Making a New Table: Intersectional Librarianship

Reviewed By: Jodi dela Pena, Katie Vanous, Crystal Lanoucha, Melissa-Ann Reyes, Sean Smith

Link to article:

In “Making a New Table: Intersectional Librarianship,” Ettarh elucidates the concept of diversity or lack thereof in the MLS/MLIS profession. The article explores how libraries and those within the profession often discuss the lack of minority populations or people of color in libraries, yet still fail to understand how this discussion impedes progress. The author asserts that segregating diverse and underrepresented populations into distinct categories, or silos, does nothing to alleviate the problem. Ways in which diversity can be increased in the MLS/MLIS profession are addressed within the article through the theoretical framework of intersectionality. Intersectionality is described as “the study of how different power structures interact in the lives of minorities, specifically black women, a theory Crenshaw coined in the 1980s” (2014, This theoretical framework was first used to describe the lived experiences of battered black women and domestic violence survivors and the ways that sexism and racism intersected in their stories. It was later adopted in the academic feminist community and as the author asserts, “Intersectionality is a tool for studying, understanding, and responding to the ways in which axes of identities intersect and how these intersections contribute to unique experiences of oppression and privilege.”

Rather than attempting to answer a question or to prove her point through statistics, Ettarh broaches this topic by posing questions and explaining why it is important to rethink how we approach the concepts of diversity and neutrality in the library. Ettarh asks, “What is intersectionality?”, “How do we make sure that both existing and aspiring librarians interact with patrons and other librarians in a manner that is respectful?”, “Why does [intersectionality] matter?”, “How can librarians make their respective libraries safe for these populations, if people in the field don’t feel safe?”, “Whose table [are we sitting at]?”and “What now?”

From experience, our group is aware that librarians can adhere to the role of an ally by “educat[ing] ourselves on how these intersecting oppressions affect our community.” Ettarh says, “LIS theory is based on a foundation of understanding and interpreting the information seeking practices, behaviors, and needs of patrons.” As librarians/associates we find ourselves interacting with patrons of many backgrounds and identifiers, both in gender and race. Librarians need to welcome all who walk through their library doors with a variety of techniques including, but not limited to, Ettarh’s suggestions like “[Challenging] all of the assumptions about your patrons, your collections, and your attitudes toward your employees and coworkers.” Openness and advocacy will provide a safe space. Libraries must enforce the policies that ensure that open, diverse spaces are maintained. Upholding library policies and making the public aware of them is important. These policies should stem from a familiarity of the community and the needs of patrons. Rules protecting the rights of all who wish to use the library should be emphasized.
Additionally, librarianship in the 21st century is about service. Service is for all who can benefit from it, without prejudice. Hiding behind the terms “neutrality” and “objectivity” are no longer viable in the current model for librarian behavior. In order to best serve those who wish to use our services, we must advocate for all. Instead of representing no specific group, we must provide resources and service for all, including those who come from communities who may experience intersecting oppressions.

Ettarh states, “No one lives a single-axis life” meaning humans are intersectional, multidimensional, and created and defined by a multitude of factors that make an individual unique. The author suggests librarians should “no longer hide behind neutrality and objectivity” especially because an Americanized neutrality is not necessarily neutral. By making a “new table,” librarians are no longer inviting patrons to sit at a table previously set by a “dominant white, heterosexual male society.” Current-day librarians are instead inviting patrons to a table that will take shape via the variety of influences, personalities, cultures, and beliefs brought to the table by the “guests.” With the theory of intersectionality influencing discussions, conversation between librarians are more versatile, taking into consideration not just a single factor or trait of an individual or population, but a combination of qualities that make up an individual or group. Ettarh states, “Engaging in conversations and then turning those conversations into action is paramount. If librarianship at its core is a service profession, then we must do everything to ensure that the culture in the libraries and archives and in the field serves all populations.” In essence, the larger the scope in library conversation, the more response and positivity will flow between patron and institution.

While Ettarh makes a strong argument for what is to be done in the context of furthering diversity and intersectionality among libraries, some unanswered questions we had and what we feel future research can and should address include documenting the experiences of minority groups or people of color (POC) currently working in these libraries and how they feel libraries overall can advocate for more diverse collections and develop programming that meet the needs of our communities’ intersectional experiences, which could then address critiques of neutrality raised in this article. Additionally, further research that interrogates and problematizes the concept of neutrality in libraries needs to be done, as this concept is foundational within the core values of the contemporary American library. In order for librarians to shift or deepen the concept of diversity, how can trainings be systematized across different libraries that can influence the way libraries operate? How can we help librarians internalize that the work we do is actually deeply political and not neutral? All of these questions connect to what Ettarh has outlined, including which collections are selected and how marginalized experiences are tokenized or only featured during certain months or seasons. How can libraries better represent the intersectional experiences of our communities in more authentic ways? How do we individually and collectively develop an intersectional perspective and practical framework for it?

The good news is that there are ways to start with a fresh perspective and rehash what already exists. The author suggests,“While it is not their job to educate you, engaging in a dialogue with people from underrepresented communities and listening to how their oppressions intersect can go a long way.” By inquiring about the needs within an underrepresented community, a library can begin by having a thorough understanding of the population as a whole, like traits unique to individuals within a particular group. Ettarh also recommends a change in perspective and states, “By treating these issues as separate entities, we as librarians fail to fully understands how oppressions work in various contexts.” To resolve this issue, “We need to educate ourselves on how these intersecting oppressions affect our community.”
In order to both begin with an intersectional perspective and reconfigure old ways, Ettarh says libraries should, “Provide staff with diversity training, address signs of microaggression and injustice in the workplace, investigate complaints quickly, thoroughly, and sensitively, and take disciplinary action against those who break the policy.” You might also consider defining the term “neutrality” within your work space. What does it mean? What should it mean? How do we eliminate bias?
In total, the article recommended creating what the author calls a “new table” where everyone is invited and there isn’t preconceived influence. The author sections the theory of intersectionality the idea that both identity and marginalism exist simultaneously and interact on many levels (Ettarh, 2014). Librarians should form a perspective and sense of neutrality alongside this multidimensional theory in order to best serve their patrons and the community.

Adewunmi, B. (2014, April 2). Kimberlé Crenshaw on intersectionality: “I wanted to come up with an everyday metaphor that anyone could use”. Retrieved April 29, 2017, from

Ettarh, F. (2014). Making a new table: Intersectional librarianship.
In the library with the lead pipe. Retrieved from


Reviewed By: Erika Contreras, Kelley Presley, Jentry Larsen, Sarah Conner, Thomas Fassett

Link to article:

Despite the best efforts of the information community in recent years, demographic diversity amongst librarians remains a major opportunity that has yet to be effectively solved. The first step in the journey towards diversity is accepting the lack thereof, followed by the formation of a concrete action plan that will lead our industry to substantial reform. The fact that 88% of the nation’s librarians are white is grossly disproportionate to our country’s actual level of ethnic and racial diversity (Vinopal, 2016). There are several key areas that must be evaluated in further detail in order to effectively problem solve the egregious lack of diversity in the library profession, including but not limited to the definition of diversity, underlying factors behind the absence of diversity, possible implications, a path towards awareness and action, and future directions for research.

