Castek, Jill, and Gloria Jacobs (University of Arizona)

The digital world is constantly changing, but a constant and persistent trend is that the digital world is a collaborative world. Digital problem solving involves the nimble use of skills, strategies, and mindsets to navigate online in everyday contexts and use novel resources, tools, and interfaces in efficient and flexible ways to accomplish personal and professional goals (Authors, 2017). A savvy digital problem solver relies not only on their own expertise, but on the collective insights of individuals working together toward a common goal. However, collaboration can take different forms depending on the languages and cultural and backgrounds of the digital problem solvers and the cultural context in which digital problem solving occurs. This is especially evident when collaborating in a face-to-face setting to solve problems using digital resources.

Building learning opportunities for digital problem solving requires an awareness of nuanced forms of cultural competence that take into consideration equity and participation among individuals with different experiences and knowledge bases. Understanding nuances in collaboration creates powerful opportunities to design learning opportunities where individuals can learn digital literacies along with, and from, one another.

Patterns of collaboration were analyzed from pairs of adults as they solved digital problems across the domains of work, consumer, library, and personal interests (e.g. attending events, participating in clubs, and organizing music collections). Using screen capture software, each groups’ dialogue and online navigation were observed, archived and later transcribed, coded, and analyzed. Discourse analysis (Blommaert, 2005; Fairclough, 1989; Gee, 1990), revealed variations in dialogic patterns of communication. Findings indicate that collaboration involves power relationships, and these relationships and power dynamics position each person in different ways depending on their assertiveness, cultural awareness, and communication style. Furthermore, shared values and perspectives play out in the way collaboration occurs and learning opportunities arise.

This presentation will examine findings related to three themes that address: 1) cultural competence, 2) power, and 3) positionality. These themes offer a nuanced understanding of collaborative interactions and suggest ways to maximize their impact. Implications for educators such as how to design collaborative experiences for digital problem solving for both formal and informal adult learning will be addressed.