A Day in the Life of Lamar Johnson, University of Kentucky Freshman, Fall 2012

The following narrative scenario of a typical day in the life of a University of Kentucky Freshman in the Fall 2012 semester is a version of the scenario I recently drafted for the University of Kentucky’s forthcoming Web 2.0 Strategy document. Republished here at the courtesy of the University of Kentucky. I’ll edit to provide a link to the final report once it is published. Originally published on one of my other blogs, EduFuturist.com.

Lamar Johnson wakes up to the sound of the Black Eyed Peas coming from his iPhone, just as he has every morning since arriving at the University of Kentucky in August 2012. His roommate, Miguel, stirs but doesn’t awaken. Lamar and Miguel’s activity patterns rarely disturb each other. They had first met on the University of Kentucky’s Class of 2016 Fan Page while they were seniors in high school, and had discovered that they were both late risers and heavy sleepers. This, they thought, was the beginning of a great roommate compatibility situation. After joining the Big Blue Network, the university’s private social network, that spring, Lamar and Miguel both joined the Holmes Hall group and got to know each other better over the summer, often staying up late to participate in the live chat sessions each note, sponsored by something called the “Lost Student Union,” though why the student leaders called it that, he could never quite figure out. Rather than feeling lost in the shuffle of 6,000 incoming freshmen, Lamar felt that the university’s efforts to provide social networking tools like BBN actually helped him feel less lost as he made the transition from Oldham County High School to life at the University of Kentucky.

He rolled out of bed slowly. It felt cold this morning, but then again, Holmes Hall always felt a little chilly as October turned into November. Lamar walked over to his desk and pressed the home button on his iPad and waited for the tablet to flicker to life. He loved his new iPad. UK provided an iPad or Google Chrome tablet when you arrived on campus now. Miguel had chosen the Asus tablet running Chrome, but Lamar had always been an Apple guy. As far as he could tell, other than aesthetics, it didn’t really make much difference which tablet you had. Student Computing Services seemed to support both platforms equally as well, so far as he could tell. He pressed the “Wildcat Life” app and called up the weather forecast for campus. Chilly today. Thank God Mom packed me that extra sweater, he thought. A couple of iAds popped up in the Wildcat Life app. Hmm. The student center Starbucks was offering a free upsize from tall to grande on the Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte this morning (“A Great Way to Warm Up!”) and the UK Bookstore was advertising 20% off UK sweatshirts. He clicked on the ad and added it to his notes app to check out later. Time to get cleaned up and grab some breakfast before the day’s first class.

As he walked out of Holmes Hall, Lamar opened up the Twitter app on his iPhone to check out his list of UK institutional accounts for any important information. The University of Kentucky’s Big Blue Network had created several useful Twitter lists, ready made for students to follow. There were lists for student services, faculty, students, student leaders and organizations and more. @UKParking has Tweeted out a reminder that K Permit cars had to move out of Commonwealth Stadium lots by 6am Friday, since it was a game day. That’s a useful thing to remember, Lamar thought. Last week he had been towed because he had forgotten. A quick search on Facebook had found the UK Parking fan page on Facebook, which had information on how to retrieve his vehicle and pay his fine. It also had a button to follow UK Parking on Twitter to receive info and reminders. He wasn’t going to go through that again, and the Tweets were helpful to jog his memory. Scrolling down, he saw a Tweet from UK Emergency Services reminding him to wash his hands regularly, as H1N1 season was in full swing for the third Fall in a row. Clicking on the two links in the tweet, he was taken to a Wally Wildcat flu safety video and a Google Map showing H1N1 hotspots on campus. He clicked on the Tweet to add it to his Favorites for later reference. @UKCampusRec had sent him a reminder that he hadn’t been to the Johnson Center for three weeks. He clicked on the link in the Tweet, which took him to the Johnson Center’s Facebook Fan Page. Looking over the page, Lamar noticed that it had a schedule of fitness classes and even a set of recommended dining choices and menu selections to help students keep that “Freshman 15” off. There were even some short fitness videos from YouTube he could do in the dorm if he couldn’t make it into the gym! Lamar clicked the “Like” button. Now reminders from the Johnson Center would show up in his Facebook activity stream, which would make it easier for him to remember to get over there.

