Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Susan L. Lytle


Educational researchers, practitioners, and policymakers face increasing pressure to determine the role of new media in America's schools. Despite widespread agreement that digital media are transforming how young people learn and communicate, little evidence exists that digital media have markedly changed how we "do school." In the last decade, extensive research focused on increasing access to and integrating technology in schools, suggesting that digital media support new contexts for knowledge development. Yet little empirical research examined how adolescents actually engage digital media in their everyday lives in schools.

In a two-year study in a Philadelphia public high school, I researched what it means for literacy learning when youth attend a digitally comprehensive school, and what happens when we shift our focus away from new media as discrete tools, and instead consider them as part of the social and cultural fabric of "doing school." I followed and learned from tenth-graders in English and History classes taught by the same teacher.

Through the theoretical frames of socio-cultural constructions of literacy, youth culture, and media ecologies, I examine three interrelated dimensions significant to adolescents' experiences as students in what I call a new culture of literacy learning: (1) Noise, (2) Navigation, and (3) Negotiation. Noise refers to the intense, multilayered, and highly saturated nature of this context. Navigation represents the range of moves, tools, and roles that adolescents engaged to accomplish their intellectual work in these classrooms. Negotiation illustrates how adolescents leveraged digital media to participate with others.

The findings can support the work of teachers to redesign classrooms that harness digital media to cultivate adolescents' literacies and foster meaningful participation. This study raises questions for educators, researchers, and policymakers about how to assess literacies that are multimodal, fluid, and collaborative. My results also can contribute to conversations about designing new ways to study adolescents' literacies within and across the dynamic contexts associated with digital media. Finally, this study suggests that we will need new theoretical frameworks to understand adolescents' literacy work in schools.