Month: July 2018

Digital Problem Solving Strategies

In previous posts, we’ve shared (a) the interactive relationship of approaches, strategies, and purpose; and (b) the different approaches we saw individuals use when engaging in digital problem solving.  In today’s post we discuss the digital problem solving strategies we saw individuals use.  We stress that this list is not necessarily inclusive of all problem solving strategies. You may see other strategies, and we invite you to share those with us in the comments!

We identified six strategies, which we’ve organized into two sets:

  • Information focused: These ask, do you you understand the purpose of the task, do you know what information you need, and are you accomplishing what you expected.  
  • Navigation focused: These ask, do you understand the purpose or function of a digital interface, are you willing to explore the different resources and interfaces available to you, and are you willing to experiment with the different digital interfaces to solve your task.

Information seeking strategies

  • identifying information needed,
    Choosing to ignore the information you don’t need and focusing on what is needed. Doing this not only at the beginning but throughout the problem solving process. This is related to the strategy of checking and rechecking one’s work.  This is also related to the strategy of identifying one’s purpose.
  • identifying the purpose of the task,Continually clarifying or specifying the purpose by reviewing the criteria on an ongoing basis.  This is related to the strategy of identifying the information needed and can include checking and rechecking.
  • checking and rechecking one’s work.
    Clarifying your purpose and examining the criteria against one’s progress on the task.  Making sure that you’ve accomplished your task.

These three strategies may be enacted at any given time and recursively. For example, a problem solver needs to identify what information is needed and the purpose of the task as they set goals, but then they have to recheck the information needed and purpose of the task as they monitor their progress; plan their next steps; and acquire, evaluate, and use the information.

Navigation Strategies

  • identifying the purpose of an interface or function of an interface,
    Based on prior experience and one’s personal learning needs, or exploration and experimentation, understanding why a particular interface or function of an interface is used.
  • exploring the resources and interfaces,
    Taking the time to look at the different resources and what the functions are within an interface before attempting to solve the problem or complete the task.  When the current method isn’t working, stopping mid-task to look at the resources and functions within an interface before continuing.
  • experimenting with the interfaces
    Using the interface and functions in different ways to see how the output differs. Trying different functions to see which one would give the desired result.

These three strategies may be enacted in order for the problem solver to make use of hardware, software, commands and functions, and representations (text, sound, numbers, graphics, videos).

For more illustrative examples of these strategies, read our complete report on PDX Scholar.

The Architecture of Digital Problem Solving Approaches

In our previous post we talked about the interactive role of strategies, approaches, and purpose in digital problem solving.  This week, we delve a little more deeply into what we see as the architecture of approaches.  Our next post will explore the architecture of strategies.

How individuals use different strategies is affected by how they approaches digital problem solving and the contextual factors within the digital problem solving task.  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.

There are four important aspects to how an individual approaches digital problem solving:  

Systematicity: Moving through the task one step at a time. The more experienced individual may first take the time to read through and understand the task, explore the interface and resources, and check progress against the criteria. Less experienced problem solvers tended to approach problem solving more “randomly.”

Flexibility:  Switching strategies when what is being used doesn’t work.  The more experienced problem solver tends to think creatively and develops workarounds when what they are doing isn’t working as expected.  The less experienced problem solver tends to stick with what they know.

Persistence: There are two sides to persistence.  The first is repeating the same thing over and over again even when frustrated.  The second is refusing to give up and coming up with alternative approaches rather than becoming frustrated. 

Good Enough:  Determining that the outcome of the problem solving process is sufficient given the individual’s motivation, affect, prior knowledge, and context/purpose of the task. The good enough approach can involve doing the minimum and can give an incomplete result to the task.  Other times, however, the good enough approach can allow the problem solver to meet their goal within the constraints of the problem solving context.

For more illustrative examples of these strategies, read our complete report on PDX Scholar.  If you see different approaches in your work with adult learners, please post your insights in the comments!