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.

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