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Bridging divides through technology use: transnationalism and digital literacy socialization

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In this study, I investigate the digital literacy practices of adult immigrants, and their relationship with transnational processes and practices. Specifically, I focus on their conditions of access to

In this study, I investigate the digital literacy practices of adult immigrants, and their relationship with transnational processes and practices. Specifically, I focus on their conditions of access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) in their life trajectories, their conditions of learning in a community center, and their appropriation of digital literacy practices for transnational purposes. By studying the culturally situated nature of digital literacies of adult learners with transnational affiliations, I build on recent empirical work in the fields of New Literacy Studies, sociocultural approaches to learning, and transnational studies. In this qualitative study, I utilized ethnographic techniques for data collection, including participant observation, interviewing, and collection of material and electronic artifacts. I drew from case study approaches to analyze and present the experiences of five adult first-generation immigrant participants. I also negotiated multiple positionalities during the two phases of the study: as a participant observer and instructor's aide during the Basic Computer Skills course participants attended, and as a researcher-practitioner in the Web Design course that followed. From these multiple vantage points, my analysis demonstrates that participants' access to ICTs is shaped by structural factors, family dynamics, and individuals' constructions of the value of digital literacies. These factors influence participants' conditions of access to material resources, such as computer equipment, and access to mentoring opportunities with members of their social networks. In addition, my analysis of the instructional practices in the classroom shows that instructors used multiple modalities, multiple languages and specialized discourses to scaffold participants' understandings of digital spaces and interfaces. Lastly, in my analysis of participants' repertoires of digital literacy practices, I found that their engagement in technology use for purposes of communication, learning, political participation and online publishing supported their maintenance of transnational affiliations. Conversely, participants' transnational ties and resources supported their appropriation of digital literacies in everyday practice. This study concludes with a discussion on the relationship among learning, digital literacies and transnationalism, and the contributions of critical and ethnographic perspectives to the study of programs that can bridge digital inequality for minority groups.

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  • 2011

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A study of multilingual repertoires and accumulated literacies: three Karenni families living in Arizona

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This empirical study aims to identify and analyze the accumulated literacies and multilingual repertoires of three Karenni refugee families originally from the highlands of Burma but who had lived in

This empirical study aims to identify and analyze the accumulated literacies and multilingual repertoires of three Karenni refugee families originally from the highlands of Burma but who had lived in refugee camps in Thailand before arriving in Phoenix, Arizona. Through participant observation in the families' households and neighborhood, artifact collection, and individual and group interviews, I observe, document, and examine the everyday literacy practices of these three families in order to understand how these literacies are used to foster new understandings and social networks while maintaining transnational connections. The data analysis demonstrates that there are similarities and differences between the literacy practices and language choices of the sixteen individuals who participated and that there are significant differences across generations as well as across the three families. The findings shed light on the complicated relationship between migration and language learning, ideologies of language, literacy practices, and various modes of communication (face-to-face and digital). Building on a long tradition of ethnographic work that examines language learning and literacy in relation to educational access and opportunity, this research is relevant to educational researchers, policy makers, and teachers who are committed to rethinking what counts as literacy, for whom, in what contexts, and with what kinds of consequences. In a time of increased movement of people across borders, and increased use of information and communication technologies, this investigation has important implications for teacher preparation, theories of language learning and literacy development, and educational research.

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  • 2012