Funds of Knowledge in Online Search and Brokering
Wendy Roldan, Paola Vanegas, Laura Pina, Carmen Gonzalez, Jason Yip
This blog post summarizes a research paper discussing the funds of knowledge kids and their parents rely on to collaboratively search for critical information online. This paper was presented at the ACM Computer Supported Collaborative Learning Conference on June 20, 2019. Read our full paper here.
Families work collaboratively to solve information problems using the internet.
Approximately 8 million U.S. children have at least one immigrant parent who is an English Language Learner. In these families, adults and children rely on each other to solve information problems using the internet that are important for the family’s well-being. For example, one of our families a mother-daughter dyad was searching for information online to find the location of a bank to deal with a recent bank fraud. In this case, the mom and the daughter relied on each other to solve this problem using information from the internet. The daughter navigated the tablet while the mom observed and helped her process the information she found.
We investigate the learning processes behind family collaborative searches.
Our research uncovers the computer supported collaborative learning processes that occur as children and adults search for information online in the home. We take a funds of knowledge approach, which lets us see a person’s unique life experiences and skills that might otherwise go unrecognized to explore these learning processes.
We demonstrate learning processes in-the-home are often informal, computer supported, collaborative, highly social, and highly relevant to solving real-life information access challenges. Our findings challenge deficit notions of adults and children in households with English language learning parents and lower digital literacy skills. We highlight how families build on knowledge of each other’s assets to set up learning opportunities for each other as they solve their online information problems.
Our prior work showed the factors that influence how children collaboratively search the internet with their adult family members to solve critical family needs. We showed how these family searches are intergenerational, bilingual, and collaborative work. Our future work will explore the role of gender in these collaborative searches happening in the home and the development of resilience from a learning perspective.
These collaborative information search tasks are happening in millions of homes.
It is important to understand the learning that happens behind such family collaborations because often adults and children are finding information that is increasingly available only online and are searching for critical families needs as opposed to searching for play or fun. This work is also important because Latino children are expected to make up a third of the K-12 enrollment in the United States by 2023, with more than half of them living in immigrant families.
Of the 23 Latino families in our larger study, 3 are the focal families for this work.
Our study focuses on Latin American families, the fastest growing population in the U.S. To explore these collaborative searches, we observed 23 families in their home to contextualize where and how they search. For this study, we did a case study analysis of three families within our larger data set.
On our first visit to their home, we interviewed adults and children (ages 10–17) separately in their preferred language and asked them about their experiences searching for information online. On our second visit, we observed adults and children searching for information online for specific search tasks that they had done in the past, that we asked them to do, and that they wanted to do.
Adults and children draw on their unique sets of knowledge when they search collaboratively, with and for their family members, to build their collective knowledge of technology and information problem-solving.
The most important takeaway from our research findings is that the learning processing happening as families engage in these searches in the home are bi-directional. Each adult and child contribute unique skills and knowledge that the other needs to solve their information problems using the internet. As adults and children engage in these searches, each individual is critical to completing the collaborative task at hand.
Each family member builds on each other’s knowledge to collaboratively find information online and develops resilience as they face challenges.
Norma and Mia are one family we focus on who are searching for the closest bank using Google Maps. With them we see how the younger daughter translates the search prompt from her mom into key search terms in English to pull up a map. We also see how the mom uses her geospatial knowledge to pinpoint where the bank may be. Together, with each person contributing their knowledge they solve their information problem using technology even with misspelled words.
Carmelo and Mateo are a grandfather-grandson dyad who are searching for stove knobs for the grandpa’s restaurant. With them we see how they navigate language misunderstandings, a variety of online resources, and ultimately find their product. The grandfather teaches the grandson a new word while the grandson teaches him how to use voice assistant to be more efficient with entering search terms in Google. Together, they help each other to conceptualize the problem, explore online resources to navigate challenges, and learn new language and technology skills.
Romelia and Amy are a mother-daughter dyad who are searching for construction jobs for Amy’s dad. With this dyad, we see how the daughter navigates the technology skills while the mother closely observes and contributes offline information to solve their problem. Together, they conceptualize the problem, find alternative resources to re-enter the search terms, and scan the job posts that are coming up in order to understand which construction jobs are relevant to the father’s skills.
Our research opens up new opportunities to explore the highly complex and computer supported searches and bridge the home and school.
By examining the learning processes behind computer supported collaborative searches we are better able to provide instructional design implications to help schools, libraries, and community centers attend to culture in understanding students’ learning. Our work opens up new opportunities to bridge the home and school through research that focuses on children’s everyday practices in the home that are highly complex and relevant to real life.
We thank the parents, children, and families that graciously welcomed us into their homes for this study. We also thank our reviewers, the Google Faculty research award and the University of Washington Royalty research fund.