Adolescents’ Online Literacies

Connecting Classrooms, Digital Media, and Popular Culture – Revised edition

by Donna E. Alvermann (Volume editor)
©2016 Textbook VI, 233 Pages


This revised edition of Adolescents’ Online Literacies: Connecting Classrooms, Digital Media, and Popular Culture features a variety of digital tools for humanizing pedagogy. For example, the book examines numerous artistic representations of young people’s self-selected graphic novels and fan fiction as part of an in-class multi-genre unit on fandom. This edition makes concrete connections between what the research portrays and what teachers, school librarians, and school media specialists know to be the case in their interactions with young people at the middle and high school level. The contributors of these chapters – educators, consultants, and researchers who span two continents – focus on ways to incorporate and use the digital literacies that young people bring to school.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Connect(ed) Learning: Fostering Digital Social Imagination Within a Humanizing Educational Framework
  • Chapter 2: Multimodal Pedagogies: Playing, Teaching, and Learning with Adolescents’ Digital Literacies
  • Chapter 3: The Literacy Practices of an Adolescent Webcomics Creator
  • Chapter 4: 4 Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide/When Social Networking was Enuf: A Black Feminist Perspective on Literacy Online
  • Chapter 5: Fandom: Exploring Adolescent Pop Culture through Multiple Literacies
  • Chapter 6: Textual Play, Satire, and Counter Discourses of Street Youth Zining Practices
  • Chapter 7: Digital Literacies and Hip Hop Texts: The Potential for Pedagogy
  • Chapter 8: Digital Media Literacy: Connecting Young People’s Identities, Creative Production, and Learning about Video Games
  • Chapter 9: ‘Experts on the Field’: Redefining Literacy Boundaries
  • Chapter 10: “I Think They’re Being Wired Differently”: Secondary Teachers’ Cultural Models of Adolescents and Their Online Literacies
  • Afterword
  • Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

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Donna E. Alvermann

Introductions to books with a shelf life longer than five years are ripe for storytelling. Of course, the story need not be long nor detract from newer material. It should, however, disclose a side of the book’s development not shared before. Building on the first edition, the revised version of Adolescents’ Online Literacies: Connecting Classrooms, Digital Media, & Popular Culture reveals new lines of inquiry that address some of the earlier chapter authors’ calls for research. Scholarly answers to those calls have evoked a storyline, which in turn requires a narrator—a role I take up here, ever mindful that “to begin a story, someone in some way must break a particular silence” (Wiebe & Johnston, 1998, p. 4).

I do that in this introduction as a way of connecting the first edition’s chapters to the four new ones. Beyond connecting, however, the notion of breaking particular silences that envelop adolescents’ online literacies is a theme directly applicable to all 10 chapters. Also featured in this revised edition are numerous artistic representations of middle grades students’ self-selected graphic novels and the fan fiction those choices prompted as part of an in-class multi-genre unit on fandom. Like the earlier edition, the book remains “dippable” in that its organizational structure invites skipping around without worry of losing sight of the broader theme. ← 1 | 2 →

Chapter Overviews

Chapter 1, which is new to this volume, announces a slight twist on the MacArthur Foundation’s approach to connected learning. In “Connect(Ed) Learning: Fostering Digital Social Imagination Within a Humanizing Educational Framework,” author Danielle Filipiak breaks a silence surrounding who (or what) is in the driver’s seat when the agentive capacity of young people and technology’s tools cross paths. In this chapter, Filipiak takes readers inside educational spaces that defy the existence of, or need for, separating digital tools from a humanizing pedagogy. The chapter offers in part an auto-ethnographic account of Filipiak’s personal journey toward creating such spaces.

In chapter 2, “Multimodal Pedagogies: Playing, Teaching, and Learning with Adolescents’ Digital Literacies,” Lalitha Vasudevan, Tiffany DeJaynes, and Stephanie Schmier draw from research that vividly captures the multimodal worlds through which youth navigate daily. The authors outline various challenges facing educators in their bid to be pedagogically nimble and supportive of young people whose literacies move across spaces of home, community, and school in rapid succession. With multimodality as their frame of reference, Vasudevan and colleagues break earlier silences on how youth use myriad digital media tools to engage in literacies that expand what counts as communicating effectively in 21st-century contexts.

Chapter 3, “The Literacy Practices of an Adolescent Webcomics Creator,” is also new to this volume. Its authors, Stergios Botzakis and Jason DeHart, are arguably the first in literacy education circles to document up close how a socially marginalized youth used his talents as a webcomics designer and online distributor of the same to subvert a school system’s dated outlook on the value of comics for learning. The chapter also goes into considerable depth as it explores who and what constitute comics fandom in relation to certain literacy practices inside an online participatory culture.

