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Adolescents’ New Literacies with and through Mobile Phones


Julie Warner

This book provides a deeper understanding of the phone-based composing practices of youth and their implications for literacy learning. In the United States, smartphone use among teens is nearly universal, yet many youth who are avid digital composers still struggle with formal schooled literacy. The widespread and rapid embrace of smartphones by youth from all income levels has had a substantial impact on the way that young people approach the act of composing, yet to date, little to no work has explored digital photography and text curation through popular apps like Twitter and Instagram and their impact on literacy, including formal schooled literacy. As more schools are moving to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) models and lifting classroom bans on cellphones, classroom teachers need information about the affordances of phones for formal literacy learning, which this book provides.

This book will also be of interest to those in courses in the fields of education, new literacies, cultural studies/youth culture, literacy studies, communication arts, and anthropology of education/social sciences. This book could be used in a course on online/Internet ethnography. It could also be used in a more general research methods course to illustrate the combination of online and offline data collection. Outside of research methods courses, it could be used in courses on literacies, digital literacies, youth culture, popular culture and media, or mobile learning.

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Foreword (James Paul Gee)



James Paul Gee

Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy StudiesRegents’ ProfessorArizona State University

Julie Warner’s Adolescents’ New Literacies with and through Mobile Phones is timely and important. It is timely because many young people’s most pervasive literacy practices today seem trivial to many adults. It is important because these new practices can, in fact, lead to 21st Century skills and seriously compete, in depth and impact, with school-based literacy practices.

Warner discusses the composing practices of three young people who have struggled with school-based literacy, but who are avid digital composers. Let me give my own example, one that Elisabeth Hayes and I discussed in our book Women as Gamers (2011). This example speaks to why I believe Julie Warner’s book is crucial today.

The Sims series of video games are the best-selling video games in history. In The Sims, players (over half of whom are girls and women) design, build, and maintain families, neighborhoods and communities. The Sims is a life simulator. However, some players do not just play the Sims, they also use it to write a form of graphic fan fiction. In their most basic form, Sims fan-fiction stories are created by taking screenshots during Sims game play. Players write captions under the screenshots, captions that take the form of a continuous narrative. A “writer” has to produce a multi-modal (words and images) “text”←xi | xii→ using digital tools (the game, graphic-design tools to modify...

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