Vinopal (2016) states that a diverse library staff can better serve the patrons in their community. Diversity is reflected in a library staff in different ways, including age, gender, race, ethnicity, staff with disabilities, etc. The definition of diversity varies from organization to organization, but when one is able to express what they believe diversity is and set a specific goal for achieving it, they are more likely to be successful in their attempts. When a library staff accurately reflects the diversity of the community it serves, it helps to foster social inclusion. (Vinopal, 2016) Emphasizing the role that each librarian takes in empowering the community helps them recognize their impact and feel more valued and less like a statistic.

There are many reasons that contribute to the current lack of diversity in library staffing, such as the level of schooling required to obtain librarian positions. Individuals from low income families have a much lower graduation rate than their peers that come from greater socio-economic backgrounds. The disparity in staffing can also be seen in other ways. One such example is that more people that are white hold a librarian title, while those from other racial or ethnic backgrounds more commonly hold other titles, like library assistant (Vinopal, 2016). Staff members that are a part of the majority group often lack awareness of the subtle discrimination or simply ignore what they see, thus failing to improve the lack of diversity problem.

When measuring diversity, there are several underlying biases that one must be aware of. Vinopal (2016) examines the use of ClimateQUAL: Organizational Climate and Diversity Assessment. This measuring tool reveals a collective ignorance of the dominant group with their own bias and privilege. This is an assessment of staff’s perceptions along with their library’s commitment to diversity with the policies and procedures that are put in place. Vinopal (2016) explains that the idea of racial preferences in residential neighborhoods and how the dominant culture prefers housing in a not so diverse area. This idea can help people imagine a predominantly white workplace and how that affects the work culture. Employees that are in this particular group are less likely to report racial microaggressions or any other related matters that happen at their work. Therefore, the way underrepresented employees are treated cannot be fully explained because it is not fully discussed in the workplace. The measurement tool can help reveal these biases and lack of awareness that some individuals may have in the library setting, which can in turn help ease their diversity woes.

There is a large and rich body of research that relates to diversity in the workplace. This can assist in examining suggestions to move forward while looking at the pros and cons of these choices. The path from ignorance to making a positive impact can be a steep learning process. Vinopal (2016) notes the IAIT which is research on social cognition based on concepts and stereotypes. Once this information is collected, the group can start on a critical analysis of these assumptions that happen in the workplace and why such behaviors exist. This way, the workplace can start creating a culture that is aware of such biases and starts to challenge the status quo. An important aspect to moving forward is also having a leader who is able to encourage their team to foster a desire for change in the workplace.

Vinopal (2016) remarks that library leaders must leverage their position to enact new policies and programs to show that the library is committed to diversity in action rather than merely talk about it. Actions speak louder than words, and libraries must follow suit. Some of the ways Vinopal (2016) suggests library leadership can begin to make our profession more open and inclusive are: Bias Awareness and Valuing Difference, Name the Problem, Mission and Follow-through, Data Collection, Recruiting, Mentoring, and Pay for Work. Each one tackles biases inherent within the system that must be addressed in order to make library staff more diverse. Open and honest dialogue with staff on a regular basis about discrimination and bias, concrete diversity plans in place, targeting recruiting in diverse communities, mentoring early career librarians in underrepresented groups and paying for qualified interns can all help turn the tide and create a more diverse library staff. These steps and others must be taken once and on a regular basis if lasting change is to occur.

Research on the lack of diversity in library professions has not been widely studied in the LIS literature, and is a subject that most certainly requires further investigation. Vinopal (2016) argues that while there is still much to be studied, these areas are ones that certainly require further investigation: Data on Diversity, Organizational Processes, Attrition and Avoidance, and Leadership. Researchers must look at what can be further studied about underrepresented groups in order to offer insight, the organizational structures are biased and how can they be improved, what the reasons are that minority librarians leave the profession, and how library leaders can positively affect change in their libraries. These are just a small fraction of the answers that are needed in order to understand how libraries can create a more open and welcoming environment to librarians and library staff in minority and underrepresented populations.

While there are many factors that play a role in the lack of diversity, there are just as many reasons to foster diversity in the library. Vinopal (2016) states, “Our professional library associations affirm a commitment to creating diverse workplaces so that we may better serve diverse user communities, and even support democracy.” One of the essential functions of not only the public library, but most all libraries, is to serve the community and provide access to a whole host of resources. By fostering diversity within libraries, we can reach a wider patron base and create better communities. While the lack of diversity in library professions is not widely researched, it is still important to understand the need for diversity and how it affects the profession and the communities that libraries serve. Creating diverse library communities is a goal that we as library professionals must pursue with vigilance and persistence.

. Indigenous Australians’ information behavior and internet use in everyday life: An exploratory study.

Reviewed By: Emilee Harrison, Ashleigh Torres, Robin Rogers, Mathew Chase, Ashley Montes

Link to article:


In “Indigenous Australian’s Information Behaviour and Internet use in Everyday Life: An Exploratory Study,” the authors discuss the beginning stages of an “information behaviour research project undertaken with a rural Indigenous community in South Australia” (Du & Haines, 2017). The study explores the following research questions:
1. What types of information do indigenous people need in their daily lives?
2. How do indigenous people choose information sources?
3. What interactions do indigenous people have with the Internet?
4. How do indigenous people perceive the role of the Internet for the community? (Du & Haines, 2017)

Du and Haines provide a literature review of the relevant literature and previous studies that have been conducted on similar topics (2017). They also provide the research design of their study including how they intended to conduct ethical research, how the data would be collected and how it would be analyzed (Du & Haines, 2017). The results of the study are shown and discussed throughout the latter half of the article. The results are displayed in tables along with each source of information that is within the study carefully described and talked about in detail. The authors also conclude the article and discuss the need for further research (Du & Haines, 2017). In this discussion, Du and Haines include that they were able to conduct this research by “accessing local people and seeking their thoughts and insights” (2017). At the end of this article, the authors include a copy of the survey questions they included on their questionnaire for the audience to see and use in conjunction with the article itself (Du & Haines, 2017).


The authors, as they were not indigenous themselves, sought to achieve an ethical research standard that required trust and respect with the Ngarrindjeri community through regular consultation with the Elders as well as exchanging honorary gifts of print-out copies of research results and weekend computer training. Du and Haines (2017) actively recruited Ngarrindjeri participants through snowball sampling by distributing promotional materials at local community centers, workplaces, and on social media. Recruited participants were asked to recommend people who might be interested in participating in the study. Twenty-one total participants were recruited (10 men; 11 women). Data collection was designed using a dual-method qualitative framework. First, participants answered a questionnaire regarding their everyday information behaviors and Internet interactions. Second, the questionnaire followed up with semi-structured interviews to deepen and clarify understanding of participants’ Internet experiences and attitudes in relation to their community needs. Narrative interviewing was employed as the primary technique to reveal participant insights, which were audio recorded and transcribed for analysis (Du & Haines, 2017). Participants who declined to be audio recorded instead had the researchers take interview notes during the session. As the participants were fluent in both Ngarrindjeri and English, both the questionnaire and the interviews were provided in English. Field observations and notes by researchers through time spent with the community also supplemented the data collection.


