Inspired by the author's personal experience of learning English in rural China, this study explores the complexity of beyond-classroom learning environments where rural Chinese girls learn English as a foreign language (EFL) with digital resources. It documents how two teenagers became entangled with many human and nonhuman bodies in online EFL learning activities, including storybook reading, vocabulary learning, movie clip dubbing, digital storytelling and other school-related academic tasks during the Covid-19 lockdown period in China. Building on theories of multimodality, multilinguality and materiality, this research views digital literacies in English language learning as dynamic and rhizomatic processes. A sociomaterial approach is adopted to examine language and literacy learning environments as suffused with a myriad of vital materials that have their own "thing-power" (Bennett, 2010). In other words, nonhuman materials (e.g., digital tools, apps, textbooks, pens, artefacts, buildings, modes, spaces, time) are considered to be active agents operating alongside the children and other social actors in co-constructing language and literacy practices. Educational contexts are, therefore, conceptualized as affective intensities emerging in ongoing "intra-actions" (Barad, 2007) among sociomaterial bodies. In keeping with this stance, this post-qualitative study does not—at least tries not to—rely on positivist techniques or methods. Rather, data is co-produced and analyzed within a research assemblage constituted by theories, data, fieldwork, technologies, research participants, teachers, the researcher, research tools, etc. Fieldwork approaches include video/voice recording, photographing, writing fieldnotes and collecting artefacts. By "thinking with theory" (Jackson & Mazzei, 2012) and working with a post-qualitative ethnography, the relational and becoming nature of children's language and literacy practices are attended to in this study. Human exceptionality is disrupted as the focus shifts from exploring the end products of English language and digital literacy production to examining how multiple participants were drawn into a non-linear process of making meaning and constructing knowledge.
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Thesis advisor: Dagenais, Diane
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