Students included a wide range of technologies in their photographs of communication devices, and our interviews taught us much about how students incorporate personal and college technologies into their academic and non-academic lives. In particular we found that students were using a variety of devices including cell phones, iPodTouches, and smartphones. Our follow-up research on students’ use of technology in 2015-2016 did not include a photo survey. The most notable change from our earlier round of data collection is the now near-ubiquity of smartphones. However, while there is much that students can accomplish on smartphones, we also heard students’ frustration with the limitations of smartphones for their academic work. (Both rounds of research are discussed in our book Digital Technology as Affordance and Barrier in Higher Education.)
One is a Blackberry and one is a Samsung cell phone. Well, what happened is my Blackberry’s from my home country Saint Kitts. That one has a Saint Kitts number so that’s for my family to call, my friend’s back home to call. And the Samsung phone is my US number that my aunt, my family in the US can call me, and I call my family in Saint Kitts back home.
My internet service is from Saint Kitts and its cheaper there so even if I don’t have money, I could ask my family back home, “Could you please top up my phone so that I can use the internet on it?” So it’s easier that way and ’cause the plans in the US are more expensive than the plan I have back home, so I decided to leave the internet on my Blackberry.
–Bronx Community College student, Fall 2010
The next photo is my communication device. It is my cell phone, my Blackberry, and also its charger which is necessary to use the phone. I use this to communicate, and call people, talk to people. It’s… I don’t have a land line, so this is my most important… It’s my only phone. Yeah. I don’t really chat on the Internet. I mean, I use Facebook, but I don’t really… You know, this is the most, the people who are important in my life have the most direct form of reaching me, which is my phone.
–Borough of Manhattan Community College student, Spring 2011
Student: Usually I take, like, I’ll always take, like, my netbook with me just to like, to go on the internet. I like the portability of it. And it’s, like, convenient for me. I also bring my Kindle to read some books. Sometime, like, I use that like, as PDF files and work that and screen from there. […] My phone, I use that for, like, everything I need to do. Like emails.
Interviewer: Do you do any reading on your phone?
Student: I prefer my Kindle to read, ‘cause it’s more…I like the paper feeling of it by looking at it. ‘Cause I don’ t like looking at LCD screens for that long.
–Hunter College student, Spring 2011
Student: So, my phone, my iPod, and my computer.
Interviewer: OK. And what do you do on your phone, primarily?
Student: Call and text. On my iPod I tend to check email when I’m just like walking around or something. Then my computer for regular email.
Interviewer: And do you use any of the calendar functions for the phone or for the iPod?
Student: For my iPod, I do. I keep like all my dates and my appointments on here. Because otherwise I’d just be completely lost.
–City College student, Fall 2010
Student: I don’t have a cell phone. So, my friends get in contact with me through Gmail. Either GoogleTalk or GChat.
Interviewer: Why don’t you have a cell phone?
Student: I find that I don’t need one. And it’s also nice because you’re not constantly being called on. So if I need time for myself I can do that. I don’t have to be on the phone with someone. How do I say this? It’s nice not to have to answer to anyone else. So, if they need me, they know how to get in contact with me. Also, it saves me the pain and stress of people planning things last minute. So, if my friends want to go out with me or spend time with me, they know they have to plan ahead. It’s not just spur of the moment kind of thing, and when they decide last minute “Oh! I don’t really have time for you.” And then you’re like, “Well, what am I gonna do with my day now?”
–Hunter College student, Fall 2010
My cell phone, satellite radio, my camera, my Nintendo DS. So I don’t, most of the time I don’t carry these things around other than my phone and my Satellite radio, my camera I carry around when I go out on the weekends or if I am going somewhere special, or if I am taking a photography class. My Nintendo DS, I try to carry around with me when I don’t have a lot of things with me. This isn’t most of the time. I have been actually been wanting to play it recently because it’s just relaxing and it’s fun and you know but now that I am at the end of the semester, I am going to have to wait, I know till at least vacation starts you know? […] They are pretty heavy, so I usually try to carry them around at separate times. But the phone and the Satellite radio usually stay together. The phone I always have with me, my phone I always have with me so, and the Satellite radio is like 95% of the time.
–City Tech student, Fall 2009
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