Tel Aviv University (ISRAEL)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2016 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 3371-3379
ISBN: 978-84-608-5617-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2016.1794
Conference name: 10th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2016
Location: Valencia, Spain
This paper is a report on the findings of a study conducted on graduate students in Israel in order to reveal how students perceive personal information spaces. Participants (n=64) were instructed to draw their personal information space, while findings revealed varied perceptions of personal information spaces as complex systems in the student learning process.

Personal information spaces are the digital place where students save, organize and retrieve their collections of personal information learning items. These spaces are distributed to many devices, and organized by their owners in multiple organizational strategies, such as piling up or filing in folders. Personal information spaces are constantly expanding, and the challenge to manage them is growing accordingly. Mioduser, Nachmias & Forkush-Baruch (2008) claimed that personal information management (PIM) should be one of the new literacies students should acquire in the digital age. The question how students should be taught to conduct their 'PIM' has been raised in recent years (Barrue, 2008; Robinson, 2010).

In order to teach PIM literacy, and to educate students on how to use their personal information space in order to enhance cognitive and affective learning processes, it is important to understand how students perceive their personal information space. One way to study the various perceptions is to examine people's mental models (Zang, 2008). The goal of mental model research is to understand human knowledge of the world. Research on mental models aims at characterizing the way people understand certain domains of knowledge. The way people understand these domains enables them to predict how the domains work and to operate them (Stevens & Gentner, 1983). Previous studies include an examination of the perception of the web using students' drawings (Zang, 2008; Dinet & Kitajima, 2011). The drawings enable a glimpse into one's mental model, and is one of several techniques that sheds light on the way people perceive complex systems (Zang, 2008).

In this study, M.A. students were asked to draw their personal information space. 64 drawings were analyzed in three stages: 1) Defining features in the drawings: metaphors, item connections, types of devices, detailed level and texts. 2) Analyzing the drawing as a whole. 3) Characterizing each perception type using identified features. Findings revealed six individual types of perception of the personal information space: Hierarchical perception, characterized by a hierarchical structure with elements connected with lines in a tree structure with branches and leafs. Organic perception, characterized by a drawing of the user/man or human parts, such as hands or heads as part of the personal information space. Technical perception, where drawings included separated technology devices e.g., computers and self-phones. Process perception, shown in drawings that focused on the process, and included features and arrows that present the dynamic aspects of the information items in personal information space. Functional perception, revealed in drawings that resembled the use of the personal information space; for some participants, this could be a pear representing a list of purposes. Holistic perception, revealed in drawings with minimal parts, such as a hole found in circles or pyramids. The article describes the six perception types,presents a typical drawing of each perception and a discussion about their learning implications.
Personal information management, personal information spaces, students perception.