Balancing Act: How College Students Manage Technology While in the Library During Crunch Time

72 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2013

See all articles by Alison Head

Alison Head

Project Information Literacy; University of Washington - The Information School

Michael Eisenberg

University of Washington - The Information School

Date Written: October 12, 2011

Abstract

The paper presents findings from 560 interviews with undergraduates on 10 campuses distributed across the US, as part of Project Information Literacy (PIL). Overall, the findings suggest that students use a "less is more" approach to manage and control all of the IT devices and information systems available to them while they are in the library during the final weeks of the term. In the hour before we approached them for an interview, more respondents had checked for messages (e.g., Facebook, email, texts, IMs) more than any other task while they were in the library. A majority of respondents who had checked for messages during the previous hour had also prepared assignments and/or studied for courses. More respondents reported using library equipment, such as computers and printers, more than they had used any other library resource or service. Over half the sample considered their laptop their most essential IT device and most had a Web browser and, to a lesser extent, a word processing application running at the time of the interviews. Most students were using one or two Web sites at the time of the interviews, but there was little overlap among the Web sites they were using. A large majority of the respondents could be classified as "light" technology users, i.e., students who use one or two IT devices to support one or two primary activities (at the time of the interviews). A preliminary theory is introduced that describes how students’ technology usage may be influenced by locale (i.e., the campus library) and circumstance (i.e., crunch time). Recommendations are made for how campus-wide stakeholders — faculty, librarians, higher education administrators, and commercial publishers — can work together to improve pedagogies for 21st century undergraduates.

Keywords: media multitasking, technology usage, college students, Information literacy, libraries, time management

Suggested Citation

Head, Alison and Eisenberg, Michael, Balancing Act: How College Students Manage Technology While in the Library During Crunch Time (October 12, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2281482 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2281482

Alison Head (Contact Author)

Project Information Literacy ( email )

c/o The Information School, Univ. of Washington
Mary Gates Hall, Ste 370
Seattle, CA, WA 98195-2840
United States

HOME PAGE: http://projectinfolit.org

University of Washington - The Information School

WA

Michael Eisenberg

University of Washington - The Information School ( email )

Box 353350
Seattle, WA 98195
United States

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