This research investigated the informal use of two children's digital reference services that were used for purposes unintended by the designers. The motivation for this research was to explore the ways that children bend to their own informal uses the formal tools designed to support their education. Research questions included, How and with what frequency do children use digital reference services to answer their own questions? Do digital reference services support self-initiated learning? Could digital reference services support the transfer of student motivation and curiosity from formal education to informal education? What do instructional and software designers need to consider in creating tools that support a notion of transformed education and learning? Results answered these questions and uncovered several unanticipated findings. Digital reference services were shown to support efforts to interest children in science-related careers as early as fourth or fifth grade and to support self-initiated learning in science. Unanticipated findings showed that students ask different kinds of questions as they progress through school, and they should receive training in the use of digital reference services in elementary school. Further conclusions provide insights for digital reference software and service design and suggestions for more strategic pedagogical use of digital references services.


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pp. 228-244
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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