The author’s found that the Ngarrindjeri rely on multiple sources (Du & Haines, 2017) to find information relevant to their daily lives such as weather, news, and work related information (Du & Haines, 2017). Researchers organized the resources used by the community into four main categories: internet, interpersonal, mass media, and physical organizations (Du & Haines, 2017). Although Internet and Interpersonal are the most common, researchers found that participants tended to rely on multiple sources for information (Du & Haines, 2017). Participants consider interpersonal resources more reliable because the information is local (Du & Haines, 2017). Particular value is placed on information from Elders and from friends and family (Du & Haines, 2017).
Many participants said they would try interpersonal resources first, and use the internet if that did not work (Du & Haines, 2017). Reliance on social activities for information is consistent with the community’s tradition of sharing indigenous knowledge through basket weaving led by the Elders (Du & Haines, 2017). When they use the internet, non-home internet access accounts for more than half the participants’ internet usage (Du & Haines, 2017). Desktops and mobile phones are the most commonly used devices (Du & Haines, 2017). The “main barriers” to internet usage are “low computer literacy, costs, and the slowness of internet access” (Du & Haines, 2017). The authors found that participants regardless of age tended to believe the internet could be a valuable tool to “communicate local knowledge to a broad community, [and] to encourage cultural sharing” but were concerned about “inappropriate online dissemination” (Du & Haines, 2017).

Unanswered Questions and Future Research

The study conducted by Du and Haines brought to light some interesting unanswered questions and areas of future research as well. Some future areas of research can include if certain members within the indigenous tribe thinks about having some of their knowledge that they are willing to share available in online platforms. Similarly, other indigenous peoples in Australia and New Zealand have developed online platforms that makes certain types of information available to those within the tribe and the public, such as photos or recordings (State Library of Queensland, “Indigenous Knowledge Centres,” 2016). While some Elders in the study did mention this possibility and were hesitant about this aspect of certain types traditional knowledge being accessed to the larger public, it would be interesting to see what other Elders and people in the community would have to say about this aspect, especially in terms of knowledge/information they would like to share. Also, the study itself did not tackle the issue concerning traditional indigenous knowledge either, so there are many types of unanswered questions relating to traditional knowledge, technology, and culture as well.
This study also had some unanswered questions. Some unanswered questions from this study include if any type of solutions were given to the community concerning information gaps, such as a lack of knowledge on how to use certain types of technology, as well as there being few service providers in the community. Also, it was mentioned that about 11% of people in the study use physical organizations, including libraries (Du & Haines, 2017). Since library use was not widely accessed by people in the study, it would be interesting to note any reasons why this may be the case, especially if the library offers the use of their internet/computer resources and other resources as well. Is it the distance, the lack of trust in the institution, the lack of resources pertaining to indigenous needs, or any other factors that may influence their lack of use, especially since people in rural and remote areas tend to use the library to their advantage? This is not only an unanswered question pertaining to the study, but a possible area for future research as well.


There are a number of unanswered questions in this study, primarily pertaining to what barriers are preventing indigenous persons from taking advantage of library resources and what attempts at outreach and restructuring of library systems have been done in order to better meet the needs of these potential patrons.
Given that 21% of indigenous Australians report living in remote or very remote locations it is reasonable to suspect that distance may provide them with a barrier when it comes to accessing information resources through the countries library networks. While the National Library of Australia does have a subsection which focuses on Indigenous culture, that does not mean that it is necessarily accessible to the indigenous communities through the country as it is located in Canberra (National Library of Australia, 2017).
It should also be noted that the sample size for this study was very small, at only 21 people, which means that when the study indicates that 11% of responses reported using library services that amounts to fewer than three participants. The indigenous population of Australia is estimated to be about 669,881 or 3% of the country’s total population, which indicates that further research would be beneficial in order to gain a more thorough understanding of usage practices and community needs (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).


Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Estimates of aboriginal and torres strait islander Australians. Retrieved from

Du, J. T., and Haines, J. (2017). Indigenous Australians’ information behavior and internet use in everyday life: An exploratory study. Information Research, 22(1). Retrieved from

National Library of Australia. (2017). Collections: Indigenous. Retrieved from

State Library of Queensland. (2016). Indigenous Knowledge Centres. Retrieved from

Library Support for Indigenous University Students: Moving from the Periphery to the Mainstream

Reviewed By: Sarah Crawford, Kaylene Ogden, Argelia Ramirez, Millie Jones, Chelsey Roos

Link to article:

Info 275: Libraries Serving Diverse Communities
Professor K. Rebmann
Group 2: Sarah Crawford, Kaylene Ogden, Argelia Ramirez, Millie Jones, Chelsey Roos

Blogging Open Access Research
“Library Support for Indigenous University Students: Moving from the Periphery to the Mainstream”

In “Library Support for Indigenous University Students: Moving from the Periphery to the Mainstream,” Joanna Hare and Wendy Abbott, two academic librarians, conducted a survey of academic libraries across Australia and a focus group for a small group of indigenous students in South East Queensland. Hare and Abbott’s objective is to explore different ways that libraries are addressing the needs of indigenous students and to open a dialogue between indigenous students and academic librarians to better address their service needs. The results show that a large majority of libraries offer support services for indigenous students and that indigenous students have many of the same concerns common to the general population of students.

The author’s core research questions ask what services are currently being provided to indigenous student populations at academic centers across Australia, what needs do indigenous students have in particular that ought to be addressed, and how services can be enhanced to meet the evolving needs of the population. The resulting information showed that libraries are already providing a range of services to meet the needs of indigenous students, and that library programs and services show a strong commitment to supporting this population. The authors find that the main areas of improvement needed are greater cultural education amongst library staff, the promotion of indigenous staff-persons, and the need for greater interdepartmental communication.

For this study, mixed methods data collection was used. The authors created an online survey that was distributed nationwide to academic libraries in Australia, and a focus group. Non probability, purposive sampling was used in order to target the correct population. The focus group was originally intended to be individual interviews, but because of low response rate a focus group was made out of the Indigenous students who responded. The focus group included 6 students, and cannot be used to generalize about Indigenous students, but is a useful exploration of how individual students at one particular campus interact with their academic library. The survey questions were sent to 39 libraries and included a mix of close ended and open ended questions. The sampling and data collection methods are appropriate for this exploratory study, as they allow for collection of both qualitative and quantitative data, and took into account ethics considerations. Researchers in this study found that, in general, Australian academic libraries are firmly committed to the success of indigenous students and put forth considerable effort to engage with the issues faced by these populations.

Results from the survey revealed that 84% of academic libraries provide a specific type of support to indigenous students, of which services 89% are conducted outside the library. Researchers concluded that efforts to support indigenous students might improve through better communication and collaboration between individual university departments and the university at large. More training for library staff regarding indigenous cultural sensitivity, as well as employing a more diverse library staff were also suggestions for improving support of indigenous students.

Furthermore, the focus group found that indigenous students’ concerns about using the library were not dictated by their cultural background. Instead, their concerns mirrored those felt by the general student population. Researchers concluded that the focus group proved helpful as far as it opened up communication between indigenous students and library staff, as well as highlighted the importance of engaging with students both formally and informally.

