ICT Study

Project Title: ICTs in the daily lives of Australian Students: A Pilot Study

Project Aims

This is a project about the everyday use of technologies by students, focusing on those studying in the Faculty of Law and Management at La Trobe University, Australia. The key aim of this project is the development of a rich description of the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in daily life of Australian university students, in order to contribute to a fuller understanding of the teaching and learning environment. It makes use of novel research methods, enlisting students as co-researchers, and looks at a broader context rather the role of technologies on their own.


This project won the Blackboard sponsored ASCILITE Early Career Research Grant for 2007.

•    Project initiation: January – July 2008
•    Recruitment: August 2008
•    Data collection: September – October, 2008
•    Initial findings: December 2008 (Poster at ASCILITE)
•    Final report: December 2009 (ASCILITE)

Description of Methods

The Day Experience
The day experience method attempts to reduce recall distortion and the ideological biases of other sampling methods, such as interviews, surveys and focus groups.

In essence it asks participants to respond to a few questions using prompts at irregular intervals over one 24 hour period (from midday to midday). Participants are prompted 8-10 times during this period, but are not be prompted between 10pm and 8am. The prompts are:

•    What time is it?
•    Where are you?
•    Who are you with? (Friends, colleagues, family, etc.)
•    What are you doing?
•    What technologies or techniques are you using? (Including pen & paper or face-to-face communication)
•    How do you feel about it?

The participant’s mobile phone is used to prompt them to make a record of your current activity, and they  use a diary (or voice recorder if they prefer) and a camera to record data relating to each of these questions. If this is not appropriate at the time, they are advised to prioritise their employment or university obligations and make the entry as soon as possible thereafter. If a voice recording is not appropriate, they can use their diary. Participants are advised that these records constitute the data, and need to be appropriately detailed.

The following day all participants come together for a discussion and voluntary slide presentation. Lunch is provided, and in an informal setting, selected participants show their pictures and describe their day. Discussion about the trials and tribulations of student life and the use of technologies is recorded using a video recorder, which also constitutes data for later analysis.

Day Experience Method: A Resource Kit (PDF Format).

Movers and Shapers
At a later stage, participants may be invited to join others to discuss a specific issue, or to develop a specific scenario. For example, “picture the University in 2020”, “what is the contemporary student’s single greatest ICT need”, or perhaps another question or issue that has arisen out of preliminary analysis. A recording device is placed on each table, and participants may make notes on paper tablecloths. A video recording is made of the proceedings.

Discussion proceeds on each table for a set period of 10 or 15 minutes (depending on numbers). At the end of the set period, participants at each table randomly select a card that designates them as a “mover” or a “shaper”. The “movers” then move tables. At the next table, the “shapers” inform the “movers” of the previous discussion, and attempt to convince them of the veracity of the arguments made. The “movers” question and challenge the “shapers”, and bring new ideas from other tables. The “shapers” are free to reject or adapt to the input from the “movers”, and the perspective adopted by this group of “shapers” informs the “movers”. The process repeats until the “movers” have visited each table.

The advantage of the method over traditional discussion group arrangements is that the “group-think” and “loudest voice” syndromes tend to break down. Ideas are challenged, new ideas are introduced, and ideas that evolve through the process have been tested and modified under pressure. The discussion lasts approximately 90 minutes in total.

Movers and Shapers: Research Methods Paper (PDF Format).



Findings from this study have been reported in the following places.

Riddle, M., (2008), ICTs in the daily lives of Australian Students, poster, ascilite Conference, Melbourne, Australia, December.

Riddle, M., (2009), ICTs in the daily lives of Australian Students: final report, invited presentation, ascilite Conference, Auckland, New Zealand, December.

Keppell, M. and Riddle, M. (2011), Distributed Learning Spaces: Physical, Blended and Virtual Learning Spaces in Higher Education, in Keppell, M., Souter, K. and Riddle, M. (eds) Physical and Virtual Learning Spaces in Higher Education: Concepts for the Modern Learning Environment, IGI Global: Hershey, PA.

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