Monash University
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Young people’s use of new media through communities of practice

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posted on 2017-02-23, 03:20 authored by Ismail, Nurzali
This thesis explores how young people use new media in and out of school, in the Malaysian context, through communities of practice (COPs). A case study approach was used to investigate young people’s digital practices in and out of school. This includes the relationships that are established between the contexts of in and out of school, and the identity formation that young people experience as they use new media in their everyday lives. In an attempt to unravel the complexity surrounding young people’s use of new media in and out of school, this study captures insights from different groups of participants including the students, their peers, family members, as well as other individuals who use new media with them such as school leaders and teachers. Despite the Malaysian government’s continuous efforts to integrate technologies such as computers and the internet into teaching and learning, this study investigates why young people’s use of new media in schools remains limited. The study found that teachers’ attitudes and knowledge of new media influence the way digital technologies are integrated in the classroom. For this reason, it is essential to provide teachers with continuous professional development opportunities in order to ensure that their knowledge and skills in the use of new media are up-to-date and relevant in the constantly changing digital world. It is also important for the policy makers to reform the existing curriculum and, for educators to change their pedagogical approaches from teacher-centred classroom strategies to learner-centred approaches, for teachers and students to be able to fully optimise the potential of new media in teaching and learning. Out of school, I found that the student participants’ use of new media is generally richer, more varied and more frequent compared with their usage in school. The student participants generally have more frequent access to new media out of school as they engage in different practices such as playing computer games and using social media for an extended period of time. Even though the study found that the importance of the student participants’ use of new media is often disregarded by their teachers, it revealed that they not only use digital technologies for leisure, but they also use these technologies to serve other important purposes including communication and socialising to meet personal needs, and to support their learning through communities of practice. Through using the critical lens of Wenger’s (1998) ‘communities of practice’ (COPs) as a theoretical frame, I found that there is a huge difference in terms of access to new media in school in comparison with out of school, as well as differences in the way new media is used. There is a relationship established between in and out of school contexts regarding student participants’ use of digital media. This relationship is established through the use of digital technologies that are considered as boundary objects and through brokering, as the student participants share their knowledge and, influence practices based on the new media experiences they gain from their participation in COPs. Relationships are also established across the boundaries of in and out of school through similar new media practices involving the student participants. The findings from this study reaffirm Wenger’s (1998) conception of identity, as the student participants’ active participation in new media based communities, in and out of school, leads to the formation of their identities. For example, some students see themselves as ‘geeks’ and ‘experts’ in new media, as they frequently engage in practices such as gaming, downloading applications, music and videos and using social media. More importantly, it is through their active participation in shared new media practices, in and out of school, that student participants develop an understanding of the important roles of digital media in their everyday lives.


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Principal supervisor

Michael Henderson

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Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Education

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