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Visiting Washington, D.C.
Purpose: To examine how mediated discourse analysis [MDA] enables a reconceptualization of interaction, artifacts, and discourses as collaborative, emergent, and disruptive flows and trajectories rather than individual, fixed, and bounded processes, products, or effects of discourse. What is enabled by a shift in focus from a focus on knowledge acquisition in skill competencies and achievement gains to a focus on action-oriented exploration, collaborative innovation, and equitable participation?
Perspectives: Mediated discourse theory provides a nexus of practice (Scollon, 2001) framework that reveals how children’s play with digital media engages embodied expectations for participatory literacies with mobile technologies in converging cultures. In this view, a child’s digital play is made up of taps, swipes, and other small actions, situated in 1) interaction orders (Goffman, 1983) such as student-with-teacher or player-against-player relationships, 2) historical bodies or engrained expectations for particular actions (i.e., habitus, Bourdieu, 1977), and 3) discursive interpretations of co-players in peer culture and fan media cultures and teachers in school culture. Play is examined as both a literacy and a tactic (Author, 2011), that is, social and semiotic practices that young children engage when they play together to create action texts such as animated films with digital puppetry apps on touchscreen tablets.
Methods & Data: MDA (Scollon & Scollon, 2004; Author, 2007; Jones, 2015) examines children’s collaborative production as movements of players, meanings, and discourses through close analysis of action-by-action turns within moments of shifting participation. The data are excerpted from four years of ethnographic research in early childhood classrooms (6 teachers, over 120 3-8 year-old children). Data sources included video of children’s play and filmmaking activities, and children’s toys, puppets, drawings, and films. Microanalysis tracks hand actions during small group play with digital animation on iPads to identify literacy practices and peer culture relationships, while macroanalysis connects texts and interactions to global media discourses that converge in this moment across time and space (Author, 2014; Colleagues & Author, 2014).
Conclusions: Children’s collaborative composing with a digital puppetry app on an iPad - with many hands all busy dragging, resizing, and animating puppet characters, and many voices making sound effects, narrating, directing, and objecting - appears aimless, chaotic, and in sharp contrast to the orderly matching activities in prevalent letter and word recognition apps in children’s educational software. The crowded collaboration around a single touchscreen looks messy but produces a complex multi-player text built with 1) touches, swipes, and other embodied actions that make up digital literacy practices, 2) sensory or multimodal layers of colorful images, dialogue, sound effects, and movement that enliven animated stories; and 3) negotiation and pooling of children’s conflicting story ideas for shared pretense in interactive collaboration.
Significance: Methods of educational research rooted in 20th century nexus of practice of accountability and standardized measurement must be retooled to fit digital realities of modern childhoods. New methods are urgently needed to research the fluid micro/macro transformations in interactive and mobile digital media and multiplayer dynamic texts and to reposition young learners as creative producers and knowledgeable cultural participants.