Our Book is Here!

book-cover We’re thrilled to share the publication of our book: Digital Technology as Affordance and Barrier in Higher Education. The book is available directly from the publisher Palgrave Macmillan (among other vendors), and you can take a look at a preview in Google Books.

The book incorporates much of our research over the past 8 years on how CUNY students do their academic work, with a particular focus on their use of technology. We learned so much about the ways that students want to and try to use technology — their own as well as college-provided — to create time for their academic work, and the ways that unanticipated barriers of technology can stand in their way.

The official book description is below. If you read it, we’d love to hear your thoughts — please get in touch.

This book explores college students’ lived experiences of using digital technologies for their academic work. Access to and use of digital technologies is an integral aspect of higher education in the twenty-first century. However, despite the tech-savvy image of them propagated by the media, not all college students own and use technology to the same extent. To ensure that students have the best opportunities for success, all in higher education must consider ways to increase affordances and reduce barriers in student technology use. This book explicitly examines urban commuter students’ use of digital technologies for academic work, on and off campus.

Fall Conference Talks and Slides

We had a great time presenting at two conferences this semester, and are delighted to share our slides and speaking notes with you.

First up was the Library Assessment Conference in November, where we presented A Day in the Life: Practical Strategies for Understanding Student Space-Use Practices with Andrew Asher, Jean Amaral, Juliann Couture, Sara Lowe, Donna Lanclos, and Barbara Fister. This link is to our slides — the paper will be published in the conference proceedings soon, and we’ll post a link when it is.

Just last week we presented at the CUNY IT Conference on our research from 2009-2011 and 2015-2016 on students’ use of technology for their academic work. We’ve posted here both the slides and the notes from our talk.

We had a terrific time at both presentations, many thanks to all who came and asked so many great questions!

Fall Research Updates

We had a busy year of new data collection during 2015-2016 and are looking forward to sharing the results of that research this year.

First up is the Library Assessment Conference in Arlington, VA, in early November. We’ll be presenting on the Day in the Life project with colleagues Andrew Asher (Indiana University), Juliann Couture (University of Colorado, Boulder), Jean Amaral (BMCC), Barbara Fister (Gustavus Adolphus College), Donna Lanclos (University of North Carolina, Charlotte), and Sara Lowe (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis). For this project we used text messaging to facilitate students’ self-reporting of their activities, and geocoded the results to create maps of where students traveled throughout a typical schoolday. It’s been so interesting to see the similarities and differences between how, where, and when students do their academic work at the 8 institutions.

In December we’ll be presenting at the CUNY IT Conference on the results of our research on how digital technology can be used by students to create time and can thwart students’ efficient use of time for their academic work. We’ll be talking about data collected during our first round of research in 2009-2011 and a follow up study of student technology use last year in 2015-2016. We’ll post the slides/storify/notes for both presentations as soon as we can.

Thinking about Time and Technology for Academic Work

My phone is on its way out. It’s an Iphone 5 and my service contract has expired, so I should probably upgrade. But I’m not a fan of the current Iphone 6 — it just seems too big to me, even in it’s non-phablet form. Because I’ve read that Apple is planning to release a smaller Iphone 6 soon, I’m waiting to get a new one. (Not always very patiently waiting, sigh.)

This self-imposed waiting for a new phone has required a few recent behavior modifications on my part. One of the ways that the phone is breaking is that there’s something loose inside that makes an audible noise when I move it too quickly, so no more shake to undo if I type (or delete) something I want to revert, a feature I use infrequently but do like. I also can’t really turn my phone off anymore because it crashes repeatedly for the first 10 minutes or so that I turn it back on. And the battery life + indicator have both gotten a bit flaky — sometimes the battery seems to drain faster than it should (occasionally in combination with the phone getting warm), and other times the battery indicator doesn’t change at all, even when I’ve been using the phone for a while and I know the indicator should be going down.

All of this wonkiness combined has meant that I have to think about my phone much more than usual. Specifically, I have to think about whether it’s charged, when I might need to charge it, and where I can charge it. I’ve started to bring my charger everywhere and actively scope out places to plug my phone in when I’m not using it, even if the battery seems full. This is a big change for me — I used to carry my charger only on days when I knew I’d be out and using my phone heavily (hello, conference Twitter). Now the first thing I do when I get into my office is plug in my phone, and the same with the classroom where I teach this semester. On a recent train trip I was made somewhat anxious when the train was too full for me to get a window seat adjacent to an outlet and had to sit on the aisle; lucky for me at one of the major stops someone next to a window got off and I was able to change seats. I also sometimes use my laptop to charge my phone now, depending on how long I need to use the laptop.