One question the research raises but does not fully address in the article has to do with the fact that all six of the students in the indigenous focus group were high-frequency library users. On the whole, all students reported typically using the library at least every week, if not every day; they were clearly not low-frequency users, or students who avoided the library entirely. This may indicate that the students in the discussion already felt an unusually high degree of comfort in the library, a knowledge of the resources, and as one student states, a knowledge of “who to approach” on staff to get the assistance they need. If students who were not high-frequency library users were included in the focus group, what would they say? Do they avoid the library for certain reasons, like staff racism, uncertainty, or a lack of access or important resources? Future research could put together a focus group with a more diverse segment of students, some library users and some not, to address these questions. It seems entirely possible that students who have had strong, negative interactions with staff, particularly ones that seemed to do with their indigenous status, would avoid the library in the future.

It is also relevant that the focus group was very limited in size, with five undergraduate students and one postgraduate student. The authors themselves acknowledge the difficulty in recruiting students for the focus group and the survey portion of the study, which resulted in a small pool of participant and less age/ education level diversity. The focus group responses proved to be the most valuable, where they engaged with students and got unique and direct answers on their academic library experience. Yet, the quantity of participant respondents had to be more reflective of the whole population of Indigenous university students, not only to present experiences from high and low-frequency library users, as mentioned above, but different ages and grade levels, which might influence their library use, experience and level of library access training from the university.

As indicated in the study, the focus group served to help open a dialogue between Indigenous students and support staff. The authors can use this rapport in future studies and they can have students in this first focus group aid researchers build a more extensive group. As members from the indigenous community, students can serve as volunteers, not only to recruit other Indigenous students, but to provide insight and help formulate the questions for the next survey or focus group. Another reason to maintain communication with this initial focus group, is to engage them in discussion with the library staff, to inform them on improving their sense of welcome in the library environment.


Hare, J., & Abbott, W. (2015). Library Support for Indigenous University Students: Moving from the Periphery to the Mainstream. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 10(4), 80-94. doi:

Topical network of breast cancer information in a Korean American online community: a semantic network analysis

Reviewed By: Lara Briscoe, Dina Doyan, Lydia McClanahan, Nicholas Perilli, Jacqueline Small

Link to article:

Article Synopsis and Core Research Questions –
This study was conducted to gain a better understanding of the information seeking behaviors of the fastest growing Asian immigrant population in the USA, the Korean American. This study focuses on the information surrounding breast cancer, a leading cause of death and common cancer among women, that is available to Korean Americans through the most widely used website This website provides information on a variety of topics. Previous studies had found that online communications provide a better sense of health and well being, especially for immigrants who often feel isolated because of cultural differences and language barriers. The internet provides a supported environment to receive information. The researchers assert that no other study has been conducted using semantic network analysis and content analysis.
The questions that are being studied are “what topics are shared among Korean Americans who seek and share breast cancer information through online forum questions and correlative replies?, what are the most prominent topics among Korean Americans who seek and share breast cancer information online forum questions and correlative replies?, as well as what are the semantic associations between breast cancer questions and correlative replies?” (Park et al. 2016).

Methods used to Answer the Research Q’s –
Data was collected and analyzed using several methods. All the data used in the study was collected from the forum sections of the website MissyUSA. This data consisted of messages and responses relating to breast cancer posted by Korean immigrants on the forums in 2013 and 2014. After sifting through to find the responses that correlated most closely with the discussion of breast cancer—data analysis began.
Per the study, “The collected dataset was analyzed first using content analysis to answer research question one; then semantic network analysis was used to trace the semantic structures of the identified breast cancer related topics for research questions two and three” (Park et al. 2016). The method of content analysis was conducted by human coders using a coding schema to manually analyze questions and responses with the goal of identifying topics.
To reflect the uniqueness of information sharing regarding breast cancer among Korean Americans, researchers modified the coding system through a manual coding process. The content analysis results were then computed and the identified topics were recorded.
The method of semantic network analysis was then employed to examine structural features in terms of behavioral tendencies of Korean Americans who seek and share breast cancer information. Semantic network analysis included measures that were used to “capture the relational properties of the topical networks found in questions and correlative replies and then create a representation through visualization (Park et al. 2016). This allowed the relationships between the data and identified topics to become apparent.

Findings and Conclusions –

Park and Park(2016) found that Korean Americans/Korean immigrants have a critical need for forum discussions to find breast cancer information. Central topics according to the findings were treatment, symptoms, and emotional support. Overwhelmingly, while participants demonstrated a critical need for information regarding breast cancer tests they were primarily considered for diagnosis and treatment, not prevention. In general, because of socio-cultural, language, socio-economic, and geographic barriers, Korean Americans showed low rates of screening, health care and therefore, preventative measures for breast cancer. These factors illuminated patterns of need and concern in the information seeking behavior of participants even though they were not significant to the questions and replies in the forum discussion .
Several topics were not central to discussions, but evidenced strong associations for participant concern. These were issues of finance and insurance. Based on discussion questions, and replies, financial, insurance and other socio-economic factors were determined to impact the level of access to clinical services negatively. Inquiries of free breast cancer screenings indicate an area of concern for Korean Americans suspecting a problem of breast cancer. Lack of health insurance and recent immigrant status present obstacles for some that may need to seek health care services.In concluding, it was determined that in addition to analysis of online communities, more direct communication with Korean Americans is necessary to understand information seeking behavior.

Unanswered Questions/Future Research –

While this study is informative, there are various unanswered questions, which could be considered for further research purposes. For instance, the results of the study do not include those Korean Americans who do not have access to online technology. To reach out to those who do not have access to technology, the study could be completed online and through a tangible survey. Upon completion of both studies, the data could be merged, which would offer more indepth and accurate results. Likewise, although MissyUSA is a popular online community, it is online. One cannot be sure the participants were honest. Even though any survey could have discrepancies and cannot be considered completely accurate, a tangible survey could be an additional portion to the current study. Another variable to be considered to ensure more accuracy is including Korean American men who suffer from breast cancer. For those who lack health insurance, attempts could be made to contact health professionals. Perhaps, they would volunteer their time and credentials to these online health forums. Finally, the study did not state whether or not the participants were offered the research results. Considering providing the data to the participants could play an integral role in prompting Korean Americans to engage in health-care prevention practices.
There was one source that may not have been communicated in the conversations via the website but was mentioned in the article. Even though, connecting with other people who are similar to you in culture and language is useful to gain information about breast cancer or other medical concerns, it is always best to have access to experts in the field. While the usage of MissyUSA can be used for socializing about medical concerns, more accurate and reliable resources such as Medline Plus should be consulted. This site provides medical information in various languages, including the Korean language. The information available on this website is free to the public and can answer their questions in their own languages. (Danquah & Wu, 2013, p.244)
Additionally, sources that are available for the uninsured or low-income participants of the online discussion to get low-cost or free screenings came into question. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood a non-profit organization where the services are free or the Susan G. Komen Foundation which offers a Breast Care Helpline or email for more information. These organizations provide information and services to reduce the chances of breast cancer. Information about breast cancer is available, but it is up to the individual to seek it, from various sources. (Park & Park, 2016)


Danquah, L. E. & Wu, W. G. (2013). Librarian’s role as educators in promoting library
resources for multicultural patrons while advancing a national health initiative. In
C. Smallwood, & K. Becnel (Eds.), Library Services For Multicultural Patrons
(pp. 243-247). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc.

