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An activity theoretical analysis of microblogging and blogging by Spanish L2 learners in a bridging activities framework

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The use of blogging tools in the second language classroom has been investigated from a variety of theoretical and methodological perspectives (Alm, 2009; Armstrong & Retterer, 2008; Dippold, 2009; Ducate

The use of blogging tools in the second language classroom has been investigated from a variety of theoretical and methodological perspectives (Alm, 2009; Armstrong & Retterer, 2008; Dippold, 2009; Ducate & Lomicka, 2008; Elola & Oskoz, 2008; Jauregi & Banados, 2008; Lee, 2009; Petersen, Divitini, & Chabert, 2008; Pinkman, 2005; Raith, 2009; Soares, 2008; Sun, 2009, 2012; Vurdien, 2011; Yang, 2009) and a growing number of studies examine the use of microblogging tools for language learning (Antenos-Conforti, 2009; Borau, Ullrich, Feng, & Shen, 2009; Lomicka & Lord, 2011; Perifanou, 2009). Grounded in Cultural Historical Activity Theory (Engestrom, 1987), the present study explores the outcomes of a semester-long project based on the Bridging Activities framework (Thorne & Reinhardt, 2008) and implemented in an intermediate hybrid Spanish-language course at a large public university in Arizona, in which students used microblogging and blogging tools to collect digital texts, analyze perspectives of the target culture, and participate as part of an online community of language learners with a broader audience of native speakers. The research questions are: (1) What technology is used by the students, with what frequency and for what purposes in both English and Spanish prior to beginning the project?, (2) What are students' values and attitudes toward using Twitter and Blogger as tools for learning Spanish and how do they change over time through their use in the project during the semester course?, and (3) What tensions emerge in the activity systems of the intermediate Spanish-language students throughout the process of using Twitter and Blogger for the project? What are the underlying reasons for the tensions? How are they resolved? The data was collected using pre-, post-, and periodic surveys, which included Likert and open-ended questions, as well as the participants' microblog and blog posts. The quantitative data was analyzed using descriptive statistics and the qualitative data was analyzed to identify emerging themes following the Constant Comparative Method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Finally, three participant outliers were selected as case studies for activity theoretical analysis in order to identify tensions and, through their resolution, evidence of expansive learning.

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  • 2015

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The invention of transformative agency: collaborative inquiry as graduate-level mentoring

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This dissertation examines collaborative inquiry as a form of graduate mentoring. To investigate this issue, I analyze the research and writing process of a team of five multilingual graduate students

This dissertation examines collaborative inquiry as a form of graduate mentoring. To investigate this issue, I analyze the research and writing process of a team of five multilingual graduate students and their mentor as they collaboratively design, implement, and report a study based in their local writing program over the course of two years. Through a qualitative activity analysis of team meetings, participant interviews, and the team’s written drafts and email correspondence, I investigate the ways in which self-sponsored, team-based collaborative research and writing supports participants’ learning and development of a professional identity.

Key findings show that unanticipated obstacles in the research context present participants with “real-world” dilemmas that call forth disciplinary alignments, reinforce existing disciplinary practices, and, most importantly, generate new practices altogether. An example of this process is reflected in the research team's frequent need to adjust their research design as a result of constraints within the research environment. The team's ability to pivot in response to such constraints encouraged individual members to view the research enterprise as dynamic and fluid, leading ultimately to a heightened sense of agency and stronger awareness of the rhetorical challenges and opportunities posed by empirical research. Similarly, participants’ demonstrated an ability to recognize and resolve tensions stemming from competing demands on their time and attention during the course of their graduate study. Actively constructing resonances across various domains of their graduate worlds—coursework, teaching, and non-curricular research and professionalization activities—served to clarify purposes and increase motivation.

An additional aspect of this study is the way graduate students leverage their language resources in the collaborative process. This dissertation extends the disciplinary conversation by investigating ways in which language resources function as rhetorical tools within the research context. This focus on language, in concert with collaboration and rhetorical stances to inquiry, challenges persistent views of authorship, apprenticeship, and language norms, while simultaneously lending insight into how graduate students invent new ways of participating in their professional worlds.

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  • 2015

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All we are saying: teachers' narratives of lived classroom experience

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Accounts in the media often demonize teachers and misrepresent what is happening in schools. Meanwhile, teachers' voices are largely absent from the national and international debates on school reform. This

Accounts in the media often demonize teachers and misrepresent what is happening in schools. Meanwhile, teachers' voices are largely absent from the national and international debates on school reform. This dissertation privileges the voices of nine participating Kindergarten through second grade teachers from a variety of public schools, including affluent schools and schools receiving full and partial Title I funding. Through observations and interviews teachers shared their narratives of classroom joys and challenges while also describing how policy has affected these experiences. A preliminary discourse analysis of these narratives was performed, identifying narratives related to nodes of the activity system of schooling. Further discourse analysis of these identified narratives revealed how these teachers' classroom experiences position them within an activity system strongly influenced by tensions between maternal relationships and the patriarchal project of schooling. A critical feminist theoretical perspective is utilized to respond to these tensions and to describe possibilities for future studies in education and the future of education in general.

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  • 2011