Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2014

Peer Reviewed



Jim Kelly

University of Iowa

School of Library and Information Science

Poster Presentation Spring 2013

“With the Turn of a Wrench and the Click of a Mouse: A Case Study of the Online Learning Practices of HVAC Professionals and Homeowners”


This study examines the learning practices on display in several discussion forums on the site These forums are used by professionals in the HVAC industry to address, among other things, the problems and questions they encounter in their daily work lives; questions that range from technical matters such as water chemistry to more general topics like small business management. Homeowners also frequent the site contributing questions or concerns about their own heating systems as well as offering advice to others.

This project draws on theories and concepts from across the broad LIS spectrum. From the world of education and literacy theory, Brian Street (2001) uses the term “literacy practices” to describe “behavior and conceptualizations related to the use of reading and/or writing” (438). In a related vein, Kaestle (1985) writes of the varied uses of literacy across history and, with an eye to the future, notes the need for “research on the functions of printed matter among different reading publics” (45).

From the world of information science, Tuominen, Talja, and Savolainen (2005), in their brief overview of what they term a social constructionist view of information practices, note that: “Studying how information practices, actors, and technologies are constructed in discourse and conversation provides a broader sociological perspective for understanding information seeking and information technology use” (331).

Using the theoretical perspectives outlined above, this study looks at the rich and varied ways in which this online community’s participants interact via written exchanges (including text, diagrams, and photographs) and how these forums serve as a means to create useful knowledge and foster learning for all participants.


Literacy Practices, Information Behavior, Online Learning, Online Communities


Copyright © 2014 Jim Kelly

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Additional Files

Final Poster Bibliography.pdf (59 kB)

two_min_speech_final_text.pdf (41 kB)
Presentation Speech