uncategorized
Around 70 seventh graders at Canastota Junior-Senior High School were given iPhones from Cornell University for its “Mindless Eating Challenge.” Canastota was chosen to be the Central New York School participating in Cornell’s research project, thanks to consumer science teacher Kelly Boswell’s proactive approach.
Boswell read a story on the phone-based health game, which is based on Dr. Brian Wansink’s book “Mindless Eating.” She realized her class fit the criteria needed for the study and contacted Wansink.
How it works is students are given the phone/mini-computer and are instructed how to use it. They are given a virtual pet that they name and must care for. The game is similar to the popular Tamagotchi games of the early 90s. The student follows certain recommendations for eating. Before eating a meal students take a picture of the meal and emails it to researchers at Cornell. Based on the food choice, the pet will respond happy or sad, depending on whether the choice was healthy. The student will also receive an email with food choice suggestions. The research will help Cornell’s study on improving health and well-being.
A social portion of the game allows the student to see performances of other students in the group in comparison to their own.
“Our goal is to help teens live happy and healthy,” said Sahara Byrne, Cornell research participant.
Boswell said she is excited about the project because her students not only get a lesson in nutrition, but have the opportunity to see other careers at work. Cornell participants are earning degrees in science and video game design. The iPhones also incorporate technology into the class.
“They are so lucky to be able to do this,” Boswell said. “Another school could have been chosen. And Cornell wants to come back to do more research with us.”
Students are instructed that they must follow the administration’s rules. The phones are not to be used at school except if the student eats breakfast at school. Otherwise it’s an after school project.
Parents will be informed about the project and students are told to also follow home rules for surfing the web and downloading music and such. Cornell can monitor the student’s movement, although Byrne said she was hoping they wouldn’t have to look. No violence or sites of sexual nature or threatening emails is allowed. Students are asked to only speak with friends outside the Cornell network for two minutes or less, however, they can talk to students within the project for an unlimited amount of time. If students abuse the rules, the phones can be taken from them or the entire project could be scrapped, Boswell said.
“I’m hoping that doesn’t happen,” Boswell said. “This is really an exciting project.”
Incorporated into Boswell’s course study will be Canastota’s technology specialist Dan Farsaci speaking to the students about “sexting” and cyber bullying.
To help offset the cost of groceries, each family will be given a $25 gift card to P&C Foods, Boswell said.
Cornell plans to come back to Canastota next year with results and possibly do the project again.