Research Overview

My research lies at the intersection of information behavior and the learning sciences, and focuses on the social aspects of youth information interaction. I propose in my work that information literacies originate not only in the formal context of school, but in the process of social life. My work situates information seeking among youth as a social practice, not only recognizing such behaviors have social manifestations, but suggesting a social ontogenesis of that behavior. Through this research, I seek to understand how and why young people work together to solve information problems, as well as the social and intellectual outcomes of this work.

Current and Ongoing Projects

The Nature and Impact of Group Information Problem Solving in the Middle School Classroom

Collaborative Problem Solving

Information seeking success during classroom inquiry exercises is conditioned by the type of research task assigned as well as the presence of peer collaborators. In a field-based, mixed-method study of 120 middle school students, searchers who worked in groups of three performed about the same as individual searchers on fact-finding tasks, but significantly lower on explanatory and evaluative tasks, the kinds of task where they should have enjoyed a theoretical advantage. This difference also appears to affect students’ learning outcomes. What happened? The process losses in the group condition, including distractions, inefficient coordination strategies, and inference failures, significantly affected student performance for more complex inquiry activities. This finding has implications for the types of inquiry work teachers and librarians assign, as well as the intermediation practices of school professionals.

Youth Credibility in Context

Info Credibility

Everyday, kids encounter a flood of information online. Some of it is good, some is questionable or even dangerous. How do kids tells the difference? This research project is investigating credibility assessment in the everyday lives of young people, ages 11-14 years. The goals of this research include: 1) to better understand the context of young people’s credibility assessments, including how and when such decisions play a role in information seeking and everyday problem solving with digital media; 2) to develop design requirements for tools and services that help address their need for reliable and credible information. The project employs a multi-method approach to address the following research questions: How do youth conceive of credibility in their information worlds? How does the process of finding information affect youth credibility assessments? What heuristics and strategies do youth employ to assess credibility in digital media? This project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Values in Children’s Digital Playgrounds

Digital Playgrounds

The next generation of children’s play spaces has arrived. How are these virtual environments affecting the nature of contemporary childhood? This project explores how these spaces support or constrain specific human values in their design, and the implications this has for the way young people interact with social media, as well as what and how they learn from these interactions. We are exploring three key areas where human values are implicated in the design and use of virtual worlds: 1) safety and privacy; 2) environmental intelligence and sustainability; 3) gender and cultural identity.

The project takes a multi-stakeholder perspective on these worlds, soliciting feedback from kids, parents, educators, and interaction designers. The goal is to develop design considerations for the future of children’s interactive media, and a framework for adults who mediate these spaces.

Digital Literacy in YouTube


This research project is interested in a niche segment of YouTube's vast database, namely informational video that may be used by middle and high school students to supplement their academic needs. These videos have a number of affordances that students appear to appreciate, including a variety of teachers and lessons, the ability to play and replay an instructional segment at the point of need, and a community of other viewers from whom to seek further assistance. Our research team poses the questions: how are students engaging with YouTube for school-focused tasks, and what role does information literacy play in this experience?

We are analyzing user-generated comments using computer-mediated discourse analysis to understand the nature of students’ learning in this space, particularly focused on evidence of meaning making, concept negotiation, and information sharing, seeking and use practices. Our findings reveal insights about the nature of instructional video as well as the ways it helps resolve students’ academic information needs.