Rae Mancilla

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 2014


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Instructional Technology (EdDIT)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Nihat Polat

Committee Member

Laura Mahalingappa

Committee Member

Jason Margolis

Committee Member

Davi Reis

Committee Member

Sandra Quiñones


Echo Smartpen, English Learners, Mobile devices, Sociocultural theory, Vygotsky


The use of mobile devices for supporting the instruction of second language (L2) learners is an emerging and rapidly growing area of inquiry. Previous research on mobile assisted language learning (MALL) has concentrated on the development of isolated linguistic skills through a common set of mobile technologies, such as PDAs and iPods, with limited attention given to alternative mobile devices or situations of L2 learning that require the simultaneous learning of language and academic content (Wu, Jim Wu, Chen, Kao, Lin, & Huang, 2012; Viberg & Grönlund, 2012; 2013). In particular, little is understood about how English Learners (ELs) educated within mainstream classrooms choose to appropriate mobile technologies to meet their learning needs, with respect to both their development linguistically and across academic course disciplines.

To inform this gap in research, this study used a quasi-ethnographic, instrumental case study design to explore how a group of middle school ELs used an understudied mobile device, the Echo Smartpen, to mediate their learning of language skills (e.g., speaking, reading, writing, listening, vocabulary) and of academic content areas (e.g., math, science, social studies). It also sought to examine how the Smartpen could assist ELs' learning processes with respect to individual learner characteristics (e.g., affective, cognitive, metacognitive). To accomplish this purpose, multiple sources of data were collected from seven student participants, their English as a Second Language (ESL) specialist, and primary mainstream teacher. These sources consisted of technologically-mediated digital data, such as the students' digitized notebooks, as well as traditional methods qualitative data collection, including individual and focus group interviews, and learning artifacts. The overall theoretical framework guiding the data analysis was Vygotskian sociocultural theory (SCT), complemented by grounded theory and the constant comparison coding method (Strauss & Corbin, 1990; 1998). Key principles for the analysis were the Vygotskian notions of mediated learning through physical and psychological tool use (Lantolf, 2000).

Findings from this study provide insights about the process of mediated language and content learning with the Smartpen for ELs clustered around three major themes: 1) extended opportunities for language learning through self-constructed artifacts; (2) extended opportunities for content learning through co-constructed artifacts; and (3) extended learning self with the Smartpen. In addition to the main emergent themes, research findings incorporate the participant-based metaphorical concept of time travel as an important sub-thematic element in tracing ELs' use of the Smartpen across temporal and educational contexts (e.g., school and home). Finally, this study concludes with a discussion of theoretical and pedagogical implications for the integration of mobile devices for ELs in mainstream settings, as well as with recommendations for future research deriving from this research.