Technology and Engagement: Making Technology Work for First-Generation College Students
You. What, motivated, us to write this book really stems from earlier. Work that I did on Facebook back in 2007. That. Looked. At the. Use of those, technologies and, technology in general as part, of student, culture and, then as a lot of those data came out I. Started to talk to Heather a little bit about well, what. About first, gen students, and what. About, students, of color on campus, how, are they using them so, we really, tried to craft. A. Research, project that tried, to assess, well, what is the impact of technology on. Students. In general, but specific, to first gen students. Well. Technology. Does. Many things and one, of the things that it does is that it gives you access to. Lots. Of information which. Are really. What, we would call social, capital. Possibilities. And one. Of the things that we certainly know about first gen students, is that they. Come to college with lots, of very, very good skills, and, abilities, but. This is a new culture, for them so, it says if you're dropping them in another, exotic. Culture for lack of a better way of characterizing it, and. There's been lots of work done on first gen students in the transition, and how it is that, they. Could stand. To access, this kind of information, these, kinds of relationships, so, because. Technology, is a means to all of that it means the social capital, we. Threw, the gauntlet down and said okay well does. It and. Honestly. It was motivated by a desire to want, it to do that for them and for them to be able to say to institutions. Look these. Technologies. Help these students in these ways. How, can institutions, respond. Yeah. First, we really, wanted to explore, what. Are the ways that. Students. Are using technology. And social media on campus to be able to be more engaged what, are those ways that we can think about as higher, education administrators. And professionals, to be. Able to use that to, be able to capitalize on that to help promote student success or. Some of the keys and to look at the, ways that. Students. Think. About these technologies, in different ways how it helps, or hinders their transitions, in. During. The time at coming into college and through college to. Be able to be helpful, and to be connected, we. Think that, the. More things that we can help put in place for students to be successful in, school, the. Better so or we, wanted to explore what are some of the ways we could do that. So. Our study took place over a five year period of time we, looked, at the students so a case, study of students, who are entering a summer, bridge program at, an institution, so the, students, started, in a residential program over the summer where, they took two courses we. Worked originally, with the faculty, and staff. Their, students, all received an iPad when they came into the program so, we had two different cohorts, forty students in each one so eighty students in total were. Part, of the, study in particular and. We also worked with faculty to integrate, some things into the classroom, some, activities, different ways that they could utilize iPads, utilize, social media then, we, collected, data both quantitative, and qualitative about, the students transition, in to. The university, how, they use technology during. Their time here how, they were using, social media and, then we followed those students, we had a group, of students that we continued, to follow and they, talked, to us each year we individually. Interviewed them each spring each fall we had focus groups of the students, to hear about their experience, what was happening, as part of their experience how.
Technology, And social media in particular were parts of those experiences. And that, is really the basis of the book. So, I would, say this book is for anybody who is interested in supporting or in a position to support first-generation. College, students as they transition to. And through college that, means educators. In k-12 of, course who are working. At preparing students for that transition they're thinking about what skills and knowledge students, need but, also really, set them up to engage, in. Using. Technologies, through that transition. This. Book is also for I think community-based, organizations. Who are committed, to college access in college success in. Many ways those organizations. Now are following, students in that transition, from k12, to higher ed and as. They do that I think they're positioned, to kind. Of help students think about how they use technology in, those two sort of educational, spaces and, of course this book has relevance, and I think a lot of use for administrators. And faculty in, higher ed who, are endeavoring to figure out you, know how do we meet students, where they are how, do we reach them where they're spending their time and, that. They recognize, the complexity, of social media and technology, usage among their students and want to think. Intentionally. About how to sort of use, that as a way to communicate to. Disseminate, but also engage and connect them to the institution, I. Think. One, of