In chapter 4, David E. Kirkland narrates a story he titled “4 Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide/When Social Networking was Enuf.” Writing from a Black feminist perspective, Kirkland explores how one young Black woman’s writings in MySpace revealed layers of oppression that for him gesture toward what he calls a therapeutic pedagogy. Using a conceptual lens that breaks silences at the same time it creates possibilities, Kirkland advocates for implementing therapeutic pedagogy in secondary classrooms. Specifically, he argues the need for educators to take seriously Black females’ online narratives as critically grounded and academically rich texts that all students—regardless of race, gender, and other identity markers—can learn with and from. ← 2 | 3 →

Chapter 5, also new to this volume and titled “Fandom: Exploring Adolescent Pop Culture through Multiple Literacies,” is authored by Rachel Kaminski Sanders. It is a carefully documented teacher-inquiry project that draws from her implementation (while a seventh grade teacher) of a multi-genre unit that focused on her students’ participation in self-selected fandoms. Sanders traces how the original unit continued to grow over a two-year span, largely as a result of student feedback and her own reflections on how critical learning inched its way into students’ engagement with the unit.

The authors of the next two chapters extend the notion of breaking silences by examining the literacy practices of adolescents and young adults whose access to print and/or digital media changed the way they viewed themselves. For example, in chapter 6, “Textual Play, Satire, and Counter Discourses of Street Youth Zining Practices,” Theresa Rogers and Kari-Lynn Winters document through various artifacts the ways in which street youth use a monthly online zine to reposition themselves socially. By featuring textual play, satire, and discourse that runs counter to the way mainstream media construct street people, the youth-produced zine, Another Slice, offers a glimpse into alternative literacy and learning opportunities that have implications for classroom practice.

In chapter 7, “Digital Literacies and Hip Hop Texts,” Jairus Joaquin breaks a long-time silence on such texts’ potential for a pedagogy of difference. His research focuses on three young men whose hip hop practices inspire and sustain them during times of adversity. Using his interviews with these youth to reflect on an earlier time in his own life, Joaquin is able to show how hip hop became an avenue for making friends in his high school. He also pulls from Freirean principles in constructing a critical inquiry-based learning experience around digital hip hop texts that teachers can adapt and use in their classrooms.

Chapter 8, “Digital Media Literacy: Connecting Young People’s Identities, Creative Production, and Learning about Video Games,” describes author Michael Dezuanni’s successful attempt to align 17 adolescent males’ interests in video games with their high school’s traditional curriculum in media literacy education. Using a poststructural case study analysis of data collected on the Video Games Immersion Unit, Dezuanni is able to demonstrate how classroom teachers and media specialists can involve young people in designing and producing their own games for the purpose of exposing certain assumed ideological impacts of gaming on learning.

In chapter 9, “‘Experts on the Field’: Redefining Literacy Boundaries,” Amanda Gutierrez and Catherine Beavis delve into a curriculum unit that ← 3 | 4 → features SuperCoach, a fantasy online sports game. The authors present a compelling example of how young people’s online and offline worlds converge as a result of their adeptness in reading and interpreting information presented in various formats from a variety of sources. They specifically call for research that has the potential to break silences encircling teacher expectations, curriculum design, and assessment of student learning in an online game environment.

Chapter 10, “‘I Think They’re Being Wired Differently’: Secondary Teachers’ Cultural Models of Adolescents and Their Online Literacies,” authored by Kelly Chandler-Olcott and Elizabeth Lewis, is an interesting account of what happens when long-time silences on particular literacy practices open the way for essentialist and/or stereotypical thinking. To address a gap in the research literature on secondary teachers’ perceptions of adolescents’ online literacies, Chandler-Olcott and Lewis draw on cultural modeling theory to analyze data from a case study in which they interviewed 13 English teachers, 2 library media specialists, and an academic intervention specialist.

A New Afterword

Margaret Carmody Hagood’s afterword brings this introduction to full circle. In her chapter, Hagood sets friendly but challenging expectations for how collectively, as educators broadly defined, we can be in the “now”—a space differently configured by each of the authors in Adolescents’ Online Literacies: Connecting Classrooms, Digital Media, & Popular Culture. To take up her call would support what this book and its chapter authors are all about. To ignore it, on the other hand, would be analogous to denying the need for breaking silences that encompass young people’s online literacies—especially those that point toward building identities in the nexus of digital media and popular culture. Or, as Friesen and Jardine (2009) might say, refusing the now is to create yet another “story that has forgotten and fallen silent of its telling” (p. 149).


Friesen, S., & Jardine, D. W. (2009). On field(ing) knowledge. In B. Sriraman & S. Goodchild (Eds.), Relatively and philosophically earnest (pp. 147–172). Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

Wiebe, R., & Johnston, Y. (1998). Stolen life: The journey of a Cree woman. Toronto, Canada: Alfred Knopf Canada.

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Fostering Digital Social Imagination Within a Humanizing Educational Framework

Danielle Filipiak

It was midafternoon on December 1, 2014, when the g-chat window on my MacBook Air popped up on the lower right-hand corner of my screen: “PEACE MY SISTER!!”


VI, 233
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (May)
Digital Tools Pedagogy school librarys High school
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. VI, 233 pp., num. b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Donna E. Alvermann (Volume editor)

Donna E. Alvermann is Distinguished Research Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia. She studies young people’s digital literacies and uses of popular media. Her interactive website (www.becoming3lectric.com) explores challenges to creating and disseminating «original» work and remixes using a Creative Commons license.


Title: Adolescents’ Online Literacies
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