Digital Literacies: In and Beyond the L2 Classroom


As digital technologies continue to radically change the social acts of meaning making in which we engage, boundaries once taken for granted between semiotic consumption and production and among various modes and medialities have begun to break down, pushing applied linguists and scholars of language pedagogy to reconsider conceptualizations of literacy in teaching and learning language and cultures. If new literacies afford new forms of meaning making, then they also demand new understandings of the ways in which we acquire and evaluate knowledge and communicate.

This symposium explores the wide array of practices captured by the concept of digital literacies from social networking to gaming to fan fiction to micropublishing as they relate to particular circumstances of learning and living in a second or additional language and culture.

In addition to the keynote talk by Richard Kern and a series of talks and panel discussions held on the University of Arizona campus on October 11, 2014, this event includes online poster presentations with opportunities for both synchronous and asynchronous exchange.

– Jon Reinhardt & Chantelle Warner, Symposium organizers

Click to download symposium program


Our keynote speaker for the conference was Richard Kern, Professor of French and Director of the Berkeley Language Center at the University of California at Berkeley.  He teaches courses in French linguistics, language, and foreign language pedagogy, and supervises graduate teaching assistants.  His research interests include language acquisition, literacy, and relationships between language and technology. He is an Associate Editor of Language Learning & Technology and Editor of the Teacher’s Forum section of L2 Journal.

Kern photo1-1Professor Kern has published several books as well as articles in journals such as The Modern Language Journal, Foreign Language Annals, Canadian Modern Language Review, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, and TESOL Quarterly.

Professor Kern’s talk is titled:

Integrating Literacies Past, Present, and Future

Abstract: What principles should guide language and literacy education in the current era of globalization and intense social and technological innovation? Rather than attempting to distinguish between “new” literacies and “old” literacies, I propose an approach that brings attention to relationships between current and past literacy practices in order to prepare learners for the future. This approach focuses on the development of functional reading and writing abilities, but within the broader context of an exploration of how material, social, and individual factors influence the ways we design meaning and how mediums influence our fundamental ideas about what writing and communication are. The presentation will develop a set of principles and goals for this educational approach, then propose ways to achieve those goals through a “relational pedagogy” that focuses on how meanings emerge from interactions among material, social, and individual resources.


Roundtable Speakers

The roundtable discussion featured talks and discussion with three prominent scholars in the field of digital literacies and education.

  IMG_4935Idoia Elola is an associate professor of Spanish and Applied Linguistics & Second Language Studies at Texas Tech University. Her research focuses mainly on issues in second language writing, such as collaborative and individual writing when using Web 2.0 tools, foreign language and Spanish heritage language learners’ writing processes, and revision and feedback.

L2 Writing in the XXIst Century: Acknowledging New Literacies

The inclination of the head over a phone, tablet or laptop while fingers run across keyboards represent accurately the world we inhabit today. People write more frequently even when the length of such communications is short or illegible to people outside a specific community of practice. In line with this reality, L2 writing instruction has increasingly adopted digital environments with the aim to form better and more efficient L2 writers and introduce them to new literacies that can offer the opportunity to work collaboratively, share, create content and reflect on a second language. In this time of constant technological growth, understanding digital written literacies, therefore, implies acknowledging an amalgam of factors that coexist and represent the complexity surrounding writing in L2 courses: the interface of rhetorical and SLA theories as well as L2 writing and newer technology; the relationship between new vernacular and new genres; the adoption of pedagogical approaches that allow digital literacies to be developed; and the expansion of the classroom beyond its physical walls. The aim of this presentation is to offer an overview of the major issues discussed in L2 writing in conjunction with technology, address how current research is exploring ways to facilitate the development of new literacies among our L2 writers, and more importantly, acknowledge the need to familiarize ourselves and understand that new literacies are multiple, multimodal, and multifaceted, allowing for a more holistic approach to writing in this century.


Fields headshotDebbie Fields is Assistant Professor of Instructional Technologies and Learning Sciences at Utah State University. Her work seeks to understand the power of connected learning by studying how students’ learning is enriched when school, home, friends, and playful online spaces are combined. Her work focuses on the creative objects that students make and how their interests, physical and virtual communities, and identities come into play in design decisions. Professor Fields is the co-author of the book Connected Play: Tween Life in a Virtual World published by MIT Press – culmination of a decade of research documenting kids’ play, learning, and development in virtual worlds.

