NSF 2026 Big Idea Machine: Equity and Beneficence in Sociotech System

Boise State Graduate College: Excellence in Mentoring Award (2019) Picture for Event

Boise State University Awards: Faculty Coach for a Game Honoree (November 24, 2018: BSU vs. University of Utah [BSU won])

Boise State University Campus Awards: Nominated for the Advisor of the Year 2018 Award

Golden Apple Award: Awarded the 2017 Golden Apple Award for the Graduate College at Boise State University


Child Adaptive Search Tool (CAST)

Abstract: The aim of the project is to empower emergent searchers -- initially children ages 6-11 -- by researching, designing, and developing search tools that improve their information literacy and searching capabilities through modeling and adapting to their abilities as they search. Current search engines, even ones specifically designed for children, offer weak support for children's search needs due to their developing skills related to spelling, language use (including synonyms), understanding categories, refining queries, and evaluating relevance and quality of results. This makes it hard for children to create effective queries, use the results suggested by the search engine, and understand the relationship between the queries and the results returned.

Bringing together expertise in human-computer interaction, information retrieval, natural language processing, and education, the project team will both (a) further scientific understanding of children's search abilities, and (b) design tools to support it through the iterative development of CAST (Child Adaptive Search Tool), designed for children aged 6-11. CAST will be designed to model and respond to users' literacy and maturity levels as well as search intent missing from their formal queries. For example, when a child submits the query "Tiger", CAST will tend to prioritize tiger habitat or Winnie the Pooh's friend Tigger, which likely correlate better to a child's search intent than information on Tiger Woods. To reach this goal, the team will collaborate with children and teachers throughout the course of the project, working with partners in several local schools to increase the impact of the application itself and to improve the dissemination of the results.

The results on supporting search in the special population of children in this research also have the potential to inform similar problems and methods aimed at other populations who might have systematic differences in their search ability, from older adults to second language speakers.

More information: CAST: Child Adaptive Search Tool

LITERATE: Locating Informational Texts for Engaging Readers and Teaching equitably

Project Outline: The goal of this project is to prototype LITERATE (Locating Informational Texts for Engaging Readers and Teaching Equitably), a web based application to help teachers locate news articles to use in upper elementary.

Related Outcomes: Literate Demo

IR for Children: Enhanced Search Environment for Children ( CRII: III: Children and Information Retrieval Tasks: Search Intent, Query Suggestions, and Adequate Online Resources )

Abstract: Children are introduced to the Web at increasingly young ages. While early exposure can help them build foundational skills vital in a knowledge-rich society, search tools were not designed with children in mind nor do retrieved results explicitly target children. Most engines do not support children's inquiry approaches (or do not support them well) and typically do not return content suitable to children's interests or reading levels. This need is important to address given that early experiences can affect attitudes in using the Web, skill development in making adequate use of resources for personal and educational interests, and the ability to leverage information and use it to make contributions into adulthood.

The PI and her team will design and develop software modules as search engine add-ons to meet the needs of children searching the Web. The modules, which will upgrade current computation infrastructure, will be domain-independent, tailored to children, and usable on Google, to locate child-friendly educational- and leisure-related information. Research outputs will facilitate children's engagement with technology by improving their interactions on the Web. Partnerships with Idaho K-9 classrooms will allow the research team to gather feedback from children and teachers and verify the usefulness of the proposed modules in their intended, formal setting.

More information: Working Toward a Better, Kid-Friendly Search Engine