Kevin Pribnow

First Advisor

Youngs, Suzette

Date Created



The ability to navigate emerging technologies is necessary for social and economic participation in the world. Research shows that children from privileged households receive the support needed to develop digital literacy skills, while children from families with lower socioeconomic status do not receive this support. It is the responsibility of schools to address this participation gap by bringing digital literacies into classrooms. The affordances of new technologies make it easier than ever for teachers to provide authentic literacy experiences for their students. This qualitative case study examined an authentic, digital literacy experience during a virtual pen pal correspondence between fifth-grade students and a local college women’s basketball team. The written correspondence was analyzed through topic tracking and by applying Rafaeli’s Model of Interactive Communication. The students’ images were also analyzed to gain a deeper understanding of multimodal composition. Analysis found the facilitating teacher motivated her students to participate in the written exchanges by incorporating tenets of authentic literacy pedagogy. The authentic literacy experience motivated the students to participate in the exchanges, but interactive communication was determined by the participants’ interests. The benefits experienced by the students show a need for scaffolded experiences for children to develop the competencies needed to participate using virtual communication tools. Schools need to expand their definition of literacy beyond the targets found on standardized tests to provide meaningful literacy experiences for students with computer-mediated communication. Findings also indicate a need for teacher professional development furthering their understanding of multimodal composition.


235 pages

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