Schoolgirls in cyberspace: A cross-case analysis of the literacy practices of three fifth-grade girls in a social network site

Lindstrom, Denise
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This dissertation is an exploratory study of the literacy practices of three fifth-grade girls as they used a social network site (SNS) for school related purposes. SNSs are widely used by adolescents, and because communication in these sites is accomplished mainly through writing, it is important to improve our understanding of what this kind of writing might mean for school-based writing instruction. Best practices in adolescent literacy instruction suggest that teachers need to build on the literacy practices adolescents develop in their homes, communities and peer networks to improve their motivation to engage with school-based writing. However, many educators tend to be dismissive of the writing practices adolescents engage in outside of school.

In this study I am to make explicit for educators the naturalistic writing practices adolescents use as they communicate with their peers in an SNS. In this study I also show that there are differences between students' writing practices that are related to their prior experiences with SNSs and facility with school-based literacy practices. Further, in this study I also connect the naturalistic literacy practices adolescents use in SNSs to the literacy practices we want them to develop through schooling. The findings from this study show that new multimodal writing practices like creating profile pages, using IM abbreviations, and "friending," can support school-based writing outcomes that include a deeper understanding of genre, audience awareness, and the ability to move fluidly between different contexts and purposes for writing.

adolescent literacy instruction, digital literacies, Elementary students, Social Network Sites, Technology, Writing Instruction