Park, M.S. & Park, H. (2016). Topical network of breast cancer information in a Korean Americas online community: a semantic network analysis. Information Research, 21(4), paper 729. Retrieved from

Student engagement across cultures – Investigating lecture software.

Reviewed By: Whitney McCoy, Lea Ann McDonald, Amina McGensy, Mariah Sparks, Saidy Valdez, Brittany Vernon

Link to article:

In recent decades, the use of technology has grown exponentially and has contributed to rapidly increasing globalization. In education, instructional technologies have been incorporated from preschool through graduate school. Technology has the potential to increase learner engagement in the classroom and lead to better instructional outcomes. To work toward improving access to instructional technology for learners across the globe, it is important for educators and information professionals to consider whether culture has an effect on perceptions of technology in the classroom, and to incorporate instructional technologies using culturally-competent methods.

In 2014, Green, Sammons, and Swift conducted a study to see how learning software affects college students in different countries, and consequently, across cultures. The authors note that modern educators have found that the application of learning software in the classroom has produced more engaged students and better instructional outcomes. In order for student engagement to reach its peak, it must have behavioral, cognitive, and emotional dimensions. Student engagement coupled with active learning, which occurs when students are engaged with course content and new knowledge is added to existing knowledge, is what leads to the ideal classroom environment (Green, et. al., 2017, pp. 19).
The authors were interested in determining if the use of instructional technology results in different effects across cultures. Despite noting that the word “culture” has been difficult to define in the world of education (pp. 17), the authors elected to use 337 students from the United States and Singapore as subjects, to see if the potential differences in learning styles across cultures have any effect on the use of learning software in the classroom. The study found that location and culture play a significant role in student perceptions of classroom technology. The study results demonstrate that Singaporean students found that the lecture software stimulated their involvement in the class, which is a result that may be explained by the traditional teaching style found in Singapore’s classrooms. The authors ultimately conclude that the use of lecture software in the classroom is most beneficial when integrated properly into a specifically-designed classroom instructional strategy.

Core Research Questions

The authors posed the following central research questions in their study design:

Does use of lecture technology inspire deeper knowledge and engagement in course material?

Are there any differences in student engagement using technology between students in the U.S. and Singapore (pp. 19)?

Are there any differences between U.S. and Singaporean students when introduced to technology (e.g., lecture software) with regards to active learning, knowledge, involvement, and enjoyment of the instructional technology (pp. 19)?

What is the current best practice for integrating technology into the design of a lecture?

What are the differences that educators need to take into account when designing a technology-facilitated lecture that will be delivered across multiple cultures?


The study was conducted in 2014 at undergraduate hospitality colleges in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Singapore, with data collected in five U.S.-based and four Singapore-based classes. Of the 337 participants, slightly over half were from the United States, and over half of all the subjects were females between the ages of 18 and 24. There was no additional data collected regarding students’ cultures or ethnicities beyond their location of U.S. or Singapore. Of the six instructors, only one was based in Singapore, and the rest taught in the U.S. The classroom sizes varied between 30 and 60 students, and the instructors were required to have prior knowledge in applying technology to postsecondary curricula (pp. 19).
Teachers were trained in the lecture software before they used it in their classrooms (pp. 19). Instructors either taught their classes in computer labs, or students were able to bring their own laptops, and they “used the lecture software tool for presentations, polling questions, question slides, and attendance” (pp. 20). Teachers also uploaded PowerPoint presentations into the software, allowing them to incorporate interactive elements into the lecture. Students were instructed via email to download the software in order to view the content on their own computers. The study utilized the Student Engagement Survey (SES) instrument, which consists of 20 questions intended to measure the overall satisfaction regarding the technology used in the course. The survey focused on four constructs for evaluating the differences in technology-assisted learning styles in the U.S. and Singapore, including active learning, involvement, knowledge, and enjoyment. Students completed the SES after the final course lecture (pp. 20).


While there were “a few questions on the survey that showed no significant difference with regards to location” (pp. 21), the majority of the questions found significant evidence that “the culture in the location did matter” (pp. 22). For example, students in Singapore were more receptive to, engaged in, and appreciative of the lecture software than were the U.S. students, perhaps as a pushback to traditional hierarchical teacher/student cultural norms in Singapore. Furthermore, the study found that both groups of students appreciated the use of technology to facilitate interaction with their peers, but the Singaporean students particularly appreciated the anonymity of the polling tools, and were more likely to participate in the lecture knowing that their responses would be anonymous (pp. 22). The instructors offered their perspective of strengths and weaknesses of the instructional software in class, and although they did identify areas in need of improvement, they found that the design worked for their students. Green, Sammons, and Swift found that instructional design with assistive technology was generally beneficial to student learning, because their engagement improved and the students enjoyed using the technology. This was especially apparent among the Singaporean students.

Areas for Future Research

The overarching question addressed by this study asks if the use of learning technologies leads to a deeper and more enjoyable level of engagement for students across cultures, and the researchers were able to draw some general conclusions using the student survey data. The study could have been more evenly designed to compare the same classes offered with a similar number of students across both cultures. The two cultures that were compared frequently gave similar feedback, yet it is hard to fairly assess when more classes were studied in the U.S. than Singapore, and the classes covered different subject matter. Additionally, increasing the number of Singaporean instructors involved in the study would result in a more equitable research design. It is also worth noting that there may be a significant impact on a similar study’s outcome if the complex cultural backgrounds of U.S. students are considered, and/or the role that economic status has on student perceptions of technology; neither of these factors were included in Green, Sammons, and Swift’s research.
Some questions for future study on how technology enhances and engages students might include the following:

How does using interactive learning technology with varying cultures and genders affect student confidence, academic performance, and learning outcomes?

What current or emerging technologies can be employed to further engage students, allowing them to deepen their knowledge and gain skills that are relevant to their coursework and future careers?

How can educators and information professionals best design interactive and relevant coursework for multicultural students in which the technology offers an opportunity for both engagement and inclusion?

Some of the feedback from questions asked of the participants answered specific aspects of what made the enhanced learning more or less enjoyable. Many of the cons involved the technology feeling “clunky”, “stifl[ing] conversation”, or not working instantaneously (pp. 26). Conversely, the pros addressed the various ways in which students were able to interact and express themselves during a lecture which might otherwise become uninteresting, while creating opportunities for instructors to add relevant talking points (pp. 26). Technology is constantly changing, and the challenge is to design user-friendly software that does not intimidate new users or feel awkward to instructors or students, but rather adds to the experience through enriching the lecture experience and better connecting the students with one another, and with their instructor.