As Lamar walked into the Student Center food court, Lamar felt overwhelmed by the choices. His hand strayed to his midsection and remembered the Johnson Center’s warnings about how hard the “Freshman 15” would be to lose. Then he remembered: in his weekly podcast (which was available on iTunesU and YouTubeEDU), the SGA president had talked about the QR Codes that SGA was putting up around campus to help students get ready access to nutrition and recreation information. The K Crew had put up a lot of QR stickers during K Week as a part of an Augmented Reality Game to help students learn more about their new environs, but he hadn’t really thought much about it since then. He took out his iPhone and selected the QR scanner software K Crew had made available on his K Team group page on BBN that summer. He hoped he remembered how to use it! He hit the app and then took a photo of the QR sticker next to the Wildcat Grill. A webpage with the menu choices and their calorie figures came up in his browser. Holy cow! He guessed he’d be skipping that sausage, egg and cheese biscuit this morning! He walked around the food court scanning QR codes until he found something a little lighter on the calories, but strong on the coffee. He selected the Wildcat Life app on his phone and brought up the bar code for his meal card and let the checkout attendant scan it. The app instantly let him know his remaining balance on his meal plan. When he had first gone to eat with Miguel, he had looked at the Wildcat Life app on his Android phone. The app was remarkably similar to his iPhone app. The UKIT people had done a really good job designing these apps and Miguel seemed pretty pleased with the support he had received. Once when Miguel had encountered a problem with the Course Registration app during Add/Drop, Miguel had typed “University of Kentucky computer problems” into the address bar of his Chrome browser and the UK Student Computing Services Twitter account had come up first on the search results. Miguel sent them a Tweet asking about the problem and in no time at all, a UKIT support person was Twittering back and forth with him until they fixed the problem.

Miguel sat down at a table and brought his iPad to life. The iPad was a great idea, Lamar thought. It was so light and the battery lasted all day! And since there was very good wi-fi coverage all around campus (even outdoors!), it was easy to get on the web anytime. He activated his Facebook app to check in on his friends. Several of them had posted pictures from last night’s intramural Ultimate Frisbee game. The UF Facebook Group had put up a link to the Flickr pool for Ultimate Frisbee photos at UK. Lamar didn’t understand why people didn’t just put their photos up on Facebook, but some students, like Miguel, were a little uncomfortable with Facebook’s privacy record, so they tried to use other services when possible. The great thing about surfing the Flickr sets was that you got to learn so much about other students and what they liked to do on campus. UK had started a Flickr pool a couple of years back, and as Lamar was trying to decide whether or not to go to UofL or UK, those Flickr sets of photos of the lovely campus and the lively campus events really helped persuade him to come to Lexington. Some of his professors had even started putting up diagrams and photos of their markerboards on Flickr for their students with the idea that students could then embed them into their own private research journals for later study. Lamar loved this. UK’s commitment to innovative uses of these kids of technologies was something that drew him to come to the university to study.

Scrolling through his Newsfeed, Lamar noticed an update from Dr. Jones’ Facebook Page. Instead of using a standard faculty page, Dr. Jones (a young Anthropology professor) preferred to use a Facebook page to contact and interact online with his students. After all, he had explained on the first day of classes, that’s where his students were, so he reasoned that he needed to be there to reach them. This made a lot of sense. Dr. Jones had mentioned a 2010 Pew Foundation study showing that something like 73% of adults 18-24 had a Facebook profile, and of them, 72% had a Facebook profile. Lamar had been on Facebook since he was 14, and couldn’t imagine having to give that up now, especially not for college. Dr. Jones had a Facebook policy, outlined very clearly in his syllabus, that stated that he would not “friend” students. This was fine by Lamar; the idea that a professor would “friend” you was actually kind of creepy. However, the Facebook Page idea was great. By “Liking” Dr. Jones’ Facebook Page, he could receive updates and reminders from Dr. Jones right in his News Feed, ask questions about the course, and even view PowerPoints and videos that Dr. Jones had used in class. Sometimes Dr. Jones even did “virtual office hours” on Facebook using FB Chat and the discussion tab on the page.