the biggest contributions, that book will provide for the field is really insight, from students, I think, the gap. Between. The. Educators. Who, design. And implement programs and practices and. The students for whom those are intended, is pretty big when it comes to technology and it, moves so fast and students. Move, quickly and keep up with it and so being able to listen, to students as Heather said talk. With them understand, how they're navigating that complex territory, and use. That to sort of offer some recommendations, I think that will be a huge contribution, to those in higher education. There. Are many things that surprised us I'll mean - I think that really stand out for me, one. Is, we. Know that for first-generation college. Students, the transition, to college is very much. Inclusive, of their families, that their families. Sacrifices. And engagement, throughout that process makes. This they're, a couple. Just as much as their students and what, we found is when students talk about what. Social media allowed, them to do is that it kept them connected, to family and friends from home the, the kind of social capital that they can provide just as important, as the capital, that faculty and their new peers can provide so, hearing, from students, as they spoke about the important role of their families. Reminding. Them why they're there, providing, them emotional, support, while they're in. College really, was very, important, in a way that I think we all, believe was, important, but didn't see the role that social media played in it the. Second, thing was. That again, as we know from research first-generation, college, students, are making a transition between k12, and higher ed in, a way that they become, straddlers. Of two worlds. Strugglers. Of two social classes, their home their, families, and their peers and this new social class in higher ed as they're. Doing that they're negotiating. This in a social platform social, media and I, think the. Results, in the findings of the study really, called our attention to what, is like for them to bring those worlds together in that social space and how hard that was for them and those. Kinds, of surprises really, yielded, ideas for us about how we advise. Faculty. And administrators, to engage with students when we know that they have these other communities that are also in that social space. The. Biggest contributions, to scholarship. From. This work, in our, minds really does stem from, the, contributions, to practice. As, a researcher. You look at this and you say oh. It's. Extending. The boundaries, and the use value of, particular. Types, of bonds. Sociologists. Would want. To look at it and say well there are these bonds, that have to be taken. As strong bonds and we move away from those if we want to get capital we want to go to weak bonds, well. That's. Not necessarily the case here, so for. Research and scholarship what it does is, it contests. The.
Standard, For the. The, need to, lose strong, bonds, when, one makes transition, to. Arenas. Where you want to gain social capital. That's. The first one the second one also, stems from that because in fact we found this odd. It's. Not an odd it's just a space where, there's. A different kind of bond, that's. A transitional, bond where, students. Really look to. College. Juniors and seniors who were most like them at some point and, became. Peer mentors, through. The program, and who, attached, in a particular way who could provide them, with, social capital, at the same time that could also anchor, them in their, cultural, racial class, similarities. That. They provided, some kind of strong, transitional, bond as well that's, not a space people talk about it all in the scholarship we. Talk a lot about peer mentors, and, peer learning but we don't talk, about the social capital, and the. The, ability of those students. Who, are very much like our. First gen students cuz they too are first gen they are. Fundamentally. For the most part. Students. Of color, on. A predominantly, white institution. They're. There, providing, a strong bond. Literally. In a physical, space that their. Home. Families, are providing, in a virtual space and those two bonds really, really really are I think, what. We found. You. Know it. Was great to see. But. The research never accounts for it in higher education. Most. Of the research tells, us that students. Need to transition, out of the home right. And that. Students, need to break away from home. And thus, the concern over the helicopter, parents, these aren't helicopter, parents to begin with but, they're providing. A particular kind of, social. And cultural context. For their kids. Their children their students. That. Institutions, and research have to look at in. A different way and. That. Was very exciting we. Hadn't. Honestly. We hadn't hypothesized, that, I. Think. Building off what honest said about the role of families, and my. Background is in K through 12 education and. I think that teachers and counselors in k-12 are in a good position to, help, families, recognize, they do play a part and I think as Anna says institutions.
