The world, technology, and I
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This qualitative study aimed to explore the development and changes in 21st-century college students’ awareness, skills, attitudes, and construction of selves when they were exposed to a technology-enhanced, multimodal, dialogical learning environment. The design of this environment was inspired by studies in technology integration, multimodality, and dialogism in order to help digital natives bridge the gap between their out-of-school literacy and in-school literacy. The work employed multimodality as the main thread for the research design, data collection, and data analysis. Central to multimodality, the idea of design proposed by the New London Group was adopted as the design principle. The participants were 33 students enrolled in an introductory course about technology integration in 21st-century education in an American university in 2014. In response to the New London Group’s idea of design, the participants used available technological resources and personal experiences as Available Designs in the process of Designing instructional materials. Their reflections on Designing were posted in multimodal personal blogs. The final instructional materials were the Redesigned available for other educators. Data included the participants’ instructional materials, reflections and comments on personal blogs, photo-elicitation interviews, and the instructor’s observation notes. The data demonstrated the participants’ growth in their awareness and skills in technology use for educational purposes. Instead of using basic features of popular software programs, the participants were able to use a wide variety of technology tools to construct personal understanding. Their experiences in this learning environment helped them become more active and comfortable with employing new technologies in academic contexts. Beyond the changes in their awareness, skills, and attitudes, the participants constructed various I-positions. These I-positions not only helped the participants develop a deeper understanding of themselves within the local communities to which they belonged, but also connected them with global communities where individuals shared the same passions in technology integration in education. The participants exhibited resistance to this technology-enhanced, multimodal, dialogical learning environment at the beginning, but later they agreed that it was a valuable challenge that helped them grow as 21st-century global citizens.