This morning, the update from Dr. Jones was to remind the class that they needed to read Chapter 7 of the main text and take the practice quiz on Blackboard before coming to class that morning. Oops! Well, time to “crack the book.” Lamar supposed that eventually that phrase would go by the wayside. Beginning with the Fall of 2012, UK had begun pre-loading student textbooks on their iPads and Android tablets before they arrived on campus. Soon, few, if any, students would be using what one writer had begun referring to as “treebooks.” Lamar opened the iBooks app and opened his Anthropology textbook right where he had left off reading the night before. He reviewed the highlights and annotations he had written in the ebook, and then he opened the Blackboard iPad app. The interface on this app was amazing and easy to use. Lamar had heard some of the upperclassmen he knew grumbling about how awful UK’s Blackboard setup was when they were Freshmen, but as far as he was concerned, this new iPad interface was the way to go! He logged into Blackboard using his LinkBlue ID and navigated quite easily to the course shell. There he found a short video that Dr. Jones had clearly shot with some sort of Flip camera summarizing the main points of the previous day’s lecture and how they related to the readings for today. After plugging in his headphones and viewing the microlecture, Lamar navigated to the practice quiz and submitted it. The iPad’s iCal app came to life reminding him that PS 240 (Intro to Political Theory) was starting in 10 minutes. Time to run to class!

Lamar settled into his seat (there were ~150 students in the course) just as Dr. Moon started his announcements. Once again, Dr. Moon had worn one of his spectacularly outrageous ties to class. Several of his classmates had already made comments about it on Twitter. Dr. Moon’s phone jumped in his hands, and as he looked at the screen a wry grin came over his face. Of course he would see the comments about his wardrobe! Dr. Moon had been an early adopter of Twitter and continued to experiment with ways to use it in his courses. His reasoning, he explained to the class, was that since the conversations around his courses were already happening, better to join the conversation and bend it toward more educational and critical directions than to let it flow unimpeded. He brought up the first slide of today’s lecture. It had the course’s “hashtag,” #ukps240, which Dr. Moon reminded everyone to use so that we could all see and be a part of the class discussion. I didn’t understand hashtags at first, but Miguel explained to me that they were simply a search term that you could plug into whatever Twitter client you used to follow all the Tweets that used it, whether you “followed” the user of the tag or not. Dr. Moon used Twitter very well, stopping about 15 minutes into his lecture, and then again at the 30 minute mark to check the hashtag on his Blackberry phone client, and then following up with the class on the comments and questions we Tweeted. It made class very interactive, and (usually) kept the attention of the students. Dr. Moon told me once in his office hours that by making the Twitter stream visible, it tended to discourage the “trolls” who exhibited immature or inappropriate behavior, something a lot of his colleagues still cited as why they were slow to adopt some form of backchannel in their courses. He was right, at least for our class, thought Lamar.

