New literacies in English: Integrating process drama and digital video in an urban, eighth grade classroom
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This ethnographic case study investigates the effects of combining process drama activity with digital video composing in two urban, eighth grade English classrooms. Grounded in sociocultural, Deweyan, and multiliteracies theories, this study examines the following research questions: (1) What happens when a secondary English teacher introduces process drama and digital video production to his students as part of the English curriculum? (2) How do drama and digital video activities transact, if at all, to influence classroom culture and student engagement? (3) What specific literacy learning is evident as students engage in process drama and digital video activity? The research site was an urban school serving a population of primarily African American students. Two eighth-grade classrooms were observed for nine months as students engaged in both process drama and digital video activities. The researcher took on the role of a participant observer, both documenting and recording classroom activity while also acting as assistant to the classroom teacher. Data include field notes, classroom process videotapes, a reflective research journal, audiotaped interviews with both the teacher and several focal students, and the examination of artifacts including students' written work and digital video products. Field notes, journals, and artifacts were analyzed through recursive study, annotation, and coding for relevant themes. Audiotapes of classroom conversation and interviews were also transcribed and analyzed. Process footage and digital video movies were watched repeatedly and analyzed for evidence of literacy learning. The findings of this study reveal students' deepened engagement and the cultivation of a productive classroom community-space when process drama and digital video were integrated. Findings also show students' complex multimodal literacy learning, and the development of empathetic understandings of character and textual issues through the integration of process drama and digital video composing which helped to facilitate students' success on a high-stakes exam at the end of the year. The study also explores the tensions and challenges surrounding a teacher's integration of multimodal literacy learning in his teaching in the context of an urban, discipline-driven school environment.