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UTTC Students Research Technology Use
By Dr. Cheryl Long Feather, United Tribes Research Director
27 January 2009

BISMARCK (UTN) - Four UTTC students participated in a unique research project during the fall semester. Deanna Saragosa, Ramona Saragosa (both Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians), Fabian Betone and Rolynn Clown (both Cheyenne River Sioux) participated in a collaborative project funded by the North Dakota EPSCoR Tribal Colleges Liaison Program with support from the National Science Foundation. The project was conducted with the assistance of faculty advisors Jay Wheeler and Cheryl Long Feather.

      The project utilized a unique Native-based Student Research Protocol developed by the North Dakota EPSCoR program. Students utilized the protocol to examine the current access and utilization of technology among American Indian students who attend UTTC. This information can be used to make concrete recommendations to the administration of college as to some appropriate, culturally-relevant ways in which technology can enhance the classroom experience.

      “The Time Study Project was a learning experience from the start,” said Betone, “It gave me the opportunity to work with other students, plan a project and actually implement it for research purposes.”

      The project is the second phase of a three-phased project intended to research the impact of technology on the Native American tribal college student. In the first phase, students conducted interviews with community-based elders and a literature review of the topic. From this, students learned the framework regarding the issues of technology use and access in Indian Country. The students met weekly throughout the fall semester to refine and conduct the project.

      Said Betone: “Throughout the time invested in this research project, team members were allowed to brainstorm ideas, read recommended literature, write literature reviews, interview Tribal members on their views of technology and develop a technology survey and time-study tool. I think being involved in this project helped me see more clearly how technology can be more developed in rural areas and how it can be more effectively utilized on-campus or for UTTC students.”

      Deanna Saragosa agreed. “A research project seems so intimidating and overwhelming at first. But then we met once a week to talk about our project and then divided up the work between everyone, it wasn't overwhelming at all. When everyone put in their two or three pieces of research, thoughts, and conclusions, we ended up with a professional research paper.”

      In this second phase of the project, a time-study tool was developed by the students as part of a technology survey. The time-study form provides a snapshot of the ways students use technology in a detailed format. The students designed a time-study tool and developed a training process for study participants. The students recorded their actions in the tool in a 24-hour, 8-day time-frame. The eight days included school hours, evenings, weekends, and holidays to get a sense of the overall technology use of students. The time study form was accompanied by a one-time, short survey about technology use and access.

      Participants were chosen through a stratified random sample process representing UTTC’s vocational areas. The time study officially began on Sunday, November 30. The student research group kept in contact with their students throughout the week, reminding them to maintain the fidelity of the time study tool. Upon completion of the time study, the mentors gathered up the time study tools either via electronic (flash drive) or hard copy (folder).

      Jay Wheeler, faculty advisor, says he was impressed with the teamwork of the group. “Our goal would not have been reachable without everyone committing to it and working so well as a team. Even when the dreaded time obstacle kept rearing its ugly head, [the group] stayed positive and solved each issue as it arose together.”

      Ramona Saragosa said the project helped open her eyes to the entire campus. “I really enjoyed working on this project; I had a blast. It’s fun to interact with different people on campus that you never see from different vocations and see who has access to what and when. No one really thinks about the students who do not have 24-hour internet access, and when they need it most, it’s not available to them. I never realized how much of an issue this can be for the students who do not have it until I got involved with this project.”

      The data for the time study will be analyzed as part of Phase III of the overall project. However, the students did conduct some preliminary analysis of the survey and time study tool and noted the following:

  • 73% surveyed own a computer (a higher-than-expected rate)
  • One-third of the students who own a computer do not have internet access; 60% of the representative sample of students do not have regular access to the internet
  • Those who do not have regular access gain access during business hours through the UTTC computer labs (44%), UTTC classrooms (39%), and other (17%).
  • Those who do not have regular access gain access after business hours (evenings and weekends) through friends and family (39%), the UTTC computer lab (17%), the public library (11%), and other, while the remaining students (28%) do not have access at all to the internet on evenings and weekends.

      After looking at the results, the group realized there might have been some bias in looking at only internet usage and the type of web browsing students may be doing. Preliminary findings show that despite income or familial status, almost everyone had and used cell phones regularly. This will be cause for more exploration in the next phase of the project.

      Student participant Rolynn Clown says she sees the benefits of the project going beyond recommendations, however. “I felt the team put in a great effort to obtain information from not only the students but from others like teachers, staff, and community members. Everyone was so excited and very supportive about what the study is about. I’ve come to appreciate how everyone needs to participate [in studies like this one] like parents, teachers, staff, and other schools to form a network and share ideas on how to implement technology in the classrooms where everyone would learn from each other.”

      Fellow student researcher Deanna Saragosa agreed that the learning experience goes beyond the data obtained. “From this I've learned to have more self-confidence and not be afraid to try something that may seem impossible or too challenging for me. I learned a lot about myself, technology, my culture, and especially teamwork!”

      The study will conclude this semester with the final phase of the project. Any new students wanting to get involved with the project can contact Cheryl Long Feather, Research Director, x 1491 for more information.


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