Access to and use of digital technologies is an integral aspect of higher education in the twenty-first century. Despite the tech-savvy image of young people propagated by the media, not all college students own and use technology to the same extent. City Tech Professor Maura A. Smale, Chief Librarian, and Professor Mariana Regalado, Head of Reference & Instruction at Brooklyn College, address this challenge in their new book Digital Technology as Affordance and Barrier in Higher Education (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).
Smale’s and Regalado’s book examines urban commuter students’ use of digital technologies for academic work, on and off campus. Filling a gap in the literature on student use and access to digital technology, their original research offers insights that inform strategies for academic and student support.
“Technology is ubiquitous in our students’ lives. The media is quick to hype the latest tech and gadget breakthroughs and equally eager to assume that more technology can improve education. When we talked to CUNY students about the technology they own or have access to and how they are actually using it for their schoolwork, the reality is more complicated,” said Smale. “Our students are busy commuters with work, family, and other responsibilities outside their college life. They almost overwhelmingly wanted to use technology to make it easier to keep up with their schoolwork, but were often thwarted by circumstances outside of their control.”
To ensure that students have the best opportunities for success, Smale and Regalado claim that all in higher education must consider ways to increase affordances and reduce barriers in student technology use. Their strategies for curriculum design and implementation will be of use to faculty, staff, and administrators at colleges and universities.
“Smale and Regalado weave together deep understanding of current trends in educational technology with rich descriptions of the lived experiences of non-traditional undergraduates at a predominately commuter university. The authors have brought us a long way to understanding how students experience technology as both affordance and constraint as they navigate the work of life and school,” said Professor Henry Delcore, California State University, Fresno.
Baiyun Chen, an instructional designer at the Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida, also praised the book: “This volume provides insights on students’ experiences with technology instead of simply big trends or numbers. The focus on students’ academic practices is much-needed, and fills a gap in the literature,” said Chen.
Maura A. Smale is Professor and Chief Librarian at City Tech. She has researched and published on student scholarly habits, critical librarianship, and open education.
Mariana Regalado is Associate Professor and Head of Reference & Instruction, Library at Brooklyn College. She has research and published on undergraduate academic experience and research habits.