Tag Archives: inclusion

Identifying the Visible Minority Librarians in Canada: A National Survey

Reviewed By: Sherrie Boyd and Cheryl Pugh

Link to article: https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/eblip/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/23294/18396

Article Synopsis and description of how it represents an international perspective

In December 2011, the visible minority librarians of Canada (ViMLoC)) was established through the Canadian Library Association (CLA). The term visible minorities is defined as “persons, other than Aboriginal people, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in color” (Statistics Canada, 2012a). In January 2013, ViMLoC participated in a panel presentation at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference. At the presentation, ViMLoC sought ideas from attendees on the future direction for ViMLoC. Two directions were identified and added to ViMLoC’s agenda, the first one was to gather statistical information on visible minority librarians working in Canadian institutions and the second one was to create a mentorship program. In December 2013, the authors distributed an online survey to gather statistical information on visible minority librarians at Canadian institutions. This survey was the first of its kind with this population in mind. The survey’s primary goal was to obtain data on the number of visible minority librarians working in Canadian institutions.
The information that was sought was in regards to which ethnic group the librarians belong to, are they first or second generation Canadians, education and experience, institution where they are currently employed, what is their position at their current job, and are they employed full-time or part-time. The information is useful to library administrators, librarians, and researchers working on multicultural issues, diversity, recruitment and retention, leadership, library management, and other related areas.

Core research question(s)

The article considered the following research questions:
Which ethnic group did visible minority librarians belong to?
What type of library do the visible minority librarians work in, and what is the number of visible minorities working in those institutions?
What were the professional needs of visible minorities?
What challenges do visible minorities face?

Methods used to answer the research question(s)

Kumaran and Cai used an online survey questionnaire and hoped to achieve two goals. The first was to provide a snapshot of the demographics of the visible minority librarians. The second was to highlight any needs, barriers or challenges that minority librarians face. The survey was nation-wide and sent via email to relevant library association lists such as the Canadian Library Association, Canadian Medical Libraries Interest Group, Special Libraries Association and also on ViMLoC’s website.
The qualitative and quantitative survey consisted of 12 questions (multiple choice, yes/no and open-ended). The survey started with a definition of visible minorities as defined by the Canadian Employment Equity Act (Government of Canada, 2014). Respondents were asked if they identified as a visible minority. If the response was “no,” the survey closed. These were excluded from the remainder of the survey. The rest of the survey was divided into personal and professional questions.
The first several questions focused on the background of the participants, which ethnic group they belonged to and if there were first- or second-generation Canadians. A space was provided for participants to elaborate on their answers. The next set asked about their educational and professional status to learn if they had a professional degree and from which institution. In addition they were asked to identify the type of library, they worked in to get an indication of where these librarians were located. Respondents were provided with a list of job categories from the American Library Association (ALA) website and asked to choose the closest job category and whether they worked part-time or full-time. The final question was open-ended where respondents were encouraged to add any information on anything, they considered relevant. This question garnered a variety of themes: jobs, mentorship, professional development courses, workplace issues, general barriers, networking and success stories.

