Date of Award

12-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Major Professor

Anne McGill-Franzen

Committee Members

Stergios G. Botzakis, Blanche O'Bannon, Lisa C. Yamagata-Lynch

Abstract

More teachers are experiencing professional development within blended/virtual learning communities, which I consider a fruitful avenue for expansion of new literacies in K-12 classrooms. However, new literacies challenge traditional structures in education even as new rules of corporate-sponsored reform and high-stakes accountability serve to reinforce these structures. Within this context of contradictions, a cohort of teachers from a rural, remote county in the southeast United States participated in a blended learning environment in their final semester of graduate-level coursework in Reading Education. Some of the teacher-learners, whose own attitudes and motivations toward technology were as diverse as the tools themselves, resisted new modes of learning, especially self-reflection through digital video. To better understand situational forces as well as the participants’ own identities as sources of resistance, I designed an activity-theoretical study that draws upon Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), New Literacies, and multiple realities perspectives. My data sources included observations and field notes, analysis of course documents, and interactive interviews. I applied grounded theory to code the data and used the initial findings to draft a case study report. I then used CHAT’s heuristic tools to graphically depict the tensions of joint activity between the school system and university course settings. I also developed activity portraits of three teacher-learners. My findings suggest the following implications for blended learning in Reading Education: seek better coordination and articulation of joint activity, avoid being overly prescriptive of digital tools, and engage participants more frequently in open dialogue about problems and issues. The findings also point to an enhanced role for CHAT to stimulate a theory-to-practice feedback loop for the practitioner-researcher.

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