Aren't Necessarily, structured, to engage families so. If there are opportunities, in k-12 for, teachers and counselors to sort of prime parents, and families and caretakers, to, be. Ready to be a part of that process to recognize, the value that they are going to bring in, staying connected and providing, a range of supports not just sending food or, doing laundry but, really reinforcing. For them why they're there and knowing, that they are behind them and in their corner I think. That we, think a lot about k12, and higher ed is very distinct, but when we do research that sits, in this nexus, between the, two we, realized there's a lot to be learned that has relevance for teachers, and advisors and in high schools and I think for me that, was a real surprise and, a good reminder, of the importance, of high, school educators, reaching, out and engaging families. And preparing them for what's coming on there and not just with students, if, I can add to that I think that the same message can be. Given. Or delivered. To higher education because, we we. Think of parent. Involvement and, there's an impetus for parent involvement offices, on higher education campuses. But. We construe, parent, involvement in a very normative, way and, in, fact much more around advancement. And those. Types of activities, these. Are families that aren't going to get involved in that because they can't. They. Don't have, the, requisite knowledge about cause themselves they, did not go to college many. Are working-class. People, so. Parent. Involvement offices, have to really. Change. The perspective to, really understand. That these families, have to be involved. With. The. College experience of their students, and how can we get them involved so in the same way that, k12. Doesn't. Think about involving, parents in particular ways, higher. Ed doesn't either and. I really do think that that stood out for and and perhaps we all knew that instinctively, but it's nice as researchers, when your instinct, because it comes out in the data. Yeah. So I think, I would say. For. First-generation students. Their families often think that they don't play a role if they have nothing to offer I haven't gone through it I don't, know what you're about to experience and therefore I don't I don't have anything to offer and I think students often turn, to other adults. Other staff for the kind of information, college knowledge we. Quite a term in this study, campus, capital, and it gets to that social capital that on a referenced and that includes, the tacit, knowledge the, information, that, just understanding. How things work in higher education that. Otherwise gets passed down through generations when. Families had gone to college and so we. Recognize, that though parents don't share that particular kind, of capital there are others yeah, because, you hear from the students, that they couldn't call home to figure out how, can I register for a particular class or I'm, having this financial aid problem, I don't necessarily know, what to do whereas, other continuing. Generations students, can call home and help. To get that situation. Taken, care of or may. Have parents, who are more likely to be the ones to pick up the phone the call where the parents, of first-generation students. Feel, well that's not necessarily my roller I don't know what to ask so they might not be as willing to do that so then, what are the ways that colleges. And universities can. Get that information out, to families, and, different ways to to. One, help the families of those first-generation, students.
That You're helping to educate them as well as the students, but, then thinking. About who, else are the students able to connect with to be able to get that information is it, peer, mentors, is one of the key things that came out for us as the. Juniors. And seniors who, worked with these students and summer programs, that, then talked, once they finished that became, close friends with, them saw, them as even, siblings in some way they would call them they're like my sisters or they're like my brothers that if, I have a problem that's who I go to so. Those connections with, other students, and that was often those. Relationships, weren't started, through Media but they were able to stay in contact over time even after those students graduated. As. Alums to think oh I want to have this experience studying abroad how. Do I get the resources, to be able to do that those are the types of folks that they connected. With those key peers for them or. Who are the faculty and administrators, on campus that, had developed, a, level of trust with other first-generation, students. Who came before them than. To pass that word along to say here's who you can connect with here's, how you can get that information along, the way which was important, yeah. I'll. Talk about the higher ed level and if everyone in Mandan came into the project, with us because of her focus on college access and and thinking. About that and that was a good. Tying. Together the three of us with our different areas of expertise, which i think was, important, as we. Think about the higher, ed level one. I think often, times one. I think the book is good at helping, to, hear the voices of the students was one of the things really important, for us to be able to write. As much in a way that we're, using quotes from students, and we're using. Vignettes, that look at students. And their experiences, to be able to understand, that a little bit more because often.
These Students, are not, heard from um, in, ways that, that they could be which is good and then how that, translates. Into our practice I think at times we. Faculty. And administrators. Think of social media as a, time, waster or when, folks aren't paying attention that's what they go to but. We have some good examples in, the book of ways that students have used, these things to be able to connect with students that they're in a group project with or to. Use, peer mentors or to connect with family, to think about there are some key ways that as administrators. We can think about pushing. Information out to students. Students won't necessarily engage, back to us that way but, to be able to get that, out and think about those ways we do it oftentimes. Too we want to stay away because we don't want to see be, seen as creepy or her stalking. Students, as we think about using, technology, and social Media with our students but what, are those, avenues. That we can use do we know enough as professionals, to know 1 what students are experiencing, on these platforms, one, of the examples we have is thinking, about racialized, aggression, for we had such a high percentage of students who are students of color and. What their experiences. Are and how that, translated. Into not necessarily. Feeling, safe or happy about the campus climate feeling. Real concerns about that where, some of the things that came up so if we're not as familiar with those platforms it's harder for us to be able to understand, that I think. Is a key and you. Know it's, constantly, changing we, saw in the five years from our students, if you know you know Facebook because, you look at your friends kids on there as a faculty or staff member in. The way our students, use it as a campus, Bolton, board for what events are going on how do I get involved in clubs and organizations, are all, key, things that our students, are using this so to, think about how, we. Need. To be knowledgeable and know how it changes, we, saw the shift you can see the upswing of Instagram. For our students, snapchat, and, the how, students talked about that how they used it and we also saw the demise the, Yik yak was huge and our students, in their sophomore year when. They were here and then now that that's ended, and that was a huge place, where racialized. Aggressions, were really clear but. So it's important, to continue our education as. Faculty. And administrators, about what's happening on social media because our students are so involved it's so part of what they're doing and then, what are ways that we can utilize that to capitalize, it and promote student success the academic, space was also, very, much a part of the.