Findings and conclusions
The survey received responses from 192 librarians who attempted to take the survey, however, only 120 librarians identified themselves as visible minorities. Out of the 120 librarians who completed the survey, 36% (43 librarians) identified themselves as Chinese, 20% (24 librarians) identified themselves as South Asian, 12% (15) identified as Black, 3% (4) as Filipino, 1% (1) as Latin American, 2% (3) as South East Asian, 2% (2) identified as Arab, 5% (6) identified as West Asian (which includes Afghan, Assyrian, and Iranian), 1% (1) identified as Korean, 6% (7) identified as Japanese, and 12% (14) identified as other.
Visible minority librarians replied that they were employed in various types of libraries. 46 librarians (38% of those who completed the survey) stated they worked in a public library. 45 librarians (38%) worked in an academic library. Only 1 librarian (1%) worked in a regional library. 18 librarians (15%) worked in a special library. 1 librarian (1%) worked in a school library. 2 librarians (2%) were currently in library school and 7 librarians (6%) stated they worked in other types of libraries.
Visible minority librarians were located throughout Canada and beyond with the majority in British Columbia and Ontario. These two provinces have the highest immigrant population.
Visible minority librarians were asked the type of jobs in which they were employed. They were to ask to choose the closest job category from the list of American Library Association categories. 38% identified themselves as reference/information services librarians, 18% as other and 15% as administration. Respondents were not required to elaborate on what “other” meant and what types of administrative positions they hold.
Final open-ended question asked visible minority librarians to include any topics/suggestions they deemed relevant to the survey. 50% responded to this question. Of those librarians that responded, they stated what their professional needs were and what challenges they faced while working as a librarian. Some needs that were identified included a need for programs that encouraged and assisted minority librarians in the area of library studies and there is a need for employers to recognize talent and potential and a willingness to take a chance on hiring minority librarians new to the field. Some challenges that the librarians identified were, a lack of networking and mentoring among minorities in the field, a lack of support and access to information on how to succeed as a visible minority librarian in Canada. In addition, there was a lack of diversity and inclusive practices in the workplace, especially at the leadership level. Other challenges were moving up the career ladder, and a lack of opportunities to gain library experience.
The authors believe the ViMLoC should continue to gather these statistics every 3-5 years. These next surveys should include more qualitative questions so the respondents have the opportunity to include other topics/suggestions. These responses can prove helpful in informing future strategic directions for the ViMLoC.
The ViMLoC will also need to consider that not all librarians are members of any of the library associations and look into other ways to advertise future surveys.

What American libraries can learn from global practice about designing services for diverse populations

Key takeaways:
The need to go directly to the target audience to seek their suggestions and guidance about programs and services. This has to be done on a regular basis since communities change over time.
Libraries must continue to recruit and retain minority librarians who can help to provide insight regarding minority communities and help libraries address shortcomings in their programs.
Libraries should be proactive in monitoring the demographic changes in their community. This knowledge can forecast what will be needed in the future and inform budgeting and staffing considerations.
The development of a mentorship network for minority librarians which could pair rookie librarians with veteran librarians from their ethnic group. This could be a virtual pairing so they can get support and advice from those who have successfully navigated their careers.


The Visible Minority Librarian experiences and survey results illustrated an exact mirror image of what American minority librarians face on the job. This article highlighted the need for deliberation and planning where diversity is concerned. Good intentions are not enough. There must be buy-in from administrators, staff and librarian colleagues for success. A change in organizational culture is not easy and not intuitive. On the contrary, it is both painful and personal. With this information in mind, American libraries need to see the importance of having a diverse staff in all libraries. It is not enough to simply have librarians who identify as visible minorities, but they need a network of other librarians who identify with them as well. By having more visible minority librarians, libraries benefit by having more diverse programming available for patrons, patrons who see librarians from various backgrounds. Minority librarians need to be a part of the planning of programs and services as tools and strategies are developed to guide everyone through the change process which supports the idea that libraries are a space for any and everyone.


Kumaran, M. Cai,H. (2015). Identifying the Visible Minority Librarians in Canada: A National Survey. Retrieved from https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/eblip/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/23294/18396

Accessibility and Inclusion Issues in Library Acquisitions: A Guideline to Evaluating and Marketing the Accessibility of Library E-Resources

Reviewed By: Jeana Clampitt, Javier Morales, Jennifer Nguyen

Link to article: http://publish.lib.umd.edu/IJIDI/article/view/314

In this article, Kerry Falloon (2016) examines how academic libraries can ensure that their digital collections comply with federal regulations while meeting the needs of all users. She suggests a specific workflow that includes evaluation and marketing of digital materials. Falloon begins the article with a review of applicable regulations, including legal cases that have arisen when universities have failed to comply. Falloon then points to several existing guides which aim to assist librarians with making purchasing decisions. She discusses existing technologies, including specific products, and the benefit for all users of providing adaptable materials and technology. Then she presents a workflow model and discusses how it has been implemented at the City University of New York (CUNY), and specifically the College of Staten Island (CSI) Library. Finally, she discusses marketing, including the importance of signage and the use of LibGuides as a method of promotion.

Falloon states, “The purpose of this study is to educate acquisition librarians attempting to integrate best practices in evaluating the accessibility of acquired products and services into current workflows” (p. 2). In addition, the study aims to “provide a workflow model on how to ensure that a digital resource is evaluated and marketed for accessibility compliance” (p. 14).