Connected Play: Mischievous Cheating for Serious Learning

The fascination with online environments is coming full circle. What began as a preoccupation with the exotic worlds of kids’ online play in games and virtual worlds can now feed back into our design and research of more ‘everyday’ educational environments, especially as we consider the potential for connected play: online and offline, in-game and out-of-game, formal and informal, between kids, teachers, designers, and researchers. Looking at lessons learned in over a decade of researching kids’ online play, in this talk Deborah Fields considers provocative lessons from cheating, a practice popular in gaming but generally condemned in education. Cheating can be constructive for learning, provoke discussion of critical ethical issues, and raise awareness of the need for rich and not just big or deep data. Indeed, we might even consider certain sorts of cheating as a type of new literacy, and not only for virtual spaces! Looking behind and across the scenes of a virtual world, this talk provides a teasing peek at mischievous learning for serious play.


LawrenceWilliamsLawrence Williams is Associate Professor of French and Applied Linguistics, Arabic Program Coordinator, and Associate Chair for the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of North Texas. His research is centered around new technologies as tools for teaching/learning and communication in educational and noneducational contexts. He is the co-editor of Volume 12 in the CALICO Monograph Series, Digital Literacies in Foreign and Second Language Education (2014).

Rethinking Communicative Competence for Digital Spaces

This presentation offers a critique of communicative competence (Celce-Murcia, 2007; Hymes, 1972) and an overview of symbolic competence as a viable supplement to communicative competence. Over the past few decades, communicative competence is a construct that has been revised and expanded several times, but there had never been a serious and sustained attempt to supplement communicative competence until Kramsch (2006) first proposed symbolic competence as a way to offer learners and teachers something more than a model that views communication as a set or series of transactions that can be executed and, of course, evaluated. Examples from various languages and different types of computer-mediated communication will be used to illustrate that it is necessary to rethink the notions of design, linearity, indexicality, and interaction if learners and teachers wish to move beyond educational paradigms that were imagined in pre-digital times.

Celce-Murcia, M. (2007). Rethinking the role of communicative competence in language teaching. In E. Alcón Soler & M. P. Safont Jordà (Eds.), Intercultural language use and language learning (pp. 41-57). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

Hymes, D. (1972). On communicative competence. In J. B. Pride & J. Holmes (Eds.), Sociolinguistics: Selected readings (pp. 269-293). Harmondsworth, England: Penguin.

Kramsch, C. (2006). Perspectives: From communicative competence to symbolic competence. Modern Language Journal, 90, 249-252.

October 6-11: Poster Presentations Online

October 11 on the University of Arizona Campus in Modern Languages building, room 350 


Roundtable: New Literacies and New Understandings

  • L2 Writing in the XXIst Century: Acknowledging New Literacies, Idoia Elola, Texas Tech University
  • Connected Play: Mischievous Cheating for Serious Learning, Debbie Fields, Utah State University
  • Rethinking Communicative Competence for Digital Spaces, Lawrence Williams, University of North Texas

Digital Literacies: The State of the Field
Kristen Michelson and Osman Solmaz, University of Arizona

2:15-3:45pm: Keynote Presentation
Integrating Literacies Past, Present, and Future
Richard Kern, University of California, Berkeley

4-5pm: Reception


Keynote Presentation

Integrating Literacies Past, Present, and Future
Richard Kern, University of California, Berkeley

L2 Writing in the XXIst Century: Acknowledging New Literacies
Idoia Elola, Texas Tech University

Connected Play: Mischievous Cheating for Serious Learning
Debbie Fields, Utah State University

Rethinking Communicative Competence for Digital Spaces
Lawrence Williams, University of North Texas


New Literacies and New Understandings

Digital Literacies: The State of the Field
Kristen Michelson and Osman Solmaz, University of Arizona

Poster presentations were online October 6 to 11, with opportunities for asynchronous and synchronous exchange with the authors. Abstracts for these presentations are available on individual pages.

NOTE: To ask an asynchronous question or make a comment about a presentation, scroll to the bottom of that page and post in the ‘leave a reply’ area. You can also comment on the posters in general at the bottom of this page. To participate in the synchronous discussion about a presentation (for those that offer it), visit that poster’s page at the time listed below and you will see a chat bar embedded on the right side of the page.

  • Digital games in the classroom – Results and reflections from two semesters (Kristin Lange, Diane Richardson, &Chantelle Warner, University of Arizona)
    • Synchronous discussion—Thursday 9th: 9am PDT/Noon EDT