After a 30 minute lecture, Dr. Moon had the class break up into small groups for project work. “Log into your team’s shared Google Docs,” Dr. Moon said. Two years earlier, UK had moved student email accounts away from Exchange to cloud services from Microsoft to Google in order to provide email services more cost effectively. A very beneficial part of this was, since UK had signed up for Google Apps for Education, the entire Google suite of services had come with it, all under a single login! This included Docs & Spreadsheets, the collaborative capabilities of which still confused a lot of faculty and students in class, but thanks to a short training provided by the Teaching and Academic Support Center (TASC) at the beginning of the semester, Jamal’s class was pushing ahead with learning to use the collaborative tools. The lecture room really wasn’t built to handle small group work, but Google Docs (and Windows Live, in other courses) made it possible for students to collaborate no matter where they were. Jamal looked and saw that his friend Jenna already logged into the team’s shared Google Doc. She had been out of class for a week with H1N1, but had still been able to participate in small group in-class work by logging into the team’s Google Doc. Jamal decided to work with a couple of classmates on a slideshow for a group presentation on Marxism. Thanks to the Google Apps suite, Jamal and his teammates were able to use an app called Sliderocket to collaboratively produce the slideshow. One student copied the embed code and inserted it into the team’s document, and the rest of Jamal’s team began offering comments and helpful critique. While they were doing this, a couple of their other teammates, including the home-bound Jenna, were collaboratively editing their project narrative in real time. It was confusing at first, seeing all of the identifying cursors flying across the screen in real time, and Jamal still wasn’t sure how he felt about it. His generation was often hailed as a generation of natural multi-taskers, but they still got overwhelmed by too much going on at once. Using Google Docs in class this way was stepping riiiight up to that line, but by this point in the semester he and his teammates were getting used to using Google Docs productively for collaborative note-taking and working on their small group project. He didn’t know if he’d keep using it after the semester was over, but it certainly kept him on his toes during class!

By the time his 11am class was over, Jamal was ready for lunch. He opened the Facebook app on his iPad and tried to locate Miguel. UK was still a little bit on the fence about using geolocation on campus. A lot of his female friends were very concerned about the potential danger for stalkers on campus, and the Administration was still very concerned about student privacy issues when it came to geolocative services. However, UK’s Public Relations department had been an early adopter of the Facebook Places platform, encouraging students to “check-in” to key campus locations with an innovative awareness campaign using physical check-in points at various spots on campus. The photograph of UK’s basketball coach checking-in with his phone at one of these spots really got Lamar’s attention when he was lthinking about which colleges to attend. UK Public Safety was also quick to realize the advantages of using GPS-based apps to help students to be safer on campus. They partnered with UKIT the year before to develop an iPhone/Android app that would call campus security automatically when activated and at the same time use the device’s built-in GPS to record the caller’s location and take a picture when activated by the device’s accelerometer (usually the signal for being tussled or assaulted).

Jamal noted that Miguel had “checked in” at Ovid’s Cafe about 15 minutes ago. However, Jamal noticed that 4 or 5 of his classmates from MA 113 had checked in at the Student Center food court. He sent out a Tweet using the course hashtag (#ukma113) to see if any of them would be interested in meeting up at the W.T. Young Library this evening to go over a few problem sets together. He sent Miguel a text message telling him he was on his way over to Ovid’s to grab lunch. On his walk over he received Tweets from a few of his classmates indicating that they would come to the library that night to study together. Social networking tools really made forming study groups easy. A few classmates said they would be at work at that time, but that they could participate over Google Chat if someone would turn on their laptop camera at that time.

He walked into the cafe and waved to Miguel. After he paid for his meal with his phone, he walked over to his roommate’s table. On the way over he saw a sign for a service called “Ask a Librarian.” Apparently you could text a message to a certain phone number with a request for finding library sources, like a journal article available through the Library’s website. He did need to find another source for his short paper on the causes of the Civil War for HIS 109. He got out his phone and texted a short request for a journal article that would be appropriate for the course. He didn’t expect to get anything back, but you never knew these days…

After logging in his meal with the TallyCats app (you got points for eating healthy this year), he “checked in” on Facebook Places. He noticed that his friend Jenny, who also lived in Holmes Hall, had just checked in at Ovid’s. He craned his neck to find her. Seeing that she had out her Google tablet, he left a quick message on her Facebook wall asking if she wanted to play Words with Friends. He saw her crane her neck around and smile at him. She nodded “yes.” He noticed that her Facebook profile had recently changed to show her relationship status as “single.” He made a mental note of that and added her quickly to his “potential” list on Facebook. Never knew when you might be able to meet up for a quick cup of coffee at a campus Starbucks! He got out his iPad and quickly pulled up the Words with Friends app and connected with Jenny.