These goals can be reframed as the following research questions:
RQ1: How can acquisitions librarians ensure that digital collections comply with accessibility regulations and are practical for all users?
RQ2: What are best practices for evaluating and marketing digital materials?
RQ3: What workflow model do librarians at the CSI Library use to ensure these goals are met?

Falloon evaluates electronic resources in regards to the implementation of new workflows. She states that “traditional workflows need to be broken down and redesigned into new workflows, with patron services as its goal” (p. 6). According to Falloon, doing so will allow libraries to be better able to keep the accessibility and universal design needs of patrons with disabilities at the forefront in all electronic resource decision-making processes.

To help with the facilitation of these new workflows, the CUNY-CSI Library used the Techniques for Electronic Resource Management (TERMS) as a model to help in the evaluation of product and service accessibility. If properly adopted by library staff, TERMS would help create new workflows that would better allow them to evaluate whether electronic resources are “accessible, adaptable, supportive, and can be used by patrons of all abilities.” (p. 6).

In the course of this wider study of the accessibility needs of patrons, the CUNY-CSI Library has made a concerted effort to prioritize new policies and procedures. Several resources are highlighted, including the ALA’s “Purchasing of Accessible Electronic Resources Resolution” policy and the ASCLA’s “Think Accessible Before You Buy” toolkit. These guides along with other resources can help librarians create more accessible content. They can then apply those skills to better evaluate the accessibility of other resources. The author also makes a point to note that accessibility isn’t limited to online resources. For example, library acquisitions staff often also handle the purchasing of hardware and software. This can include specialized equipment, such as screens that magnify text, large-print keyboards, or assistive programs that enable patrons to interact with electronic resources.

Falloon makes several recommendations, such as Zoom Text, a screen reader that serves several purposes. It can enlarge or enhance text and images on the screen, or even read aloud. Other recommendations include Kurzweil 3000, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and even built-in accessibility features found in Microsoft Office Suites. She argues that though several of these options would certainly require a significant investment on the part of the library, it would ultimately be worthwhile, if it better allows the library to assist a wider array of patrons.

Falloon finds that though about 75% of resources acquired by the CUNY-CSI Library are electronic, they are not necessarily accessible. Acquisition and electronic resource librarians are not always mindful that new materials must adhere to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, or the Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). “Acquisition and electronic resource librarians need to acquire knowledge of disability law compliance as it relates to product evaluations, purchasing decisions, marketing, and reviews” (p. 14). The article was written to enlighten said librarians of these issues and provide inclusive and accessible TERM steps, signage, and many electronic programs to check whether materials are accessible to those with disabilities.

Falloon provides an excellent overview of the current situation regarding accessibility of digital collections as well as suggestions for implementing a workflow that emphasizes evaluation and marketing of such materials. Suggestions for future studies include how other academic libraries are approaching the topic, as well as advancements in other types of tech tools.

There have been several advances in technology since this article was published, including the rising popularity of intelligent virtual assistants. These have the potential to increase accessibility for users with disabilities. One further question is whether they are being designed to meet accessibility regulations. Companies including Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft have incorporated accessibility settings into these products. They are similar to the settings Falloon discusses for the Windows desktop environment. Other new technologies that are starting to see adoption in libraries are virtual reality (e.g. Google Expeditions) and augmented reality (e.g. librARi). While Falloon focuses on resources for users, there have also been advancements in library management software and repositories (e.g. LIBERO, Alexandria, and ePrints). It remains to be seen which of these different types of technologies will become mainstream and how libraries will work to make them accessible to users and staff.

As technology continues to evolve, accessibility regulations will likely need to be revised to include new formats. Falloon writes that librarians need to be aware of these changes, but does not discuss how to best keep staff aware of updates. One solution would be to assign one or more staff members to track these changes. This could be done by periodically reviewing the ADA website (https://www.ada.gov/), subscribing to email updates from the United States Department of Justice (https://www.justice.gov/news), or following the DoJ (@TheJusticeDept) and organizations such as the Southeast ADA Center (@adasoutheast) on social media.

