Multimodal Composing-to-Learn: Understanding how Adolescents Analyze Literature through Multiple Modes in Digital Environments
Blaine Smith

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Arizona

Primary Discipline

Literacy and/or English/Language Education
A growing majority of today’s adolescents lead technologically saturated and networked lives where digital multimodal communication is vital for self-expression and connecting with others. Despite youth’s multimodally rich lives, there exists a dramatic disconnect in schools where emphasis is placed on traditional print-based writing. Very little research has studied multimodal composition for academic purposes. The proposed study begins to address this need by examining how culturally and linguistically diverse adolescents analyze literature through multiple modes (e.g., visuals, sound, text, movement), as well as how the ideas developed in their multimodal literary analyses transfer to their academic writing. Integrating social semiotics and multiliteracies theoretical frameworks, this qualitative study will closely follow eight focal students as they collaboratively create multimodal projects connected to literature in an urban English Language Arts high school class. Data sources will include screen capture and video observations, student retrospective design interviews and written reflections, and students’ final products. As one of the first studies to examine multimodal composing-to-learn, findings will advance the field in understanding how students’ literacy learning is revealed, travels, and transforms across different modalities in digital environments. The implications from this study will also aid English Language Arts teachers in effectively integrating digital multimodal projects to support literary analysis.
About Blaine Smith
Blaine E. Smith is an Assistant Professor of New Literacies and Bi/Multilingual Immigrant Learners in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies at the University of Arizona. Her research primarily centers on the digital literacy practices of culturally and linguistically diverse adolescents, with special attention to their multimodal composing processes, products, and perspectives. A main goal of Dr. Smith’s work is to develop scaffolded instructional strategies to support the integration of digital literacies in the classroom. Her research also focuses on developing innovative multimodal methods for capturing, analyzing, and representing youth’s complex digital literacies. She is a recipient of the Literacy Research Association’s Outstanding Student Research Award and the Emerging Scholars Fellowship by the Reading Hall of Fame. Her 2014 dissertation was a finalist for the International Literacy Association’s Outstanding Dissertation of the Year Award. Her work has appeared in Computers & Education, Bilingual Research Journal, Elementary School Journal, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, and Learning, Media, and Technology, among others. Dr. Smith received her Ph.D. in Language, Literacy, and Culture from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University.

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