Digital biliteracy: Digital technologies as homes for Arab immigrant children's biliteracy development

Laila Z Al-Salmi, University of Texas at El Paso


The revolution of digital technologies and children's increasing access to them is impacting the literacy development of children around the world. However, few studies have investigated the relationship between digital technologies and immigrant children's biliteracy development. The purpose of this study was to understand the digital literacy practices of Arab pre-kindergarten children and how these shape biliteracy development in Arabic and English. Tomake sense of the emergent biliteracy of these young participants, the study proposed Digital Biliteracy, a theoretical framework that draws on elements of New Literacy Studies, Multimodal Literacies, Digital Literacies and Situated Learning Theory. The study employed a qualitative case study design to interrogate the role of digital technologies in the experiences of immigrant children learning Arabic and English at home and at school in Southwest Texas. Data included participant observations with five case study children in the family home, weekly classroom observations, interviews with parents and teachers, and children´s written artifacts. These rich sources of data allowed for in-depth examination of children's emerging digital biliteracy. The research questions that I pursued in this study addressed the use of digital technologies in relation to literacy development in two languages. The questions also addressed the use of available digital technologies and their role in young children's literacy development, language appropriation and autonomy that the Arab children developed as they become more confident and skilled users. Through participant observation, interviews, and document collection, I analyzed how participants used digital technologies to learn a new language, and maintain their first language and home culture. I was also able to examine how participants appropriated digital literacy practices in ways that fostered transnational affiliations by maintaining prominent social conventions and sharing memories, events, and greetings, with extended family members in their countries of origin. The study provides evidence for the importance of children's participation in social conventions including participation in transnational digital environments to maintain family ties and social relationships in the home country. The children's participation in transnational digital environments helped them develop digital biliteracy. The findings of this study show that digital biliteracy, in turn, have helped Arab parents and children negotiate, form, maintain, and transform how they see themselves and how they want to be seen as Arab children/parents. Through the use of digital technologies, case study children recognized and began to practice literate conventions in both languages. Implications for theory, practice (for teachers and parents) and further research are discussed.

Subject Area

Islamic Studies|Early childhood education|Educational technology

Recommended Citation

Al-Salmi, Laila Z, "Digital biliteracy: Digital technologies as homes for Arab immigrant children's biliteracy development" (2014). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3682448.