Falloon, K. A. (2016). Accessibility and inclusion issues in library acquisitions: A guideline to evaluating and marketing the accessibility of library e-resources. The International Journal of Information, Diversity, and Inclusion, 1, 1-16. Retrieved from http://publish.lib.umd.edu/IJIDI

Places for all? Cape Town’s public library services to gays and lesbians

Reviewed By: Brianna Anderson, Jennifer Mays, Julie Smith, Michael Vinyard

Link to article: https://doaj.org/article/4d9eab3dcad54d41849d504a8aafb9df

Synopsis and Research Questions

Hart and Mfazo (2010) found that most of the research and literature on public library service for the LGBT community was done in North America. Because South Africa has a history of struggling to overcome discrimination, the authors saw the need for research on the topic specific to this geographic area. They also found that the LGBT community tended to be overlooked as a minority group with specific needs. Their goals were to determine librarians’ awareness of information needs and how well libraries met those needs.

The research project had three distinct questions. The first was whether or not gay and lesbian library users should be considered a special user group with particular information and reading needs. Second, they wanted to know if public library staff were aware of the human rights issues surrounding services to the LGBT community. Lastly, they wanted to know if the public libraries in South Africa were providing for the special needs of the LGBT community through their collections and information services.


To help answer the first research question, the authors performed a literature review. Answering the remaining two questions involved looking at the collection development policy for the library system and conducting a survey composed of four sections administered to the main librarian responsible for branch collection development at each branch.

The first three survey segments included personal information about the respondent, professional details regarding awareness of the collection development policy and criteria used to make selections, and questions regarding information services. In the fourth segment, the Likert scale was used to help the authors examine the personal views of librarians regarding the provision of resources and services to the LGBT community and how these views may impact library service.

Findings and Conclusions

While the authors concluded from their literature review that the “professional, philosophical and research literature” (Hart & Mfazo, 2010, p. 106) considers gays and lesbians a special user group, the survey of 69 Cape Town librarians revealed that only 55% “consciously consider” (p.103) this group when developing their collections.  Even though 79% agree that access for the gay and lesbian community is a human rights issue and 91.5% are aware of policies that mandate a diverse collection, only 29% of librarians who responded agree that an explicit statement should be made in the policy for this user group.  Thus, the authors concluded that overall, the librarians do not consider gays and lesbians a special user group.

The authors describe the findings on how Cape Town libraries meet the needs of gays and lesbians as “spotty” and suggest “librarians’ prejudices might affect services to LGBT people” (Hart & Mfazo, 2010, p. 107). Opinion regarding the provision of services was dependent on size and location of the library.  Only 15% of librarians agreed that the needs of gays and lesbians are met at the city and regional libraries, but 33% of community librarians believed they were meeting needs.  Services were provided in some locations but not the majority, and in many categories, the number of libraries that practice inclusion of gays and lesbians in their regular services is woefully inadequate.  Only 6 of the 69 responding librarians stated that they have community information and pamphlet files for gays and lesbians while 55% of those that have display boards dedicate space to gay and lesbian information.  Librarians in charge of collection development even admit to rejecting LGBT literature based on the perception that it is pornographic. The actual purchase of LGBT books averaged less than one per year and only three librarians reported subscribing to an LGBT magazine or newsletter.  Half of the librarians did not buy any materials for LGBT patrons and 23 of the librarians either could not or would not answer the question, which is contrary to how the librarians said they consider gays and lesbians in collection development.  Their acknowledgement of collection policy did not translate to purchasing decisions. Finally, only 20 librarians reported being approached with LGBT related questions within the last year but due to inadequate study design, the authors could not conclude whether the librarians were able to adequately help those patrons.  The low number of queries may be due to librarians’ lack of awareness of gay and lesbian information needs and the perception by gays and lesbians that librarians are not aware of their needs.

Questions and Future Research

There are a number of areas where future research will be necessary to have a more complete picture of the needs of LGBT patrons in Cape Town and whether those needs are being met. Hart and Mfazo (2010) state that, as a public service and embodying the South African Constitution, libraries should provide “service impartially, fairly, equitably, and without bias” (p. 99). Yet, as the study shows, these are not being provided. The survey showed that the librarians in the Cape Town Library System are self-censoring LGBT items from the library by not buying them, seeking them out, or displaying information regarding the LGBT community. This leads to one of the biggest questions: How can Cape Town, and similar libraries, use this information to change their systems to create an equitable LGBT collection that integrates and displays that collection alongside the existing one?