While the data gathered in this study revealed similar perceptions between U.S. and Singaporean students, there were significant differences that were strongly influenced by location and culture. Green, Sammons, and Swift point to a history in Southeast Asian cultures of a traditional student/teacher dynamic, where the teacher delivers information, and the student receives the information, his or her silence indicating respect (pp. 18). The authors postulate that these cultural norms had a multifaceted influence on the Singaporean students’ perceptions of the instructional technology. While the traditional lack of classroom interaction led to an appreciation for the anonymous aspects of the polling tools, the students also found that an interactive lecture was more interesting and enjoyable (pp. 22). This data suggests that cultural challenges and differences should be taken into account when designing classroom technology, in order to increase student adoption of technology, ensure comfort in the classroom, and improve learning outcomes through exposure to different instructional styles.

Green, A. J., Sammons, G., & Swift, A. (2017). “Student engagement
across cultures – Investigating lecture software.” Journal of
Teaching and Learning with Technology, 6(1), 15-30. Retrieved

The Right to Read: The How and Why of Supporting Intellectual Freedom for Teens

Reviewed By: Sarah Pace, Emily Phillips, David Fournier, Elysse Fink

Link to article:

It is not news that teenagers are developing and exploring their world. In her article, The Right to Read: The How and Why of Supporting Intellectual Freedom for Teens (2014), Emily Calkins shares her opinion on what perspective libraries ought to take concerning the intellectual freedom of teenagers:

“It’s not that caregivers should stop being involved in their children’s’ library use and
reading habits when their children reach adolescence. There may be times, however, when a young person wants or needs information to which her guardian might want to restrict access. Because of the developmental needs of adolescence and libraries’ commitment to intellectual freedom, libraries should support the intellectual freedom for teenagers rather than the right of guardians to control their children’s intellectual lives.”

Libraries have intellectual freedom in mind and in their very hearts. This fact is evident based on the ALA’s very own Library Bill of Rights. So it is that teens should be afforded the same rights. During those tumultuous years of adolescence, one is becoming sexually active and should be offered fair and honest information regarding the ins and outs of sex. This is just one example that highlights Calkin’s larger point–that information ought to be free and open to everyone and that a person or entity has no right to censor information. Sure a parent can discourage materials in their own house, but they cross a line by saying that other teens/adolescents cannot have access to this information thus limiting that groups’ intellectual freedom.

Method and Unanswered Questions-
Calkins is concerned in this essay with the ability of librarians to assist young adults in a time of personal growth. Establishing self-sufficiency and independence is a crucial rite of passage for young adults. Challenging and questioning the beliefs of their family and culture is an integral part of this, and is not something that can easily be done at home with parents watching their every move. Even more so, teens’ intellectual freedoms are limited when parents censor their information pursuits, so they must find a place in which they can safely fulfill that need.
Calkins only briefly touched on how “young adult” and “adolescent” are defined, footnoted at the end of the article. A first unanswered question would be to explore that concept more thoroughly from a psychological standpoint, as well as an informational one. Are the information needs of a 12 year old different than an 18 year old? How can the library acknowledge and support this difference?

Second, Calkins discusses library policy in regards to protecting the privacy of adolescents, suggesting several variations of library card policies and how they affect access. Are teen’s accounts private, or do caregivers have access to information about their teen’s check-outs? If so, then how are teens supposed to feel protected? A possible solution to this is an honor system collection by providing access to materials to teens that don’t need to be checked out with a library card. This allows teens to take out what may serve their information wants and needs without intimidation and embarrassment. The legal ramifications of these policies for the library, with regards to a minor being able to be the sole party responsible for an account which may have financial liabilities are not discussed. This is not a deal breaker for being able to offer young adults full privacy, but it is a very real legal reality that the library needs to be able to deal with.

A discussion of how to have conversations with parents regarding the privacy of their teens was also missing. Discussing these issues with the staff was brought up, but many of the suggested policies will greatly anger some parents, especially as these policies directly contradict their parental rights with most other institutions and may come as a surprise. How to approach these conversations in a calm, professional manner, with talking points on how to best support the library’s position, or at least resources on how to prepare for this would have been helpful.

A similar question, how do we talk to adolescents about their privacy rights in ways that are relevant and which connect with the realities of their lives was missing. Young adults will not read a policy brochure that lists their rights, and many of these ideas may be very foreign to some. How do we open this conversation in a meaningful way?

Calkins concludes by acknowledging that the theoretical side of intellectual freedom is often the easiest part; librarians agree not to censor materials and leave the decision-making about who can or can’t read something up to the patron or their guardian. But not wanting to leave it at that, Calkins outlines practical suggestions on how libraries can practically support intellectual freedom for teen patrons, beginning with due diligence: research and familiarize oneself on the library’s policies regarding minors. Next review the collection to see if it includes materials for a variety of patrons. Go a step further and train staff on intellectual freedom. Other creative (albeit not fully researched) suggestions put forth were to develop an “honor system collection” for Teen Self Help titles and to partner with community organizations to promote intellectual freedom and access to information. Relatively simple steps for a librarian that could make a huge difference in a teen’s life.

But Then You Have to Make It Happen

Reviewed By: Marta Brandes-Miesner, Cynthia DiZazzo, Andrea Hayden, Angelo Hjelm, Nathalie Hrizi

Link to article:

Promoting Diversity in the Field of Information Science

In But Then You Have To Make It Happen, Williams and Van Arnhem describe their experiences as historically underrepresented individuals in the LIS field and define ways to further promote diversity within the profession. As people who have encountered racism and sexism in the workplace, the authors state their “interest in diversity is personal and stems from the acknowledgement of the intuitive need for a conscious effort to act and operate in a way that promotes diversity” (Williams & Van Arnhem, 2015). One way those in the LIS field can advocate for change, according to the authors, is by internalizing support for diversity and inclusion on an individual level, including being willing to face uncomfortable situations. The authors communicate libraries’ responsibility to serve students of all ages, ethnicities, genders, and socioeconomic levels by advocating for diversity education and inclusive practices through outreach to high school and university students. Projects to this end include providing access to technology and arranging information literacy workshops for students in the community, donating school supplies, and implementing student advisory boards. In their conclusion, the authors state “diversity and inclusion must be supported and championed to remove barriers and encourage participation” (Williams & Van Arnhem, 2015) and, while they note that some of their ideas seem simple, it is far more important that these strategies are doable.

Coming from a place of both experience and grassroots activity, the authors discuss opportunities and strategies for building diversity and inclusion in the LIS workplace. They begin by recommending an open climate, establishing an environment for dialogue, and leading by example. Reminiscent of Gandhi’s famous quote, “Be the change you want to see,” this is exactly what Williams and van Arnhem propose.

The authors emphasize the need to maintain diversity in our workforce to be a thriving, civilized, and just environment. One reason we need to maintain a diverse workplace is that patrons need to see employees who are reflective of their own race, ethnicity, culture, and even age. Employing and promoting staff members who come from all backgrounds and cultures is not just beneficial for the diverse viewpoints and contributions to innovation, but also creates an atmosphere of approachability, respect, and appreciation for others. The community needs to see people similar to themselves thriving and succeeding, especially in the area of technology. Women and people of color must be equally represented in the computer science and STEM fields if we desire to pursue innovation and achieve our goals. Competitive salaries and benefits packages are important for maintaining a diverse workforce but is not always possible in the public sector. Thus, they recommend recognition of accomplishments, achievements, and performance, encouraging staff to take on projects of interest while giving them release time to do so. They propose promoting professional staff development and even financial incentives for staff to further their education.