Study And as. Heather suggested. You. Know it's. It's. A case for. The. Faculty, opening. Its eyes to the possibilities. That, are. Sitting. There with regard especially with social media but, also across all technologies. For. Students, and particular students. Particularly. For students who, need. Access to particular things, and. When. Used well in and academics. Bass. Mithen. Remind my faculty, you, know the chalkboard, is technology, so. How is it that you want to capture, this. Particular technology, for your use because, it benefits, students. From. And then we have many examples but the the. Thing that the one that always stays with me, and maybe because I experienced, that was. A student who was very clear that having, the iPad. He. Could look up words, that the faculty, member used that. Just were not used in his high school, because. That's. Cultural capital he didn't get so, if he misses that word he's done. For the rest of the lecture, whereas if he just looks it up oh okay. Now I can follow and then, more complex ways in which the. Faculty use social, media to. Teach. Teach. Shakespeare as. An example and. So. There's a lot there at the same time that it's not about you. Know being. Friends with your students on a particular platform, but, and because the academic space is important, I thought. They, gave us a real window, into the possibilities. And. Many of the ways in which we don't want to necessarily use them for for the academic, space I. Like. Two things to that one is one of the things we heard from students, about. How. They use technology that stood out I think to us included. Just having this, having, the this, up the technology. Having, the iPad as, a first generation student many, of whom are also low, income not all having. An iPad was, sort of a form. Of status and so we recognized that our project, and giving them an iPad also, sort of allowed them to have something that sort of put them on level. Playing field with other students, as, they transition to a very different space the. Second thing with regard to, what we hope will happen, as a result of the book is that people will think, differently. About technology. I think as Anna said some faculty don't. See themselves as using technology, and yet they are using. Blackboard, they are using technology, in very subtle ways but there are other ways to bring it into their teaching, and their work and the, lesson that has for k-12, is that high. Schools need to prime their students, to make this transition and I think in high school because of the things that that Heather referenced, during, like it's a fearing, as though it's a distraction feeling, as though students procrastinate using. These technologies they. Could leverage them better to position students so it's more normal and sort, of habitual. Eyes din terms of their practices, I, do. One, of the other things that we learn and learn the hard way through. Use of ours is you, also then have to teach people how to use those technologies and, what are the ways not just to hand it to someone the first year that we we. Had received the grant that we were working on we got the iPads, right before the summer started, and said okay here you go put these into your classroom, we're gonna observe how you're using them and a couple of the faculty we're pretty frustrated, because, they didn't have time to even know how to use it themselves how. To. Then. Use, it for instruction. To, be able to have good educational, practice, where they felt pretty confident, what they were doing before and here, we're throwing this new thing and, it was really interesting, for us to see the. Second year then those same faculty who had a year to get used to it who, were able to learn some new things did some really, exciting. Classroom. Activities. The Shakespeare, example is one there's. Another where students, and in a composition class we're editing each other's work using the iPads they could project it out so, it's um they were doing some really interesting. Things. That. Without. The time to, learn how to do those so it's something we have to be, able to, think. About how to develop that and our faculty to be able to do it it'll be interest it's an interesting question to ask. In light of. Changing. The changing of the professorial right that, to what extent.
Earlier. Career faculty. Are. Already predisposed. Because, in fact they were learners, in that space so and, and faculty. Tend to teach the way they'd, themselves under students, for. Good or ill and. So. But. It's still very very much the case and, certainly my work with faculty. T-that. Requires, thinking about well how would this get, me to that, and, we've, found. That out I, mean it was very, very. Very obvious, and. It's. The ownership piece, right once faculty, knew that they owned it they can figure out what I want, to do this, with. You know with the Merchant of Venice and, I know I could do that with this, particular, technology, so, that was and. The different way of thinking extended. Beyond faculty, one, of the things we found particularly. In examining. A program, that ran over the summer where students were living in residence halls was, that there are many apps out there that are designed to support students, non-cognitive skill, development so, whether they were time management apps or apps, that shut down your internet so you could focus on your writing there were a number of places where once. We gave. The. Faculty, and the staff and the program the charge to be creative, look for apps that you think will build the kinds of skills and mindsets, that students need to be successful in, college there. Are a lot of great things that came from that but there was I think that mindset shift that that this could be a tool this is a tool we're gonna support this and things. Are as, others, have said being developed so quickly in, some ways it's hard to keep up but some of our I, would. Say resident, advisors peer advisors who are working with the students found that there were apps that help students, organize, their. Lives organize, references other, kinds of things that really will support their learning beyond. The academic kinds, of ideas. That Ana's shared yeah.
