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Adolescent English language learners' second language literacy engagement in World of Warcraft (WoW)

, University of Florida, United States

University of Florida . Awarded


As noted by researchers (Funk, Hagen, & Schimming, 1999; Squire, 2006; Williams, 2003), many youth today spend more time playing in digital worlds than reading, or watching TV or films. Though many people, parents and teachers, still take video games as mere entertainment, “gaming culture” (Sanford & Madill, 2007) and “game literacy” (Gee, 2007) have been proposed to view gaming as a positive and potential tool in literacy development. With the notion of literacy as reading and writing skills being expanded to multiliteracies (New London Group, 1996) and multimodal literacy (Kress, 2003), studies on gaming in the field of education have been increasing in recent years(e.g.,Compton-Lilly, 2007; Dubbels, 2009; Ferdig, 2007; Squire, 2005; Zhao & Lai, 2009). However, most of the studies are conducted with native English speakers and deal with the features in games that could facilitate learning. What remains to be explored is what adolescent English language learners' (ELLs') online gaming experience is like.

To fill this gap, this qualitative study sought to understand how adolescent ELLs were engaged in second language (L2) literacy practices through a popular massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG), World of Warcraft (WoW). This study triangulated multiple data sources, including interviews, observations, and artifacts. Through an ethnographic multiple case study approach, this study presents a “rich, 'thick' description” (Merriam, 1998, p. 29) of what L2 literacy practices occur in online gamiretang.

A bottom-up perspective on gaming activities, literacy activities, and literacy practices provided the lens through which the nature of the literacy engagement could be viewed in a dynamic way. The study found the participants were involved in a complex process of socializing, information seeking, strategizing, and problem solving concurrently within and around the game. In WoW , the participants' literacy engagement occurred when their excitement and enthusiasm were aroused by the joint functioning of reward, immersion, and immediacy in a multimodal gaming environment replete with scaffolding, interaction and collaboration.


Li, Z. Adolescent English language learners' second language literacy engagement in World of Warcraft (WoW). Ph.D. thesis, University of Florida. Retrieved April 25, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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