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"Then You Go to Snap" - Making Digital Comics for In-School Literacy Learning

Project Type

In-classroom qualitative field study


Principle Investigator

Project Description

This project was a two-year long, qualitative, design-based research study conducted in three culturally and linguistically diverse 11th grade ELA classrooms in a predominantly Hispanic, low-SES, urban neighborhood in a major city in the southeastern US. The full corpus of data across the four iterations included 32 video-recorded and transcribed interviews with students and two teachers; 44 hours of video-recorded classroom observations including iPad screen captures; and 65 student generated artifacts.

In this project, student groups used iPads, laptops, and smartphones to create transmediated digital comics of classic texts. In the three Y1 iterations, the teacher and I, in consultation with a local Cuban cultural heritage archive, selected the texts, all written by Latino authors, as culturally relevant and responsive to youths’ interests (their teacher reported that students enjoyed the true crime genre) and raciolinguistic identities. Initial analysis revealed that students greatly enjoyed the activities and engaged deeply with the texts but found the iPad app and computer interfaces to be more challenging to use than using their smart phones (Axelrod, 2020).

The Y2 iteration sought to explore students' learning and engagement with texts that do not connect to their interests nor their identities but are commonly assigned across US ELA classrooms. This iteration included students’ personal technologies and repertories of practices that emerged from using personal devices. Students in this iteration, without direction from the teacher or researcher, connected their identities to the text more strongly than anticipated by drawing on a range of personal practices and tools to complete the assigned tasks more easily than with school/research provided technologies.

From a UXR Perspective

This was an end to end development project with four iterations beginning with persona creation, moving through implementation, and then leveraging data analysis for the subsequent iterative improvements. I worked with end user site administrators, cultural heritage archivists, and field observations to authentically develop user stories to guide product development. I took a qualitative approach to understanding and iteratively improving mobile communication technology user's experiences with digital composing interfaces on iPads and smart phones (Android and iPhone). I recorded real time user interactions with the devices, including screen captures from the devices' interfaces. I interviewed the users to gain a deeper understanding of their perspectives and experiences (including identifying and contextualizing pain points, challenges to use, and the interface's areas of strength). I also analyzed the products they created with the devices.

I approached my analysis from a user centric perspective, starting my analysis with interview data of users' perspectives, rather than starting with external observations. I then triangulated users' perceptions with recordings of their interactions and their compositions (including planning documents, rough layouts, and final products).

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