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"Playing for Real": Six Adolescent Girls in an After-School Program

Wessler, Sarah Alyson

This ethnography is an account of six Latina youth participating in an all-girls after-school program in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. The program, Girls Now, was designed to "help adolescent girls overcome the barriers of urban life and poverty" by providing them with a safe space and educational workshops. One component of the program integrated online digital badge software, Play Now, to implement curriculum and enhance learning. I conducted fieldwork from September 2011 - June 2013 in varying capacities linked directly to the after-school program and the digital badge game. In this ethnography I address the behavior change goals of the game (and broader nonprofit program) and compare them with the real-world realities of the game functionality. Through interactional analysis (IA) of how the girls used the software, including conversations, actions, produced artifacts, and improvised playful practices, I create a clearer understanding of how they shared information, navigated their social worlds, maintained friendships, and educated themselves and each other, in creative and unexpected ways.

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Academic Units
Anthropology and Education
Thesis Advisors
Varenne, Herve
Degree
Ph.D., Teachers College
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