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Shelia Cotten - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Shelia Cotten Shelia Cotten

Associate Chairperson for Research, Department of Media and Information; Director of MSU-Sparrow Center for Innovation and Research; Director of Trifecta | Michigan State University


Expert in technology use throughout generations, specifically the social, educational and health impacts of that use.





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Shelia R. Cotten is a Professor in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University. She studies technology use across the life course and the social, educational, and health impacts of that use. She conducts large-scale community based intervention studies designed to use technology to enhance various aspects of quality of life. Dr. Cotten has studied the largest dissemination of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO laptops in the United States. She is currently finishing up a randomized controlled trial designed to enhance quality of life among older adults through the use of technology training. Her work is currently funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. She is the past Chair of the Communication and Information Technologies Section of the American Sociological Association (CITASA) and the 2013 recipient of the Public Sociology Award from the CITASA section of the American Sociological Association. Dr. Cotten enjoys teaching courses on the social impacts of technology, survey research, and research methods. Prior to joining MSU, Dr. Cotten was a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

Industry Expertise (2)

Writing and Editing Education/Learning

Areas of Expertise (7)

Social, educational, and health impacts of technology Aging and Technology M-Health E-Health Multitasking Digital Inequalities Applied Research

Accomplishments (1)

American Sociological Association (CITASA) Public Sociology Award (professional)

2013 Communication and Information Technologies section

Education (3)

North Carolina State University: Ph.D., Sociology 1997

Areas of specialization: Medical Sociology, Social Psychology, and Research Methods
Minor: Interdisciplinary (Statistics and Public Administration)

North Carolina State University: M.S., Sociology 1991

Minor: Statistics

Wake Forest University: B.A., Sociology 1987

Secondary Major: Psychology

Affiliations (1)

  • Sparrow Center for Innovation and Research

News (3)

Skip fights about digital devices over the holidays – instead, let them bring your family together

The Conversation  online


Holidays are a time for family and friends to come together, to celebrate and to enjoy each other’s company. Older adults, who are often lonely and socially isolated, can particularly look forward to reconnecting with family and friends. However, when technology enters the picture, gatherings may not be quite so positive.

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MSU names five foundation professors

MSU Today  online


Michigan State University recently named five new MSU Foundation Professors, a designation given to outstanding faculty who demonstrate excellence in research and teaching, while enhancing the prominence of the institution.

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Tablets can help elderly cross the ‘digital divide’

MSU Today  online


One way to help the elderly cross what’s known as the “digital divide” is the use of tablets, those smaller, lighter, easy-to-use computers that seem to be taking the place of laptops.

New Michigan State University research has found that the use of tablets does make it easier, breaking down some of the barriers that keep seniors from getting connected.

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Journal Articles (3)

When first-order barriers are high: A comparison of second- and third-order barriers to classroom computing integration Computers & Education

Taj W Makki, LaToya J O'Neal, Shelia R Cotten, RV Rikard


This study examines the role of second- and third-order barriers to classroom computing integration among fourth- and fifth-grade teachers in an urban, low-income school district (i.e., where computing resources are limited, or first-order barriers are high). We examine the impact of teachers' (N = 114) computer anxiety, computer attitudes, and computer feature comfort (i.e., second-order barriers) on their intention to use computer features in their classrooms. We also assess the role of teachers’ participation in training sessions aimed at fostering their design thinking (i.e., third-order barriers). Our results indicate that computer feature comfort and summer institute attendance are the strongest predictors of computing integration in cases where first-order barriers are high. Findings also suggest that tackling third-order barriers may help teachers overcome second-order barriers. Implications for future training interventions are discussed.

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Does ICT Use matter? How information and communication technology use affects perceived mattering among a predominantly female sample of older adults residing in retirement communities Information, Communication & Society

Jessica Francis, RV Rikard, Shelia R Cotten, Travis Kadylak


Within the next 15 years, roughly 20% of individuals in the United States will be aged 65 years and older. As such, a significant portion of the population enters old age, it is imperative to understand the tools and mechanisms that may aid in the maintenance and improvement of older adults’ well-being. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are tools that may promote well-being through increased connectedness and reduction of isolation and depression. We suggest that ICT use may also enhance mattering, an individual's belief that they are important, acknowledged, and relied upon by others. This study examines the effect of ICT use on older adults’ sense of mattering. Data were collected as part of a multi-site randomized controlled trial study. The aim of the study was to assess the effects of ICT training and use on older adults’ quality of life and well-being. The sample included participants from 19 assisted and independent living communities. Results of our longitudinal and mediation analyses reveal that ICT use, through the promotion of social connectedness, has a significant and positive relationship with mattering. These results suggest that ICT use that facilitates connection and communication with social ties will be beneficial for enhancing well-being among older adults.

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Individual difference predictors of ICT use in older adulthood: A study of 17 candidate characteristics Computers in Human Behavior

William J Chopik, RV Rikard, Shelia R Cotten


Given the benefits of information and communication technology (ICT) use in older adulthood, a natural question is which individual difference characteristics predict ICT use and adoption. Research has provided mixed findings drawn from studies that generally focus on a narrow set of ICTs, a narrow set of individual difference constructs, and younger adults. Using data from the 2012 wave of the Health and Retirement Study, we examined 17 individual difference predictors of ICT use among older adults. Need for cognition, perceived mastery, and optimism positively predicted ICT use after controlling for all the constructs simultaneously; cynical hostility also emerged as a negative predictor of ICT use. Further, viewing more benefits of ICT use explained why those high in need for cognition used more ICTs. Directions for future research include examining the processes that link individual differences to ICT use and its subsequent benefits during the second half of life.

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