The thought-provoking article generated some interesting questions for our group. These included:
What are some ways the authors might try to further evidence their study?
Why would a variety, or diversity, of views be beneficial to a library?
How does economic diversity play a role in this study?
How is diversity related to the digital divide?
Why is the discussion of diversity so critical to cultural competency?
What can we, as library staff members, do to combat some of the harm being done by negative stereotypes and a lack of recognition and appreciation for diverse staff members?
As members of the “lower echelon” of the library bureaucracy, how can we affect changes to systemic and institutional discrimination?

Rather than address all the questions this articles raised, we chose two to explore and encourage readers to try their hand and comment on some of the questions we raised and didn’t answer.

What are some ways the authors might try to further evidence their study?

Measuring diversity can be elusive but the authors of this study wisely used open dialogue, a different way to quantify diversity that can be easily tracked. The authors might try to further evidence their study with surveys from both internal and external sources, productivity analytics, and by repeating their study at different information organizations. This question reveals an important aspect of diversity. It shows that if evidence can prove that those organizations which practice open dialogue improve morale and productivity, then expanding diversity is not about token acceptance but rather about improving the lives of all people in very measurable ways.

What can we, as library staff members, do to combat some of the harm being done by negative stereotypes and a lack of recognition and appreciation for diverse staff members?

Williams and Van Arnhem cite Bartlett’s work regarding mentoring as one way to empower female librarians and librarians from oppressed races or ethnicities. Established library staff members can seek out these relationships with new information professionals.

Durrani (1999) argues for the building of Black Librarianship. Black Librarianship is structural and requires libraries to shift administrative policies and approaches. This includes encouraging self-empowerment of Black staff and involving the community in decision making. Information professionals and librarians can make contributions to Black Librarianship by shifting the established culture of social exclusion. They can change their demeanor toward, perceptions of and interactions with Black librarians and LIS students, for example. The combined approach that combats structural oppression as well as challenges LIS professionals to confront their social training and take responsibility for transforming the library environment is a useful approach that can address not only racism but other forms of discrimination and structural oppression as well.

For a graphic version of our post, copy and paste the following link:

Durrani, S. (1999). Black communities and information workers in search of social justice. New Library World, 100(6), 26-279. DOI: 10.1108/03074809910290567

Williams III, James, & Van Arnhem, J. (2015). But Then You Have to Make It Happen. Code4Lib, (28), 2015-04-15. Retrieved from

A critical take on OER practices: Interrogating commercialization, colonialism, and content

Reviewed By: Nichole Bonaventure-Larson, Bryan Duran, Mia Faulk, Ursula Lara, and Carlee Osburn

Link to article:

Article Synopsis and Core Questions
Sarah Crissinger’s 2015 article is concerned with critiquing Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Access (OA) in relation to commercialization, colonialism, content, and the changing landscape of the university when it comes to adjunct versus tenured faculty. In her critique, Crissinger address issues of labor, the corporatization of higher education, oppressive learning formats, imperialism, and technocratic discourse around development and the information poor in the context of OER and OA.
Sarah Crissinger’s 2015 article is concerned with critiquing Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Access (OA) in relation to commercialization, colonialism, content, and the changing landscape of the university when it comes to adjunct versus tenured faculty. In her critique, Crissinger address issues of labor, the corporatization of higher education, oppressive learning formats, imperialism, and technocratic discourse around development and the information poor in the context of OER and OA.
While libraries around the country are pushing for free resources such as OER and OA, Crissinger urges librarians to pay closer attention to contextualizing content rather than just collecting content in what can potentially become an educational “dump”. Crissinger (2015) writes, “A learning object with relevant context, an application that is not culture-specific, and the capacity to be truly localized and understood is more important than a learning object that is simply free.” At the same time, as universities are increasingly relying on part time / adjunct faculty who are urged to contribute to OER, an issue of labor inequality arises. Since unlike tenured faculty, adjuncts are not compensated for their research but instead by the number of classes they teach.

Answering Research Questions
Crissinger uses existing critiques of OER and OA by Drabinski, et al. (2015), Cheney (2015), Shirazi (2015), Winn (2012), Burkett (2000), and Christen (2011), to answer her research questions. She determined it was best to explore OA along with OER considering they both share similarities that allow lessons learned to be applied to both. Crissinger uses critiques to explore the issue of labor, the tenure structure, and the unwillingness of universities to fund projects they are willing to promote. Crissinger analyzes critiques that explore oppressive learning formats, economic and social inequality, the “information poor” and the digital divide. Through these critiques Crissinger can reflect on OER practices.

Findings and Conclusions
Per Crissinger, access to OER is not the be all, end all. Simply increasing one’s access does not make them more knowledgeable or eradicate a digital divide. Social and global inequality cannot be reduced to a simple fix and access to OER. “Free and unrestricted access to OER is just one step in improving education, not the primary solution. Librarians are apt to do the integral work of reframing and complicating the OER movement. Our extensive understanding of copyright, instructional design, and discovery, combined with our interest in social justice, makes us natural leaders for helping others understand why Open Education matters” (24). Increasing the number of adjunct positions results in change to the labor system and the continued commercialization of higher education since adjuncts are paid per the number of classes they teach rather than the research they produce. “We must think critically about whether our open work is doing the social justice, political work we envision it doing. If we fail to ask these questions, we risk endorsing programs that align more with profit than with access” (10). Taking into consideration the goal of many academic libraries is to further the mission of their universities, we must consider how the marketization of OER compromises our ability to do the work we claim to value. “The politics of our campuses or leadership can limit how loudly our voices carry within our institutions (Acccardi, 2015). Still, our critical perspective is needed now more than ever” (Crissinger, 24).

Unaswered Questions and Future Research
Crissinger proposes some interesting further research at the end of her piece, but even these ideas did not touch on the potential for further research raised by her article. One of the considerations she mentions is the consideration of how librarians can better determine if an OER resource is one which provides good information and content, with context, or if it is not. This could be further expounded upon through research into a universal guide or standard set. Additionally, Crissinger discusses encouraging open pedagogy on campus. Crissinger (2015) states, “if faculty on campus are not integrating open pedagogy into their classrooms, it can be more difficult for librarians to do this as well.” Are there ways to combat this besides increased advertising and teaching? Would inclusion of OER in academic goals from an administrative position be possible? Lastly, one of the arguments mentioned, but not touched on, is the inclusion of a broader range of creators in the OER sphere. Crissinger (2015) quotes, “‘content creation…on the Web is currently heavily dominated by the developed and English-speaking world.”. How can librarians help to encourage the development of use of OER that is more inclusive, as well as more contextually focused and not an “information dump”? Is this a librarian’s role, and if so, how could this kind of expansion better serve the purpose of OER and academic research in the long run?

Answering Our Own Questions
Unfortunately, these questions are not easily answered. However, conducting further research on OER and OA would be a good starting point and may help to find the answers to our questions. Incorporating other viewpoints, ideas, and examples of how librarians are creating, sharing, and using OER/OA may help illustrate what their role is in promoting inclusion amongst contributors in the OER/OA sphere. Additionally, we can find the answers to our questions by doing what was suggested earlier; asking those questions aloud and as often as possible. We cannot expect to find answers and meet the challenges of OER/OA if we are not engaging in open and constructive dialogue with our peers and colleagues around the world. It is only after we have asked our questions aloud and engaged in collaborative dialogue that we will be able to give concrete answers, and move forward with making OER/OA accessible to everyone without devaluing information, the work of OER/OA contributors, and its content.

