The use of mobile devices for learning has led to an increased number of textbooks and reading materials being published in digital format. Specific digital literacies are required to take advantage of these digital texts, and students need to acquire these literacies if they are to read and learn efficiently. Teachers need to assist their students in reading with digital devices. However, research on supporting reading comprehension with mobile devices is still limited. This thesis addresses a gap in the field by identifying cognitive and metacognitive foreign language (FL) reading strategies that students employ when using tablets, and how digital features may support FL reading comprehension.
Students learning Spanish at two educational institutions in Denmark (n=12) participated in this longitudinal qualitative study. The digital texts employed in the study were designed to model reading strategies by embedding prompts in the texts using features of the iBook Author application on the iPad. These prompts, which appear alongside the text for students using the iBooks app, provide opportunities to learn and practice reading strategies. Data collection was via students’ logs (records of their use of reading strategies with the iPads over three weeks), semi-structured interviews and a researcher’s log. Coding was conducted through thematic analysis. The findings indicate that students used a variety of metacognitive and cognitive reading strategies. Students engaged in higher-order thinking skills by following the scaffolds provided and benefitting from some of the iPads’ features.
In conclusion, provided that the student is active in the reading process and is using appropriate strategies, he or she will be able to construct meaning from the digital text. FL reading is a skill that needs to be adapted for the use of mobile technology. This research suggests that, when employed effectively, the applications available on tablets can provide scaffolds for the reading process.
This thesis contributes to knowledge by: 1) applying a language learning strategy (LLS) model to mobile technology; 2) applying metacognition in the context of reading electronic books with mobile devices; 3) addressing controversies in the field of digital reading; 4) proposing guidelines for designing digital textbooks, and 5) developing a research instrument for reading strategy research.