Illuminating Children's Scientific Funds of Knowledge Through Social Media Sharing

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The ubiquitous use of social media by children offers a unique opportunity to view diverse funds of knowledge. Connecting learning to students’ funds of knowledge is particularly important for non-dominant learners, who experience tensions between home, community and school science cultures. This study is embedded in a research project which iteratively designed a social media app to be integrated into a science learning program which engaged families in science in their community. I conducted an exploratory case study on children’s use of a social media app for science learning and found that three focal learners (ages 9-14) often shared scientific funds of knowledge through social media in an after-school learning program and in their homes and communities. Their teachers connected some scientific funds of knowledge they shared on social media to formal science concepts. However, other scientific funds of knowledge were not obvious by observing the posts alone. Rather, these tacit funds of knowledge emerged through the triangulation of posts, interviews and observations of their learning experiences in the life-relevant science education program. The findings suggest implications for the design of technology and learning environments to facilitate the connection of children’s implicit and more unconventional scientific funds of knowledge to formal science concepts.

I build on these findings to explore how teachers can bridge funds of knowledge shared on social media to scientific practices in formal learning environments with a case study of three teachers from a diverse urban middle school. Using the framework for Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK), I seek to understand how to best support teachers to draw upon student’s funds of knowledge through social media sharing and connect them to formal scientific concepts. The teachers struggled to engage in dialogue with their students about their posts, missing opportunities to gain contextual information about students’ funds of knowledge, in order to facilitate connections to science concepts. These findings suggest that aspects of usability, policy and teacher beliefs are necessary to consider in order to promote the recognition of children’s funds of knowledge through social media sharing in formal learning environments.