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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Digital Writing in the Academy: Gains, Losses, and Rigorous Playfulness
by DiZio, Jennifer Katherine, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2017, 144; 10280532
Abstract (Summary)

The ethnographic study presented here documents emergent behaviors that arose when two multimodal composing and production tools - Collabosphere and Tumblr — were used in three different college courses (Introductory Psychology, Education 1B, and College Writing 101). The work addresses how conceptions of writing in the college classroom and across disciplines shift, converge, and vary across courses and between disciplines. I use Engeström’s (1999) model of activity theory to show how the introduction of new tools pushed both students and teachers to think more broadly and creatively about how they compose and comport themselves in academic settings. Specifically, this work reveals instances of expansive transformation as two activity systems – academic writing and digital writing – converged in these classrooms. By documenting new approaches that students and teachers developed when using new tools in an academic setting, I hope to visualize new opportunities for university writing to expand and include new literacy practices.

This study documents how digital tools in the Academy were perceived, repurposed and used in a variety of different ways. I used a combination of interviews with faculty and students, observations, and analysis of semiotic materials to gain a holistic understanding of the dynamic activity systems at play in each setting, and across the university. Specifically, I endeavored to document the types of expectations placed on undergraduate students and faculty to use digital tools in innovative and compelling ways, and how those expectations informed how both approached composing in their courses. Here I strove to understand the new demands on college writers within different disciplinary departments, new kinds of audiences, and new kinds of texts as students collaboratively composed. This study also conceives to help educators and teaching faculty think about what kinds of methods, rubrics and assessment frameworks would help support students using new tools for writing in college classrooms.

One of the central findings of this study is that in order to make room for expansive learning and new systems of writing to emerge, teachers must make explicit the course goals and assessment models for grading and evaluating digital and multimodal pieces. Without this framework, students often default to those writing models that were successful for them in the past, which were text-heavy and often discipline-specific. Further, teachers also need to help extend student’s notions of communication to include the visual and aural in a way that is both meaningful and critical. This study showed that it was not enough for students to simply present and prioritize multimodal composing, but that students needed a conceptual frame to understand how and why composing in different modes supported their analytic reasoning, and feel confident in their ability to synthesize them into their composing work.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hull, Glynda A.
Commitee: Pearson, P. David, Ryokai, Kimiko
School: University of California, Berkeley
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 78/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational sociology, Educational technology
Keywords: Collabosphere, Literacy, Social media, Tumblr
Publication Number: 10280532
ISBN: 978-0-355-03322-9
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