Date of Award

Fall 12-12-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Brendan Calandra, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Laurie Dias, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Kathryn Kozaitis, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Mary Shoffner, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

Carol Winkler, Ph.D.


Technology literacy is the latest achievement benchmark for 8th grade public school students under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Although necessary for contemporary academic and professional success (Selfe, 1999; Pearson & Young, 2002), this benchmark is at odds with the legacy and current state of social inequities within American public education, as all students have not been provided with equal opportunities for engaging and safe learning environments (Kozol, 1991; Darling-Hammond, 2006)—much less technology enabled ones. The purpose of this qualitative study was to design culturally informed technology activities for urban middle school students in the Computer Assisted Debate (CAD) after school program and then observe the consequences of these activities within the community. The guiding research questions are: (1) What occurs in a CAD program community when an ethnographic approach to instructional design is implemented? (2) What is the impact of the culturally informed technology activities on the students and faculty within the CAD program community? Taking an ethnographic approach to instructional design, the researcher observed and participated in CAD after-school sessions at one urban middle school for 7 months. Data sources for the study included field notes, student artifacts, student and faculty interviews, and surveys. Evidence regarding their existing technology literacy knowledge base revealed varying levels of skills among the debate students, and that students themselves may not be able to calibrate what they know versus what they do not. Findings also revealed that the introduction of the activities influenced student participants’ technology literacy by allowing them to demonstrate web-based research skills. Other emergent topics regarding impact of the activities included classroom management, faculty curriculum materials, and visual instruction. Among other recommendations, the researcher found that activities should be designed to elicit a high level of student engagement and motivation, which tend to be unique for distinct student groups. The research findings contribute to scholarly literature regarding (1) developing innovative educational technology strategies to help urban kids learn and (2) instructional strategies within urban debate. Future studies should more closely examine consistent technology supported instruction over time and within urban debate, and debate faculty experiences regarding teaching with technology.


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