Document Type


Publication Date



Information literacy, Computer-assisted instruction, Digital divide -- United States -- Case studies


Access to everyday activities has increasingly moved online, which increases the risk of continued marginalization for those lacking access and digital knowledge. Our research focuses on the digital literacy acquisition of underserved individuals such as immigrants, refugees, and individuals with limited English proficiency. In this paper, we examine a subset of data from a three-year mixed methods study on the digital literacy acquisition process of vulnerable adult learners within a self-paced, tutor-facilitated learning environment. Learners used an online learning platform designed for adult learners and available in Spanish and English. Learning took place in computer labs in six geographic regions within the United States and was supported by community tutors. We asked, what is the experience of Spanish speaking learners using the self-paced, tutor-facilitated learning environment for digital literacy acquisition? The data corpus includes interview transcripts and the findings are based on a grounded theory analysis of interviews of the Spanish speaking learners and tutors working in Spanish dominant learning environments. Data analysis indicated that individuals’ work in the digital literacy program supported English language learning as well as content learning. We identified tensions between the tutors’ desire to support content learning using first language skills and learner desire to build facility in English skills while learning content. Choice of language in which to learn was impacted by tutor preference and bias along with learner linguistic abilities and desire to develop English skills. We also found that language choice for learning was impacted by the learners’ comfort and facility in higher registers of Spanish. We argue that language should be used as a resource rather than being seen as a deficit and that tutors should be coached in the nuances of language choice when working with English Language Learners.


Presented in April 2015 at the International Linguistics Association Conference (ILA). New York, New York.

The PowerPoint presentation is available below in the Additional Files section below

Persistent Identifier

ILA Presentation with voiceover.pdf (3481 kB)
PowerPoint Presentation