One of the biggest omissions in the research is on the LGBT community itself. The research conducted is merely on the library system serving this community with very little information about the LGBT community. It would be helpful to know what the LGBT community thinks about the Cape Town Library System’s collection and if they think it is pertinent or helpful to them. How do they view the library and librarians? Do they feel their information needs are being met?

This leads to another area that may need future research: what kinds of information does this community seek and are they finding what they need? An answer to this would help close the gap in the library services. The information that Hart and Mfazo (2010) present is a bit vague in regards to which kinds of materials and literature are in demand. Are these fiction, non-fiction, periodicals? It would be interesting to research what information and materials are physically on the shelf, instead of relying on the answers in a survey. In addition, for the libraries that do include LGBT materials, it would be beneficial to know where they are finding these materials and if these vendors could be put on the list of provincial selectors. Currently, many of the libraries in Cape Town are buying less than one LGBT book a year but the study couldn’t conclusively pinpoint as to why this is the case except to say that it was the librarians’ choice. Are there other factors involved besides possible self-censoring by librarians? One librarian commented that “the Provincial library provides material but no-one has ever suggested buying specifically for the gay community from COCT [City of Cape Town]” (Hart and Mfazo, 2010, p. 105). Perhaps this is a system-wide issue and not just a problem in branch libraries. Finally, this study focused on gays and lesbians, but the LGBTQ+ community is a broad of spectrum of people and further investigation on the variety of needs is warranted.


Unfortunately, Hart and Mfazo’s research showed that there is a definite gap in public library services to the LGBT communities of Cape Town. The library system has a lot of work to do to provide equitable services to their LGBT community. A review of library collection development policies may warrant the addition of purchasing and service considerations for this specific community. Librarians and staff would benefit from professional development and diversity training. This training would enable librarians and staff to better understand the need for information services for all people, as mandated by the South African Constitution.

Hart, G. and Mfazo, N. (2010). Places for all? Cape Town’s public library services to gays and lesbians. South African Journal of Libraries and Information Science, 76(2), 98-108. DOI: 10.7553/76-2-73

Legislation Without Empathy: Race and Ethnicity in LIS

Reviewed By: Christopher Diaz and Allison Hostler

Link to article: https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/article/download/3565/3649

Article Review

In the article, Legislation Without Empathy: Race and Ethnicity in LIS, Visconti examines the current status of diversity in the field of librarianship. Specifically he claims that ethnic and racial diversity is an “unresolved diversity issue in LIS,” acknowledging the concentration of the article on race rather than on the diversity of gender or sexual orientation in the library workplace.

The article begins with Visconti recounting a recent library leadership course that he took in which a slide show was presented that discussed “myths” about leadership in the library. During the lecture one slide in particular caught Visconti’s attention. The slide claimed that the idea that one has to be an old white male in order to obtain a leadership role in the library, was a myth. Visconti argues that this may in fact, not be a myth.

Visconti continues by remarking how there has been no growth in the diversity of library professionals in the past two decades. This is attributed to a “disconnect between official policy and our everyday practices.” Essentially, Visconti is stating that although many of our official institutions such as the ALA, have it in writing that their goal is to embrace and enhance a diverse workplace, the field of librarianship is not actually acting on this ideal.

In order to show the lack of growth within the field, Visconti used statistical data from the ALA from the 1990’s and compared it to recent data. The statistics he found supported his claim that there has been no growth in the diversity in the field of librarianship. The statistics also revealed just how unbalanced the diversity is. While African Americans and Hispanics make up 40% of the population, these groups don’t even make up 10% of librarians.

Visconti expands in this idea by noting the difference between diversity and inclusion. The author claims that although the institution of libraries has hired people of color, they are simply meeting a quota because they are not practicing inclusion. Inclusion, to Visconti, includes actually assimilating everything that comes along with adding people of color instead of forcing those people of color to conform to the sustained and officiated “whiteness,” of the profession.

