University of Toronto
My Ph.D. research was informed by my passion for teaching and the cognitive challenges presented by responsive reading in educational settings.
Responsive reading, known also as "analytical", "inspectional", "active", and "close", entails “developing new knowledge or modifying existing knowledge by engaging with the ideas presented in a text.”  Successful responsive reading relies on a diverse set of companion activities such as freeform annotation, non-linear navigation and multi-document spatial layout. Lack of support for these activities is one of the biggest barriers to adopting digital technologies in responsive reading.
In 2014, I conducted a diary study of graduate students and the technologies they used, at the confluence of three streams of research: technology imposition, responsive reading, and multi-device reading workflows. 10 graduate students in computer science kept a diary of reading events over a 21-day period. They were then interviewed about their diary entries. Interviews were transcribed and thematic analysis was applied using inductive coding techniques to identify themes emerging from the data.
I found that rather than expressing a strong affinity for a specific technology, readers were highly task-oriented: at any given moment they selected the combination of tools and devices that allowed them to optimally complete the task at hand. Therefore, because of the demands of other academic tasks (information retrieval, communication, storage, composition), users were transitioning to digital workflows despite having a stated subjective preference for paper. This transition hobbled their ability to annotate efficiently, and this motivated a deeper exploration into making digital annotation better.
Over several semesters in 2014 and 2015, I mentored 11 students in exploring the user experience implications of building a reading interface in which annotations could be inserted into the flow of text, rather than superimposed or presented on the side. Under my guidance, students created mockups, wireframes and functional prototypes over multiple iterations of a project codenamed MyLiveNotes.
In 2016, I completed my research proposal for evaluating the use of anchored discussion boards as a way for postsecondary students to give better feedback to their lecturers. After a thorough review of relevant literature, I suggested adapting a system called Nota Bene for use as a feedback tool. The system, created at MIT in 2011-2012, is in dire need of a technical refresh and a UX update, but it has tremendous potential.