Reading about the various methods of identity construction people use has been perplexing. I have a tendency to try and directly apply what the theory we are studying to a hypothetical classroom, and it was initially difficult to see the specifics of how knowing students’ histories will change the types of assignments I would give or the teaching approach I would take; how would I move beyond the problem of just having students type a five paragraph essay on Moby Dick on a computer instead and declaring them to have technological literacy.
I’m not sure I have a good answer yet. But to start, although this may be too simplistic, I see identity and literacy issues as fodder for the types of class discussions about situatedness that we have read about from many different theorists. I used to see my own reading and writing practices apolitical and closed for debate. I never used to think that my appreciation of classical Western literature was informed by any specific value system; Shakespeare was simply what I should be studying; Watchmen was just for fun. But graduate school has forced me to change my world view and start looking at the ways everything I do carries some sort of loaded meaning, and our job as teachers may be to get students to understand this. This brings students personal histories into the mix, and technology is an increasingly important part of most students’ personal histories.
Learning to see this way is It seems like demonstrating how these experiences are value-laden is the window into using students’ understandings of technology and identity. I may be speculating wildly here, but it seems likely that until they are questioned about it, many people may not see technology use as something that carries “values” with it. Knowing how to appropriately respond to your friend’s Facebook status and embed videos in the comment sections of blog posts doesn’t seem like it has any relation to a debate on health care reform. But examining how you respond to your friends, what kinds of videos you post, and how your economic, social, and historical situatedness has allowed you to do engage in those activities can make connections in ways that our students may not have seen before. And it is seeing literacy as Gail Hawisher and Cynthia Selfe define it, something where “the practices involved in reading, writing, and exchanging information in online environments, as well as the values associated with such practices–cultural, social, political, and educational” are relevant, that can help us to use this.
A recent New York Times article touched briefly some of these new values, many of which we have brought up in our own class discussions. As the personal technological literacy histories we read this week have shown us, people who have grown up surrounded by technology may take their access to it for granted, while those who have not may see it more vividly as a kind of gatekeeping entity, granting and denying access. This provides a perspective that I, for instance, was not conscious of while I was learning to use a computer so I could download pictures of the Millenium Falcon.
And further, those groupings offer traction for students to question their relationships to entities like the university. Cynthia Selfe’s “Students Who Teach Us” chapter in Writing New Media mentions Freire’s notion of “teacher-students with students-teachers,” which carries with it packed ideas of decentering power in the classroom. Technological literacy, when students may know more than we do, not only upsets the “traditional” teacher-student power relationship, it demonstrates how much power this previously ignored knowledge can have. I am not sure how well personal tech histories would work as assignments in an undergraduate writing classroom, but as we have discussed in class, it may be a way to introduce students to these difficult concepts.
I appreciate what bonnetj and Lothlorien have said about how to actually use these technologies in the classroom. As I mentioned, my slightly conservative tendencies make me bristle at the thought of trying to evaluate a purely-visual composition with other standard essays, but I like the idea of using electronic, hypertextual resources that still require writing. It might not be a world-upending revolution, but it offers a way to see how identities can be used in a practical way.