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Exploring a learning ecology: teenagers' literacy practices in a Teen Second Life project - Schome Park: Paper presented as part of a symposium: Researching the Literacy Practices of Children and Young People in Virtual Worlds

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paper

Published
Publication date04/2011
Number of pages18
Original languageEnglish
EventAmerican Educational Research Conference - New Orleans, United States
Duration: 8/04/201112/04/2011

Conference

ConferenceAmerican Educational Research Conference
CountryUnited States
CityNew Orleans
Period8/04/1112/04/11

Abstract

This paper examines the literacy practices of teenagers in a Teen Second Life project, the Schome Park programme, with the specific aim of investigating connections students explicitly made between their learning in the virtual world project, and their experiences of schooling.
Digital literacies, as all literacy practices, can usefully be approached through an ecological perspective (Barton, 2007). The notion of ecology provides a metaphor to assist us in thinking about "how the activity – literacy in this case – is part of the environment and at the same time influences and is influenced by the environment" (Barton, 2007, p. 29). This connects well with Barbara Rogoff's (1997) proposal that learning can be regarded as transformations in the patterns of participation in joint activity. Thus, taking a sociocultural approach to the teenagers' interactions expressed through their literacy practices in a combination of communicative domains, each with their own affordances, we are enabled to consider evidence of connections the students themselves choose to make with their experiences of schooling.
The methodology for this paper combines 2 modes of analysis: corpus linguistics and discourse analysis. Corpus linguistics techniques include comparisons of word frequencies, the identification and analysis of keywords and examinations of collocates and concordances. Exemplar texts are then selected for more fine-grained discourse analysis in order to further investigate texts evidencing complex relationships between learning in the virtual world project and in school, as expressed by the teenagers.
The data for this study are constituted by records of activities logged in two domains:
A. Logs of synchronous 'chat' and instant messaging while inworld.
B. Discussions posted on the community's forum.

The corpus linguistics investigation was revelatory of a complex web of discourses concerning schooling and learning in Schome Park. One dichotomy was particularly powerful, contrasting the environments in terms of what the virtual worlds environment in terms of affordances contrasted against the perceived affordances of schools: including new curriculum topics, opportunities for leadership, empowerment in a community through the sharing of expertise and so on. However, close analysis also shows the manifold and varied ways in which students drew on knowledge and experience gained in schools when tackling various problems 'inworld'. Finally, there are many interesting traces of ways in which students spontaneously reported taking learning back from the virtual worlds project into their school learning lives.
This paper and the experiences of the project more generally assist in meeting
Barron's (2006) suggestion that reaching understandings of how learning takes place across settings, and of the possible synergies involved and obstacles, may be useful to educators especially if they are interested in finding ways to supplement or extend school-based opportunities. Furthermore, the paper demonstrates strengths and limitations of corpus and discourse analytic approaches to digital projects that generate vast data records.