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Community technology mapping: inscribing places when “everything is on the move”


Interactive, digital mapping technology is providing new pedagogical possibilities for children and their families, as well as new methodological opportunities for education researchers. Our paper reports on an example of this novel terrain we call “Community Technology Mapping” (CTM). CTM was a designed task that was part of a larger ethnographic study of children and families’ digital media and technology practices in and around their homes. CTM incorporated interactive digital mapping technology with a structured interview protocol as a pedagogical context for young people and a methodological tool for researchers. As a pedagogical context for computer-supported collaborative learning, CTM supported young people to see and reflect on their everyday technological practices as temporally and spatially organized across scales of human interaction. As a methodological tool, CTM allowed researchers to see families’ place-based and on-the-move activities that were outside the more naturalistic observations of home-based technology use. Our analysis of CTM draws upon video recordings and screen captures of young people’s reflections on and live mappings of places they typically used technology and engaged with media. We found that children developed strategies with the mapping technology to make places visible, make them coherent, and make them mobile. These strategies produced a “cascade of inscriptions” within the CTM task for mapping new mobilities of digital, daily life. We argue that interactive digital mapping technologies not only support researchers to ask new questions about the spatiotemporal aspects of learning phenomena, but also contribute to a new genre of place-based, digital literacies- locative literacy- for learners to navigate.

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This work was made possible by the generous families who welcomed us into their homes as well as field work contributed by Dionne Champion. It was supported by NSF Grant SBE-0354453, partners at the LIFE Center, and the Joan Gantz Cooney Center’s Families and Media Project. We would also like to thank Adam Bell and others at the Interaction Analysis Lab at the University of Washington, Sarah Elwood for comments on early analysis and insights on Google Earth mapping, and Karen Wieckert, Ben Shapiro, and three anonymous AERA reviewers in the Culture, Media, and Learning SIG for valuable feedback on this project.

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Correspondence to Deborah Silvis.

Appendix: CTM Interview Protocol

Appendix: CTM Interview Protocol

Open Google Earth:

  • Have participant type in their home address in the search field

  • Ask participant to insert placemarker in location of home and label whatever they want (but preferably something that we know means “home).

  • Ask P to mark with placemarkers and name all of the typical places they go to in the course of a week.

  • While they are doing that, pay attention to how they are doing that – are they following streets, zooming in and out?

  • Now, ask participants, if they can, to mark the pathways they take between locations.

  • Ask P to identify the places that they’ve marked where it would be most likely for them use technology.

  • Ask P to identify the places that they’ve mapped where they have the most fun, or feel the most engaged.

  • “Fly” to each place that they’ve marked and ask:

  • Who are you typically with in this place?

  • What are you usually doing in this place?

  • When you’re not in this place, is there anything you miss about it?

  • When you are in this place, who are you with?

  • When you’re in this place, what are the different activities that you’re doing?

  • When you arrive and leave this place, by what means of travel are you doing so?

  • Along pathways between places you go, do you ever use media and/or technology?

  • If so, are there particular pathways? On what does it depend?

  • What kind of media do you use in these “moving” moments?

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Silvis, D., Taylor, K.H. & Stevens, R. Community technology mapping: inscribing places when “everything is on the move”. Intern. J. Comput.-Support. Collab. Learn 13, 137–166 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11412-018-9275-0

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  • Mapping
  • Families
  • Computer-supported collaborative learning
  • Pedagogical approaches
  • Research methods