Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Empowering English Language Learners through Digital Literacies: Research, Complexities, and Implications

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Abstract:  In the context of an increasingly global society and rapidly changing technology, English Language Learners (ELLs) need support to develop digital literacies to prepare for a future in which learning new technology is an intuitive process. In the past few decades, technological advances have been shifting how information is produced, communicated, and interpreted. The Internet and digital environments have afforded a broader range of opportunities for literacy practices to take place. Technology has transformed the social practices and definitions of literacy, which leads to transformative implications for the teaching and learning environments facing ELLs. Despite immigrants’ attraction to the US, the tension between the public school system and emergent bilingual students has garnered broad attention. There is a need for a more appropriate teaching pedagogy that embraces the cultural identities of ELLs, and empowers ELLs as critical consumers and producers of information. Though complex, the authors advocate for examining this issue using an asset perspective rather than a deficit lens. Using the sociocultural perspective of learning and critical theory, this paper aims to define and conceptualize ELL learning, establish a shared vision of digital literacies, and review the literature on how practices of digital literacies empower ELLs to become active learners. In the final section, implications and future research directions are articulated in order to move the digital literacy field forward.

Keywords:  critical theory; digital divide; digital literacies; English language learners



© Chang Yuan, Lili Wang, Jessica Eagle. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.