Microaggressions against people of color in the library workforce is also talked about in the article. Visconti notes studies that show people of color are often the target of such aggressions while their White counterparts are not. He continues by noticing that there is specific lack of study on the subject of racism in the library which could be considered racist in itself.

Visconti concludes by noting how librarians always strive to provide services to a diverse patronage but fail to include diversity within their own profession. The author call out for an increase in inclusion and for a more diverse profession.

Article Expansion

Visconti does an excellent job of providing facts and evidence of issues regarding diversity and inclusion in library environments. His article clearly describes the issues in the LIS profession but what the article lacks is a possible solution to the problem. The library must be an environment that makes all feel safe and respected, both patrons and staff, and in order to successfully provide services to the community. Unfortunately, racism and discrimination are not issues that can be solved quickly or even easily. Instead, these issues should be part of a long term goal that the library community is constantly and actively striving towards. Moving forward, we would like to expand this article to explore possible solutions to these issues to further promote diversity in all areas in the library profession.

Possible Solutions

After reading this article it is clear that something must be done in order to assist in eliminating racism and discrimination in the library environment for both patrons and staff. In his conclusion, Visconti mentions the possibility for LIS students to take a course in library diversity during their programs in order to be more cognisant of problems in the area of diversity and inclusion. He also mentions that although some programs offer these courses, students aren’t always taking them as they are offered as electives only. Perhaps these courses should be considered a required course rather than an elective. This way, LIS programs are ensuring that their students are being educated in the subject areas of diversity and inclusion in the library.

Another way in which diversity can be supported through the library community is through programming. Culturally diverse programming could be offered through the library’s services. These events could be centered around a holiday or simply to raise awareness. Programs could also be centered around books, movies, or other materials that feature themes of diversity. Programs that already established in the library, such as story time or art activities, could incorporate diversity into their programs. Patrons could take part in these events and directly benefit from them while library staff would benefit through means of supporting the program and its participants.

Facebook levels the playing field: Dyslexic students learning through digital literacies by Owen Barden

Article Synopsis & Core Research Questions

Barden (2014) looks at how dyslexia has been characterized over the years to form a better understanding of how technology can help students with dyslexia navigate issues they may encounter. The author clearly spells out the core research questions he started with: “The primary aim was to examine the educational affordance of Facebook [for students with dyslexia]. Subsidiary questions were: What does the project reveal about the students’ motivation to learn through literacy? What does it reveal about their sense of identity? What pedagogical principles does their use of the social network evoke?” (Introduction section, para. 1).

This study reveals that contrary to assumptions about students with dyslexia having minimal interaction with mainstream technology, they are actually embracing it as a means of managing symptoms of dyslexia. For example, texting a friend means not worrying about spelling, because text-speak is expected. S/he will also feel more comfortable using a word processor with spell check, considering it a normal part of education and perhaps not even realizing how it is helping her/him overcome problems associated with dyslexia. Using technology has been shown to help students, raising their own belief in their abilities and increasing their literacy at the same time. In fact, the author’s preliminary survey showed that these older students appreciated being able to use mainstream technology that helped them overcome differences, but didn’t use special assistive technology specifically for dyslexia, instead seeing the assistive technology as something to help younger or less experienced students.

Methods Used

The author’s test group consisted of five Sixth Form College students (of varying ages and from varying curriculums) that the author was currently tutoring. Because the ability to set up, use, and maintain a Facebook account requires many literacy skills that are considered difficult for students with dyslexia, he decided to monitor their use of this particular technology. Barden stated that “an innovative methodology was devised, combining aspects of case study and action research with an ethnographic sensibility (Green and Bloome 1996)” (Methodology and methods section, para. 1). The students were asked to create a group Facebook page that would account for the students’ research about dyslexia. The author gave basic assistance in the beginning: requesting that students create rules for how the page would be set up and how their online interactions would take place, providing information about sites that they could use, creating research questions that the students could choose from to continue their group research. Beyond that, the author was an observer/documenter, expert, and researcher, leaving the students to work without interference. Information was gathered through video, student self-reports, and screen recording over the course of five weeks during one 90-minute session each week. It should be noted that the students were all A-level students, which means that they have had a history of being high achievers and should not be taken as a whole-population sample of students with dyslexia.

