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ERIC Number: ED557879
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 258
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3037-9881-8
"I Wanna Text, Too!" Examining How Low-Literate Adults Use New Communication Technologies and Applications
Hamilton Cobb, Fredessa Denise
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, North Carolina State University
We hear or read the following phrases often: "Everybody spends so much time on their smartphones that they never look up." "Just send me an email and we'll work out the scheduling." "You'll find all the job application materials on our website, where you can submit your application online." However, adults with low literacy skills, who represent more than 30 million Americans (Kutner, Greenberg, Jin, Boyle, Hsu, Dunleavy, & White, 2007), have not been able to take full advantage of any of these options, and without the ability to read and write, they are unable to utilize communication technologies and applications that others take for granted. The issue is not that these adults choose not to use these applications. In the words of one adult literacy student observed in 2007 as she watched two younger GED students texting with the greatest of ease, "I wanna do what they're doing. I wanna text, too!" As more daily functions move toward text-based electronic communication, reading literacy becomes even more important for adults who are non-readers or who exhibit low literacy levels. Important questions must be raised regarding how this group of adults uses cell phones, whether they can communicate in an increasingly text-based society, and if they can successfully move toward electronic commerce, online employment application processes, and information seeking via the Internet. This qualitative ethnography uses the analytical principles and tools of grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967, 1994) to look at the extent of use of communication technologies and applications, such as those listed above, among low-literate adult learners. I conducted the study while serving as a literacy tutor for adult literacy programs in two community colleges in the southeastern U.S. I collected data from interviews, participant-observations, post-interview field notes and other sources to provide detailed descriptions of the behaviors discovered in this interdisciplinary study encompassing the disciplines of communication and adult learning, two fields with separate theoretical legacies. The study addresses questions such as how low-literate adults learn to use communication technologies while integrating them into their lives, what reasons they provide for desiring to learn them, and the challenges and obstacles they face while learning technology. The research reveals that low-literate adults enrolled in adult basic education classes significantly underutilize new communication technologies outside of class. They are also not sufficiently exposed to this technology within their classes. This group of learners relies heavily on traditional media, specifically radio and television, for information and entertainment, but rarely for education; they learn of 21st century communication technologies from these media or from friends and relatives. The core concept of this research is the finding that low literate adults rely on others to access technologies for them, and do not find themselves in situations or environments where others can take the time required to help them master these technologies to a level that meets the learners' satisfaction. The study also indicates the need for even more research to better understand current uses, and also to work at introducing new and emerging communication technologies among these adults. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Two Year Colleges; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Adult Basic Education; Adult Education; Elementary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A