Date of Award

Fall 12-12-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

George Pullman

Second Advisor

Michael Harker

Third Advisor

Mary E. Hocks


More rhetorical skills are now required to navigate critically and productively in technological spaces; that means that one must possess a specific type of literacy, called technology competence, which enables one to understand the evolution of technology, the nature and design of technology, and its rhetorical effects on people and society. Initially envisioned as a multi-case study across school districts, this project changed to a single case study pilot project because the COVID-19 pandemic restricted access to classrooms in multiple school districts for observations, thus significantly reducing the sample size in the data set. Through a mixed methods case study of an introductory course in a majority-minority urban high school, this dissertation explored how students’ acquisition of technology competence was supported by the technology curricula offered in high schools and how the rhetoric in this technological space, the introductory course, affected students’ abilities to acquire technological competence that would enable them to extend their knowledge beyond access, to actively producing technology. Data collection included publicly available curricula and syllabi from local school districts, the state’s information technology curriculum, surveys from teachers and students, classroom observations, samples of lesson plans, student work, and interviews with teachers and students. The computer science pathways in the curriculum, spaces in which students could acquire technology literacy and develop technology competence, were severely restricted due to geography and local school zones, the level and quality of the computer science curriculum offered by the school and district, staffing and master scheduling, and teacher effectiveness. These findings indicated a need for a more standardized curriculum and instructional units for one introductory class that feeds multiple information technology pathways or specialized introductory classes for each separate pathway. To promote equity in access to the curriculum for all students, districts and schools should prioritize the state’s computer science curriculum in staffing, scheduling, and funding, to ensure that students in all zoned schools in the district have access to more of the computer science courses in the state’s curriculum.


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