The new Student Digital Research Initiative (DRIVE), led by Honors Research in Science Program Head Allison Ponzio and Dean of Digital Education Shauna Callahan, is targeted towards students who want to conduct independent research, but do not want the formality and rigor of the Honors Research program.
The first semester of the initiative focused on brainstorming ideas for the students’ projects. These projects center around students’ experiences with social media and the digital world and how these interactions with media affect their mood or perception of everyday life. Each student kept a journal of their digital experiences and then discussed potential areas to explore further.
The students created three topics to research: social media and mood, Instagram feminism and digital communication. Once self-selected into their groups, the students began collecting data through articles, books, podcasts, blogs and observations.
The program’s second semester will focus on execution: turning the ideas into research projects and collecting data. The initiative will culminate in a presentation of the students’ findings either through a SPARC event at the end of the year, or by publishing their findings.
Junior Blanca feels the initiative has helped her gain new skills and perspective on the digital world.
“The Digital Research Initiative has made me think of how technology has changed our perception of ourselves as individuals and, ultimately, how technology has changed the way other generations perceive us,” Blanca said. “We are looking at technology from our point of view in comparison to how technology is oftentimes critiqued by people of other generations.”
In designing the program, Ponzio and Callahan wanted to enroll an even distribution of students across the upper-school who brought a unique perspective to their projects. The program includes 10 students: one senior, four juniors and five sophomores. Because the majority of the students are sophomores and juniors, their projects will continue into next year. Ponzio and Callahan act as mentors for the group of students.
“We are providing the space, the time and a little expertise to help the students, who are really coming up with the ideas,” Ponzio said.
Marlborough is one of the first schools to have students conducting research on the impact of tools and social media on youth instead of adults.
“We thought that having students who were digital natives be the ones driving the research would be really interesting because the perspective around it would be from the students’ point of view,” Callahan said.
Ponzio believes this research will benefit not only the students participating, but the Marlborough community as a whole.
“The broader goal is trying to teach the student body how to be better about what we consume, read and research,” Ponzio said.