Emergent Bilinguals' Engagement in an Online Mathematics Course Utilizing an Intelligent Tutoring System

Julian Viera, University of Texas at El Paso


Students in today’s digital world draw from multiple sources of information, hypertext, videos, educational software, social media, and video games to create a multimodal learning environment (Luke, 2005). In 1994, Griffiths, et al. (1994) found that the impact of information technology on oppressed cultures hampered their education when the technology was not available in their native language and culture. Students from countries that did not have the resources to develop software in their native language felt that their language and culture did not relate to the modern world. When these students arrived in the United States and found technology in English, they felt their native language was of lesser importance. Emergent bilinguals feel that educational software belongs to another culture and does not allow them to be agents in their learning. However, when they see their language embedded in the software, they engage with the software significantly more (Griffiths, 1994). Gilster (1997) defined digital literacy as “the ability to access networked computer resources and use them” (p. xii). In more recent studies digital literacy has been defined as the practice of communicating, linking, and being involved in creating new ways of mixing multimedia tools to accomplish meaning making (Jones & Hafner, 2012). Emergent bilinguals mediate the use of online translators and the translating capabilities of an intelligent tutoring system for meaning making of the English register they encounter with the software. They search for culturally relevant videos and tutorial to create a cognitive connection between the mathematical topics and their native language. This study utilized Activity Theory to explicate the complex digital practices of emergent bilinguals while engaged in an online mathematics course. This mixed methods study was conducted over four semesters at a university on the U.S.-Mexico border. Data collected from demographic survey, class forum questions, daily logs with snapshots, two self-efficacy surveys, and email as well as face-to-face interviews, was analyzed through a constant comparison method. Two tensions emerged from the findings, the importance of learning English and encountering unfamiliar Spanish dialects or translations. The results of this study demonstrated that emergent bilinguals mediated several forms of translators and culturally relevant videos for meaning making and to make cognitive connections with the topics in an online mathematics course. They further developed agency in creating an equitable educational digital space where they developed mathematical biliteracy.

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Bilingual education|English as a Second Language|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Viera, Julian, "Emergent Bilinguals' Engagement in an Online Mathematics Course Utilizing an Intelligent Tutoring System" (2017). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10285366.