Findings & Conclusions

Unsurprisingly, these students often felt that they were not on an even keel with students who did not have dyslexia. However, students noted feeling that technology helped “level the playing field” (to use their own words). Students felt that the technology they and their peer groups used daily helped them overcome feelings of inadequacy that they often felt while dealing with dyslexia. There were five main ways they saw Facebook as helpful: (1) They felt that if they could be “enrolled” in a Facebook page for each class they were taking, it would help them better keep up with what they needed to do and when things were due. This could be as simple as just asking on that Facebook page what was due that week or as in-depth as using the chat function to get (or give) help with an assignment. (2) Students were able to take control and obtain agency in their own learning. For example, one student watched a class video multiple times in multiple places to help increase her own understanding of the material and to help her family and friends understand. Another used a video to kickstart her understanding of material, watching the video more than once before further researching the topic on other websites. (3) Students were able to think more in-depth about their own thought processes and learning preferences. One student had just learned he had dyslexia, but was able to determine what techniques and technology worked best for him, allowing him to better review class materials. (4) Students were able to learn what helped them when reading/studying and were then able create a better environment for their learning. For example, students were able to take advantage of multimodal design to help facilitate learning, meaning-making, and retention by allowing them to find the mode of information distribution that best helped them. (5) This technology allowed students agency to switch roles, becoming the teacher or mentor for others who have dyslexia. Students expressed dissatisfaction with their own teachers and the methods those teachers had used (to little avail) in the past. By switching roles, this allowed them to make the best use of technology to help others who have dyslexia understand and overcome difficulties, directly from students dealing with the same issues.

The author determined that although Facebook relies heavily on writing posts and reading people’s pages, expectations that students with dyslexia would feel left out or left behind with this technology were overturned. Instead, Facebook allowed students to take charge of their own learning and help others in the process. In addition, students learned about their own learning styles and needs. Because Facebook is “the most popular and frequently used social media platform among teens” (Pew Research, 2015), students with dyslexia see it as a way to help them overcome obstacles that other forms of interaction with their peers might have. Facebook allowed students to use multiple forms of communication and learning, whatever best suited their needs, furthering their own academic attainment and putting them on a more “level playing field” with peers in an academic setting.

Further Research Opportunities & Unanswered Questions

The author is clear that these findings may not be indicative of a larger-group mentality. For one, all five students that he was tutoring are high achievers, indicating that they may have already determined ways to overcome dyslexia with or without technology. Further research in the area of a larger sample group that covered a wider range of student abilities would be helpful and would give a better idea of whether the five main findings carry over for students in general. Could it be that these students already have some of these abilities, even without Facebook or other technologies, due to their higher cognitive abilities? One would assume this to be true, although it is not necessarily so. It would be immensely interesting to see what findings from different ability levels and perhaps even different age groups would find. Another area of further research would be whether students in other countries also have the same facility of understanding and use with Facebook for academic purposes.

We are left with these questions that might be answered through continued research:

Is Facebook truly beneficial or could it actual hinder student learning? One has to wonder if using Facebook prevents the student from learning the tools for improving the symptoms of their dyslexia, particularly when students specifically said that they didn’t want to use the other forms of assistance. There are other tools available (via technology and otherwise) that might prove more useful. Is it helpful to count on Facebook when there are other technologies that can help the student? Although the teacher will have educational tools available, it seem that one of the participants preferred Facebook because he liked the layout and because most people in his age ranged used Facebook. Perhaps it wasn’t that Facebook was particularly helpful to the students, just more familiar and easier to work with than other tools available.

Would younger or older students with dyslexia find Facebook to be just as effective? There are still many students who don’t care for technology and social media. Students like these may be resistant to using something less familiar (and, of course, most companies have age restrictions for using online technology).

Is Facebook helping to develop metacognitive awareness or is it more about the student using a tool they prefer? Learning isn’t easy, so when things are done in a way that is fun and interesting, students might be less resistant to instruction and willing to learn more.

As other social media platforms become popular for this age group (e.g., Instagram), would the results be as encouraging?

Additional References
Pew Research Center. (2015) . Teens, social media & technology overview 2015. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/