Crissinger, S. (2015, October 21). A critical take on OER practices: Interrogating commercialization, colonialism, and content. Retrieved from In the library with the lead pipe:

Examining Factors Predicting Students’ Digital Competence

Reviewed By: Reviewed by Natalie Enright, Chelsea Maradiaga, Bracha Schefres and Angela Yam

Link to article:

Article synopsis and core research question
In the research article “Examining Factors Predicting Students’ Digital Competence,” Hatlevik, Guðmundsdóttir, and Loi are interested in determining how users process information and to what extent are technological skills acquired. This paper addresses the levels of familiarity and understanding of information and communication technology (ICT) as assessed among Norwegian ninth grade students. Digital competence is defined as “the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that make learners able to use digital media for participation, work, and problem solving, independently and in collaboration with others in a critical, responsible, and creative manner.” (Hatlevik, Guðmundsdóttir, & Loi, 2015, p. 124) Due to the increasing variety of technologies in the daily lives of users around the world, this 2015 study holds an important role in analyzing digital literacy and how people acquire the relevant skillsets.
Three factors are identified as shaping the diverse technological experiences of students following the research results: digital competence, mastery orientation, and family background. Mastery orientation refers to how one’s attitude and actions approach learning or performance-related activities, while family background covers cultural, social, and economic demographic indicators. Eight hypotheses were formulated to frame the relationships between cultural capital, language at home, strategic use of information, academic achievements, and predicted digital competence.
Global efforts toward advocating and promoting digital competence aim to not only make technological tools more accessible for users to meet information needs, but they also encourage the lifelong development of online equity, self-representation, and exchange of information.

Methods used to answer the research question.
For this study a cross-sectional survey was used to analyze the data collected from a survey given to one class of 9th graders chosen by each of the 150 schools contacted to participate. The study was conducted in 2013. Potential participating schools were contacted using mail, e-mail, and by phone. “The final sample for this study was made of 852 students from 38 participating schools. The response rate at the school level was 25.3%” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 127). There was no replacement for schools who did not participate.

The questions for the survey were comprised of themes based on the learning objectives for the completion of 10th grade. The themes included: “five questions about digital responsibility, three questions about digital communication, eight questions about how to retrieve and handle digital information, and ten questions about how to create and process digital information” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 127).
Students were then asked how many books they had at home. The data collected from this part of a self-report questionnaire was used to establish cultural capital. Other answers to the self-report questionnaire were used to determine language integration and mastery orientation for each student. Three questions were asked to measure mastery orientation using Likert-type agree-disagree scale, ranging from Strongly agree to Strongly disagree. Results showed a score of 0.87 suggesting a high level of consistency. “The scale of marks/grades are 1(the lowest mark), 2, 3,4, 5 and 6 (the highest mark)” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 127).
The comparative fit index (CFI) and the Tucker-Lewis fit index (TLI) are the two indices that were used to evaluate the fit of the model with the hypotheses. In order to estimate the misspecification of the model, the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) was calculated. (Hatlevik et al., 2015)
Finally,, a national database, indicated that on an average there were 2.19 (sd 0.71) students at each computer in the schools that participated in the study” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 128).

Findings and conclusions
The study found that 2.5% of students had no books, 10.2% had 1-10 books, 15.9% had 11-50 books, 15.4% had 51-100 books, 22.2% had 101-250 books, 17% had 251-500 books and 16.8% had more than 500 books. For languages spoken at home, studies found that 83.3% of students spoke Norwegian and 16.7% spoke another language other than Norwegian or combined with Norwegian.
The results from the theoretical model were statistically significant, however there were two questions which measured digital competence that had to be removed due to the factor loading falling below 0.20 and a new analysis was run. It showed acceptable results with values of CFI = 0.947, TLI = 0.943, and the RMSEA = 0.024 [LO 90 = 0.020 and HI 90 = 0.027].
An analysis of the theoretical model that was developed with eight hypotheses shows that all hypotheses are supported. From the structural equation modelling (SEM) approach, the study found that “students’ cultural capital and language integration at home is positively related“ (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 132) which has a positive forecast to digital competence. Looking at both of the student’s mastery orientation and previous achievements also provides positive outlooks to digital competence.
Limitations of this study includes having a response rate of 25.3% at the school level, schools and students with positive interactions towards technology could be overrepresented, and self-selection bias. However, there were variations between students’ digital competence, therefore it seems that there is a diverse sample of student participation.
This study’s findings shows diversity amongst the students regarding digital competence which is also supported by many national tests involving reading, mathematics, science and information literacy. It is up to the school leaders and teachers to identify the diversity in their students’ digital competence and take action to improve their student’s digital competence. They have to also take note that a student’s family background, previous achievements in school, and mastery orientation are related to their digital competence. Teachers would need to be aware of these factors when they are planning and conducting teaching, and helping students to develop adaptive methods for information use. “Digital skills and competence requires hard work and persistence as does developing other key competences such as reading, writing, or doing calculations.” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 133).

Unanswered questions and an attempt to answer them
The design of the test seems to evaluate a 9th grade students’ digital competence without the intervention of classroom instruction since students are tested on end of the year 10th grade material. If the test comprised of questions that were from the 9th grade curriculum or the test comprised of students who had just finished 10th grade, then the study would evaluate classroom instruction. However, to completely rule out the significance of classroom instruction on digital competence, a control group would need to be studied comprising of students who had just completed 10th grade and had been asked identical questions.
A second question that arises pertains to the use of quantity of books in the home as a measure of cultural capital. Understandably, the authors of the study wished to align their research that used books “in several other international studies” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 127), it is not considered to be sensitive or private information, and books can be counted fairly easily. However, in the 21st century this gauge may becoming less accurate as more people are moving away from print materials and towards digital books. It was not clear if the study included digital content as well. Perhaps a future study should address this issue and include digital as well as print material.
Finally, the study indicates that there is a positive correlation between cultural capital and language integration, factors that can be used as a proxy for student’s family background, as well as a student’s mastery in orientation is a positive prediction of digital competence. As such, the study recommends “more information about how teachers can help students to develop adaptive strategies for information use” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 132). This would suggest that the authors support culturally responsive teaching practices to mitigate factors that contribute to poor digital competence in students. While this may be true, it is important to note that the response rate was 25.3% at the school level. The study did not indicate if some of the schools were culturally diverse, lower academic performing, or were lower socioeconomic schools suggesting a possible poor test sample. The authors addressed this issue in the article noting that “nevertheless, the results from the study give insight into factors predicting digital competence” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 133). Even so, the low response rate begs the question what results from a larger sample that includes all aspects of diversity would look like. It would be worthwhile to address these issues in further studies.

Hatlevik, O. E., Guðmundsdóttir, G. B., Loi, M. (2015). Examining factors predicting
students’ digital competence. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 14, 123-137. Retrieved from