Month: June 2018

Slate Article on Technology and Prisons

Mia Armstrong, a reporter from Slate recently contacted Elizabeth Withers, a sociologist who was one of our research team members from the Digital Literacy Acquisition project.  Withers and Armstrong talked about how our research showed how involvement in a digital literacy program positively impacted the well-being of individuals preparing to be released from prison. Armstrong’s resulting article, How Prisons Can Use Tech to Slow Their Ever-Revolving Doorsis now available on Slate. We are grateful to see our research in the public eye and hope that efforts continue to better prepare incarcerated individuals for reentry into life outside.

The Interactive Role of Strategies, Approaches, and Purpose in Digital Problem Solving

When thinking about how people digital problem solving, our data lead us to consider the interactive roles of strategies, problem solving approaches, and the problem solver’s purpose.

  • Strategies are cognitive tools used when a problem solver doesn’t have the skills needed to easily solve a problem or complete a task online.
  • Approaches are ways a person uses strategies.

A problem solver’s approach and strategic choices are impacted by (a) environmental and sociocultural factors, (b) the problem solvers’ unique repertoire of experiences and affective concerns and (c) context/purpose for engaging in the digital problem solving event.

  • A problem solver’s purpose may be to achieve a result on an assessment task, or the application of digital problem solving in the context of real world activity. To be a, nimble problem solver, one must incorporate strategies flexibly, not just once but on a regular basis across contents and events.

Each problem solver, whether they have a wide range of experiences or a limited range of experience, will approach a problem differently and enact a strategy differently depending on context and experience.  

It is important to understand that the data show there is no one “right” way to digital problem solve. Instead, problem solvers draw on a range of experiences across contexts and at times an approach or strategy may help a problem solver achieve a goal and at other times the continued use of that approach and strategy might not be helpful.

We would love to hear how you see strategies, approaches, and purpose playing out in your work with adult learners. Please add your insights in the comments!

Go to PDX Scholar for a fuller discussion of our research.

Documenting Digital Problem Solving: Qualitative Results Strategies and Approaches for Digital Problem Solving

As part of our mixed methods research into the digital problem solving of underserved adults in a library setting, we observed 18 individuals as they actually engaged in problem solving activities.  Their online activity was recorded using screen capture software, which allowed us to view and code their actions.  We also interviewed them about their experience with digital problem solving.  The details of our methods will be shared in a future post.

This qualitative data complemented the quantitative data we collected and analyzed. Whereas the quantitative data gave us insight into the role of experience across contexts when digitally problem solving, the qualitative data gave us insights into the digital problem solving processes, approaches and strategies individuals used when engaged in digital problem solving and how they used prior experience to navigate novel environments.

Analysis of the screen capture data and interview data showed a progressively widening range of experiences and how the problem, the individual’s experience, and their affective stance toward the task influenced their digital problem solving choices.  We were able to identify the different choices more experienced and less experienced problem solvers make.  We were also able to tease out the role of context in digital problem solving.

These findings can be helpful for adult educators and librarians who are working to help adults develop digital problem solving skills. Having a sense of the role of context, experiences, as well as the different ways adults can engage in digital problem solving can help us move toward helping build our students experiences with digital problems rather than just building skills.

A comprehensive discussion of our qualitative findings is available on PDXScholar.  We invite you to read it, use it to inform your work, and let us know your thoughts!