English Ph.D. Dissertations


Digital Literacy and Composing Practices of Second Language Students: A Student Perspective on Writing, Technology, and Privilege

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Kristine Blair (Committee Co-Chair)

Second Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Committee Co-Chair)

Third Advisor

Tracy Huziak-Clark (Other)

Fourth Advisor

Sheri Wells-Jensen (Committee Member)


Although a substantial body of research exists with respect to the digital literacy practices of the “traditional” American college student, research relevant to the English Language Learner (ELL) population in American institutions of higher education has not developed as extensive a corpus. Some, like Aisha Walker and Goodith White, advocate for greater integration of digital tools in ELL instruction, but only look to convince instructors to consider new methods. Others, Bruce Horner, Cynthia L. Selfe, and Tim Lockridge, call for more acceptance of non-standard communication practices, but focus more on institutional pushback to change. Still others, like Dana R. Ferris, take a more traditional approach and advocate for strict adherence to grammar instruction. Those researchers who advocate for greater use of digital instruction and communication often do not consider the student perspectives on digital literacy, multimodal composing practices, or the technological preferences of ELLs. This study aims to address this gap by seeking to better understand how ELLs use and interact with technology to help them write, and to explore how the digital literacy preferences of ELLs influence their understanding and use of multimodal composing practices. The ultimate goal of this project is to help those instructors who work with ELLs better understand the needs of this student population. I attempt to address this goal by introducing student voices into the conversation surrounding their digital literacy practices through the collection and analysis of survey and interview data.