Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Bridget Dalton

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Dutro

Third Advisor

Silvia Noguerón-Liu

Fourth Advisor

Aachey S. Jurow

Fifth Advisor

Bianca Williams


This qualitative, comparative case study explored how fifth-grade students in an urban elementary classroom collaboratively composed multimodal responses to literature through the use of digital devices such as Chromebooks. Over several weeks, students critically read several of Jacqueline Woodson’s books. Then, students collaboratively composed multimodal slide presentations in Google Apps, analyzing literary themes, textual evidence, and personal connections to literature. This study examined two group’s collaborative and multimodal design processes, focusing on students’ positioning, identities, and roles in relation to the tools, project goals, and discourses related to school success and race.

Multimodal analysis yielded four key findings. First, Group 1 collaborated by messin’ with the tools and one another, to negotiate ownership in direct and playful ways throughout the composing process, and Group 2 collaborated by negotiating complimentary roles where they took turns listening to one another and performing different roles, even when they disagreed. Although there was substantial variation in group processes, both groups were successful within the project parameters, suggesting that variation in composing processes can be valuable. Second, students took on new roles that positioned them as successful collaborators, readers, and writers in ways that differed from their classroom identities. However, this sometimes resulted in unequal contributions between group members, with some students having more opportunity to impact the presentation and develop composition and collaboration skills. Third, students negotiated power and control through the use of shared and individual digital devices, suggesting that tools play an important role in collaborative processes. Finally, students in both groups positioned themselves apart from and in relation to the discourses of race present in Woodson’s books. Group 2 compared Woodson’s experiences to their own immigration experiences, while Group 1 distanced themselves from the experiences in the literature. These findings broaden our understanding of how students collaborate as they use digital tools to create multimodal responses to literature, offering new insights about students’ collaborative processes, positioning, and identities in small groups.