ties shaped and were shaped by this
form of digital literacy. The researchers found that IM literacy outside of
school was related to desired school
literacy practices. Youth changed the
tone, voice, word choice, and content
of their messages to fit their communication needs. Moreover, they used
this form of communication to build
their social status and social connections, which in turn enhanced their
The implications of these findings
are not that we must necessarily integrate IM into school lessons, although
that may be appropriate in certain
situations, but that we engage students
in “metadiscussions” of their literacy
practices in and out of schools, helping them to become more aware of
the affordances of different kinds of
writing and “how to shift topic, writing style, and voice from audience to
audience,” the authors wrote.
A second qualitative study, “
Learning Designs: An Analysis of Youth-initiated Technology Use” by Donna
DeGennaro, also looked at student-initiated IM practices, but between students and their teacher within an informal learning context (an after-school
computer lab management club).
The mission of the club was to
“involve students in assisting with
technical support and ongoing technology-related decision-making in
the high school,” DeGennaro wrote.
Three themes in teacher–student IM
participation emerged from the data
collected: 1) negotiated goals: initial
teacher-dominated goals for assignments
were reshaped through IM conversations in which students articulated and
advocated for their interests, resulting
in negotiated goals; 2) co-constructed
problem-solving: students and teachers
used IM to troubleshoot technology
problems from remote locations and
arrive at co-constructed solutions;
3) collaborative argumentation: the
students and their teacher “argued
to learn,” using IM to disagree over
technology-related decisions, provide
evidence for perspectives, and, ultimately, generate a decision that
incorporated both agendas.
In a third study, “Student Perceptions of Using Instant Messaging
Software to Facilitate Synchronous
Online Class Interaction in a Graduate Teacher Education Course,”
L.C. Wang and W. R. Morgan analyzed
how K– 12 teachers participating in a
master’s-level educational technology
course perceived their use of IM for
structured weekly online discussions
of their course textbook chapters.
Using a questionnaire designed according to principles for good practice
in undergraduate education (
encourages student–faculty contact, develops
cooperation among students, encourages active learning, and gives prompt
feedback), they specifically sought to
examine if the 43 teachers enrolled in
the course perceived their use of IM as
encouraging these four quality practices. The subjects were to mentally
compare specific aspects of their current IM-using class to similar aspects
of other non-IM-using classes. The
results indicated that the teachers rated
their IM experience as being significantly different, with all differences in
the positive direction, for all four principles. That is, they felt a heightened
sense of contact with their instructor,
of cooperation and reciprocity among
their peers, of wanting to be active
participants in the online discussion,
and of getting immediate feedback.
These snippets of recent studies
dealing with instant messaging offer
several messages for education.
First, deep understanding of the new
competencies and digital literacies we
need to teach will likely derive from
studying, building upon, and extending
the range of “participatory media” practices young people are engaging in.
Second, as educational research
strives to catch up with these emerging structures of participation,
educators and administrators must
stay critically open to and aware of
youth-initiated technology use and
the situational literacies they may be
developing, without necessarily understanding yet how the decisions we
make today will (or will not) prepare
our students for tomorrow.
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New Literacies. (2008). New York: Lawrence
Examining the intersections of online social
networks, pedagogy, and engagement among
low-income students. Greenhow, C., Robelia,
E., & Kim, S. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, New
York, New York. (March 24–28, 2008).
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NETS•T and Performance Indicators for Teachers. ISTE. (2008).
Social network sites: Definition, history, and
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Status: Looking for work on Facebook. Rosen-bloom, New York Times. (May 1, 2008).
Student perceptions of using instant messaging software to facilitate synchronous online
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Who are today’s learners? Greenhow, C. L&L
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