After about a half an hour of being soundly defeated by Jenny, his calendar app alerted him that CHE 105 would be starting in a few minutes. He logged off and waved goodbye to Jenny and started the short walk over to Chem-Phys. As Dr. Smith walked into class, she made the same announcement she made at the beginning of every class: “Laptops and cell phones off, please!” Several members of the class audibly groaned. Dr. Smith was not exactly into using technology in her classroom, Lamar had observed. Not to say Dr. Smith wasn’t a great teacher: her lectures were always so fascinating, and he loved that she had chosen some really interactive ebooks for the course. Lamar always felt too intimidated to speak up in such a large course. He didn’t really want to embarrass himself in front of the whole class by asking a “stupid question.” He wished Dr. Smith would use something like Twitter or Facebook so that he could feel more comfortable participating in class or asking questions. He also spent a lot of class time wondering if the other students understood what was being lectured on or if they could help answer his questions. Facebook, or especially Twitter, would have made all of that so…transparent. Maybe Dr. Jones could give Dr. Smith some tips? He sent a quick Direct Message (which was private) on Twitter to Dr. Jones suggesting he meet Dr. Smith for coffee. Help us, Dr. Jones. You’re our only hope! At least Dr. Smith made good use of Blackboard. The practice quizzes and the discussion forum sessions with the TAs really helped Lamar to better understand Chemistry, which was one of his more challenging courses. Dr. Smith clearly put a lot of effort into her Blackboard course, so not only was it prettier than many other faculty members’ Bb courses, but it was well thought out in terms of how students needed to be able to better access the materials. But still – laptops off? Yikes! He’d have to ding her on that on Rate My Professor…

Later that day, on the way to dinner (the Tally Ho had posted a coupon on their Facebook Places Page, and several of his friends had agreed to meet up there that night) Lamar stopped by the Career Center to work with one of their advisors on his LinkedIn profile. Lamar didn’t really “get” LinkedIn. It just wasn’t as fun or personal as Facebook. It just felt so much more…corporate. But that was the purpose, he supposed. At any rate, Lamar wanted to get a good internship this summer, and the Career Center had done a session during Freshman Orientation explaining that more and more employers were using LinkedIn profiles as a way to find and filter not only job candidates, but also internship applicants. Lamar wanted to get the most value he could out of his college degree, and he knew that internships were a great way to “get your foot in the door” for a good job before graduation. So, LinkedIn it was. The advisors helped him to set up his resume on the service, and also solicit a few recommendations from his professors. The advisor also told him about the importance of joining professional groups to learn more about careers, but he didn’t really have time for that today. He’d have to check on that later. as he walked out the door to walk the short distance down Euclid to “the Ho,” Lamar felt his phone vibrate. Text message, he thought. It was from the Library! It was a list of sources he’d requested earlier in the day. Sonofagun, he thought, it really worked! He made a note to go back to the library soon to see what other services they provided.

That evening, after studying at The Hub, Lamar came back home to his dorm room. YAWN! What a long day. Miguel, of course, was already asleep. As he docked his iPad and iPhone to let them recharge, the calendar beeped on his tablet. It was an automatic reminder from his advisor to access the registration app and put together a tentative schedule so that she could review it before Lamar arrived for their appointment tomorrow. Sigh. Technology was really wonderful, Lamar thought, but it sure didn’t decrease the amount of work your average college freshman had to do. But like Miguel said, it certainly makes it a lot easier (and more fun!) to do all that work than when their parents went to college. Time for another Red Bull, he supposed…


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