Learning English in new times: The participatory design spaces of the New Literacies classroom
Cercone, James Edward
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This ethnographic case study investigates the literacy practices one teacher and his students engaged in during a full year digital video composing English elective. The research site is an English course offered at a diverse, first-ring suburban high school. The course, Mass Media and Video Productions, is a full year English elective open to students in grades 11 and 12. This study examines the following research questions: 1. In what ways, if any, is this high school English course designed around the conceptual framework of New Literacies Studies? 2. What happens with teaching and learning when a secondary English course is designed around the conceptual framework of New Literacies Studies, specifically around work with digital video composing? 3. In what ways, if any, do digital video composing and more traditional notions of English instruction with print transact? 4. What kinds of literacy practice are evident as student use digital video composing in the English classroom? In these contexts what evidence of student and teacher learning and growth emerge? The research site is a working class, first-ring suburban high school located to the east of New River, NY. During the course of this study the researcher examined one class period for ten months during the 2008-2009 academic year, taking on the role of participant observer, documenting and recording classroom activities, while assisting the teacher and his students when needed. Data collection included video and audio recordings of classroom activities, descriptive and reflective field notes, student and teacher artifacts, including handouts and student writing samples, as well as student video projects. Work students and their teacher engaged in on the class Ning was also examined. Several teacher and student interviews were conducted, transcribed and analyzed. The researcher engaged in recurring analysis of all data types, taking note of emergent themes, and coding across all data sets. The researcher then triangulate across the data, using a variety of inductive data analysis methods. This study provides a portrait of a classroom that as been successfully conceptualized around the New Literacies Studies framework. Analysis revealed a portrait of the site as a New Literacies Classroom, a workshop based learning space where students engaged in year-long multimodal composing within personally meaningful contexts. The teacher, as the designer of the learning space, situated digital video composing activities in terms of students' lived experiences. Focal students took up these projects in agentive ways, often as a means of writing their world. The portrait of the English classroom of the 21 st century that emerges is one where literacy emerges as a broad term that is enacted in the world and rooted in the social practices of the learning space. The teacher emerges as a designer and participant of the space. Students are re-conceptualized as meaning makers, designers and participants in a community of learners.