And, Even really small pieces I can, still think observing, a class and, a student at broke in her glasses two days before so. It, was the wife she would go up and take pictures of the whiteboard so then once, she got her glasses fixed she, could then, go, back and to be able to look at these things or students, would share notes with one another and have common note-taking, documents, and so that would help there and learning along the way. All. Good research gives, you more research to do. And. I think that's certainly. True in this case Heather, mentioned that. You. Know for as far as positive, as we are about technology and, social media. And the, ways in which students, can really leverage, these. Technologies. It. Also has a bit, of a dark, side in the sense that we. Did see that the rise in racialized, aggressions, and. I would also extend it to gender, and. Sexualized, aggression. We. Noted, that and, then we start to do some initial work on it and. Now we're really. Engaged. In a full-blown research project to really try to get a sense of how. It is that, students. Of color in particular are. Affected. It's. Hanging loosely affected, by these in, their everyday I'm the, bottom line for all of us if. I can say and certainly has always been a bottom line for me is. You. Know how can we improve the quality of, the. Four years of higher education, that first, gen students students of color are gonna experience. Right, okay. You graduate, you're gonna graduate that's great that's awesome that's important, but. Did you enjoy it you. Know and could we have removed, some of these crazy barriers, that don't need to be there we, have provided. You with opportunities. That. Made. Sense to you right, to. Leverage the next thing and so, things like racialized, aggressions. Are. One, example of that you know because it's campus. Culture. Campus. Culture has been around since you. Know we establish residential colleges, and universities. It's, no longer a walled garden because. Everything, information is coming in and out from all different places, but. It's, still very much community. So how does students. Communicate. With each other and, what's. The dark side of that communication, and what effect, does it have on marginalized. Populations. On a campus, or in, the, case for example of women on a campus, how does that then, color. Women's sense of, their. Sense of what we would term it a sense of belonging on a campus, right. So. That's. Really. It's. An exciting place for us to go with this. Although. I will. Have to say that sometimes it's a little depressing but. Anyway. I. Think. One of the things that I think is exciting about this kind of research is that it's. Research, in a space that's new so it's not necessarily, talking with students collecting, data using. Through surveys or other sort of traditional, design and, methodologies. Watching. How students, behave, in. These virtual spaces it's just a whole different kind of research and I think that's exciting. And I think there's going to be more and more of it so it really challenges. Us as scholars to think about what, can we learn, certainly. We know that there are ways in which. Online. Behavior and information. Is used to, the detriment, of individuals, but I think that there's a, real opportunity there for scholars to watch, what happens I mean lots of social network, studies. Have looked at how, students are connected to different students. And to what resources. They're connected, to I think the more that people engage. In these kinds of social spaces the, more scholars are going to need to take their methodologies, there and so I think this project. Very much embodied, that yeah. And it would be a mistake for researchers, to. See. The virtual space as not. Real right. And not that that was clear to me very, early on this. Is a real space right and that was the argument I made and kind of sort of, lured. Them and unto this project but like, this, is real so.
What, Happens in this real space. And. That. Shouldn't frighten us and we, didn't. Mind going into the dormitories. And placing, Ras or you, know resident directors, or thinking. About codes of conduct, well why we afraid. Of the virtual, space cuz it's very real it's no longer the case that it's not and, it's often blended yeah, when you ask students, to think of examples we. Had times when students that oh I think. That was online right right I've had my resume saw so it's that blending, is to where, how they're connected with people how information changes. Hands to, think and it's a key component of the campus climate so institutions. Also need to think about that is. The, numbers of assessments, of campus climate increased, to think about how does. The online. Climate. Influence. What's happening, physically, on campus as well. You.