I realize that this is more detail that you ever needed to know about me and my phone habits. It’s the most minor of inconveniences, really, but the time I spend thinking about dealing with (and then dealing with) my semi-functional phone is time I could spend doing other things, and requires me to work around the technology in ways that I didn’t have to when the phone was fully functional.

This has been on my mind recently as Mariana and I are working on a project about the ways that technology shapes time for our students. Technology can be incredibly useful for our students’ academic work; the student we met during our first round of research several years ago who talked to us about writing her papers on her smartphone on the subway is the example that springs to mind most readily. But if that student has to print her paper to hand it in, and she prints on campus because it’s free (even if she has a printer at home), and there’s a long line or a jam at the printer when she gets to the library, time saved by technology can become time stolen. She is working around the technology rather than having the technology work for her, and there are real implications for her academic work.

These are just some preliminary thoughts as we begin to dig into our project — we’ll share more about this project as we go.

Our Article on CUNY Students’ Commutes and their Academic Work

We’re delighted to share that our article about how CUNY students use (or don’t use) their commutes for their academic work was just published in Urban Library Journal. In this article we share the what we learned in our study specifically about students’ commutes, and suggest strategies to help urban academic libraries direct resources, services, and policies to best serve their commuter students. Many thanks to our ULJ editors and peer reviewers!

Our Article on Student Learning at Home

This week our article on CUNY students creating their learning spaces at home was published in the journal In the Library with the Lead Pipe. In this piece we discuss how the CUNY students we spoke with in our study were successful — and sometimes not-so-successful — at creating space for their academic work in their homes. Give it a read and let us know what you think!

This article went through open peer review which was a terrific process, and we’d like to thank our reviewers/editor Henry Delcore, Erin Dorney, and Ellie Collier again for their thoughtful and useful feedback.

Connecticut Library Association Presentation

We had a great time today presenting and talking with academic librarians at the Connecticut Library Association Conference. We began by asking folks to draw a map of their libraries and think about a place that works for their library users and one that doesn’t, and asking folks to share that out with the group. Then we shared what we learned about how students work (and don’t work) in our college and university libraries.

It was a great discussion, many thanks to all who attended, and to the College and University Libraries Section of the CLA for inviting us to speak. Our handout and slides are below, please feel free to get in touch with any questions or feedback!

Activity Handout

Materials from METRO Workshop #2

We had a great time returning to METRO today with our colleague Frans Albarillo to offer a follow up workshop on analyzing data from interviews and focus groups. As before, here are our slides and handouts from the workshop.

Many thanks to all who came out to one (or both!) of these workshops, we had a terrific time.


Sample Interview Transcript
Sample Focus Group Transcript

Presenting on Cognitive Maps at ACRL 2015

We’re just back (and perhaps still jet lagged) from the biannual Association of College & Research Libraries conference, this year in beautiful Portland, OR. We were delighted to present on a panel with our frequent collaborators Donna Lanclos from UNC Charlotte, Andrew Asher from Indiana University, and Lesley Gourlay from the University of London.

This time around we presented on cognitive maps and showcased the different mapping methods we’ve used to gather data about student and faculty learning spaces. We also asked the panel attendees to draw cognitive maps of their own learning spaces, which was super fun to watch. Folks seemed to really enjoy the opportunity to draw their own maps and discuss them with their neighbors as well as share out in the session, and lots tweeted photos of their maps when we suggested it, too.

We’ve put the slides from the session on prezi, and I’ve storified the tweets from the session as well (as usual, Donna and Andrew are much better at livetweeting our sessions than I am). Donna has written up the session on her blog, too.

METRO Workshop Materials

Along with our colleague Frans Albarillo of Brooklyn College, we’re pleased to be offering a workshop on conducting interviews and focus groups at the fabulous METRO — the Metropolitan New York Library Council — on Tuesday March 3rd.

If you’re attending the workshop (and even if you’re not), here are links to our slides and handouts for your reference:


Exercise 1
Practice Exercises