During the last years, with the emergence of new digital resources and the predominance of socio-literacy practices in online environments, the understanding of traditional digital literacy has shifted. Reinhardt and Thorne (2019) characterize the change in interpretation of L2 digital literacies in connection to their “participatory, multifarious, and informal” features which occur during “reprodusage” (i.e., remix, produce, use) activities in dynamic digital environments (p. 9). Students have many opportunities to develop their digital literacies through their immersion in various unstructured out-of-class activities; however, as suchopportunities are be perceived as “taken-for-granted”, they remain unnoticed. By adapting the stance of analysing the significance of students’ language learning practices beyond the classroom settings, this work is aimed at addressing students’ L2 digital literacies by building on the example of pre-service teachers.
Teaching practices were always closely linked to the concept of digital literacy as language instructors follow their assumptions regarding students’ capabilities for constructing curriculum. However, as classroom time is limited by the constraints of formal sessions, formal pedagogical approaches cannot fully embrace the nature of emergent L2 digital literacies which are emphasized and formed to a greater extent in online informal spaces. The role of digital literacies is particularly augmented in connection to current emergency remote teaching and learning practices occurring worldwide as a response to COVID-19 restrictions.
The exposure to a multitude of digital resources and tools makes digital literacies dynamic as “digital wilds” provide students opportunities to apply their skills in praxis through trial and failure. Among the existing conceptual constructs which might help in discussing complex nature of online digital informal learning practices and their connection to L2 digital literacies, the framework of dynamic systems theory (DST) (Larsen–Freeman, 2019) is proposed to be adapted. The nature of DST theory recognises a plethora of interactions between individual components (i.e., online environment, online users, social context) which cumulatively influence students’ L2 digital literacy while four characteristics of Van Geert's (2008) model appear relevant in understanding the development of communicative competence to navigate in informal digital online learning environments.
The data collection was informed by the qualitative research design procedures consisting of the interviews with 32 pre-service English language teachers, who are pursuing their undergraduate degrees in the higher education institutions of one Central Asian context of Kazakhstan. Following the abovementioned theoretical framework, the paper attempt to describe the reported experience of developing L2 digital literacies in online social contexts as well as to underline possible pedagogical implications by building on the example of one educational system. Finally, the paper sets the purpose of explaining experiential shift from functional to critical digital literacies by building on the experience of undergraduate L2 language learners.