Identity is Something We Do

I’m not sure if it’s me, the reading I’ve been doing or some combination of the two, but I feel more afraid of bringing technology into the classroom than when we started a few weeks ago. There are so many ways to go wrong, and my confidence has plummeted. Hawisher and Selfe’s assertion that “We also fail, as we deny the value of these new literacies, to recognize ourselves as illiterate” in some spheres. And in this intellectual arrogance, we neglect to open ourselves to learning new literacies that could teach us more about human discursive practices” (36) really resonated with me. I’m illiterate and my hopes of catching on and up seem futile considering the short lifespan of technology and invisibility of students’ digital literacies.

Am I the only one that feels this way here? I’m a little older than Brittany (Hawisher and Selfe), but my digital literacy narrative isn’t all that different from hers. Somehow those few years made a seemingly incredible difference in the sophistication of her computer use compared to mine. Brittany, and several of the other students cited in the study, were immersed in technology and it was clear that there was a great deal of learning going on outside of school. Professor Ching commented last week that learning is fun, and I think that’s more than evident here. It’s school that’s not fun. (Rick Evan’s “Schooled Literacy” is a great article outlining how school can negatively affects students’ literacy practices).

How do we capitalize on all this “fun” without ruining it? More importantly, why aren’t we? Fear – fear of the technology itself, fear that we ourselves are illiterate, and a fear of our students as experts. I don’t think any of us want to be end up like Barbara at Ridgeview described in Chapter 2 “Wired Bodies in a Wireless Classroom” in New Literacies, who compares herself to a younger teacher that had successfully incorporated technology in her classroom by saying, “ I mean…for Kristin it’s not a problem. For me it’s a problem. But she’s…she’s in her 20’s, I’m in my 40’s. That’s the difference” (38).  My hope is that just because we don’t ourselves understand doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. I don’t want subscribe to the “Lead Pencil Club” (a group opposed to computers and convinced the old ways are better) described in Dennis Baron’s “From Pencils to Pixels: The Stages of Literacy Technology” either. Regardless of how young and with it we might be right now, or how apt we are with technology use, the distance between our digital identities and our students will continue to grow as we age because digital literacies have lifespans too (Haswisher and Selfe).

Video games are completely absent from digital literacy narrative. I’ve never really played them, and I don’t want to. The idea of being a “gamer” is very much connected to a person’s identity. I have a self-described “Gamer” in one of my classes right now. Being a “gamer” is not different from being a “blogger,” a “coder,” or a “hacker”; these things that we do become a part of our identity and allow us to identify with others. Identity is something we do. (Buckingham) And I don’t do any of those things. I am blogging right now, but I am not a blogger.

So if I have such a hard time identifying with some of my students online identities, what can I do? My approach here is to try and understand these types of identities and literacies and think of them in the context Michael Smith and Jeffrey Wilhelm presented in their book “Reading Don’t Fix No Chevy”: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men. They suggest that “video games can be a useful guide, or heuristic, for us as teachers.” (51) Thinking about students experience with video games and other outside literary practices they do, online or off, can help us think about how to increase student motivation. Smith and Wilhelm suggest we start thinking about the types of experiences we want to create in our classrooms rather than what we need to prepare them for. I can get into that – understanding how students engage with technology and trying to create similar experiences in the classroom. There seems to be a little more permanence there.

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2 comments on “Identity is Something We Do

  1. I’m with you! Except I’m a few years younger than Brittany, so I had a lot of contact with technology. As we get further along, I realize how little I’m using any technology in my class. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe because I don’t want to take the time to figure it out or I don’t know how to integrate into my class. A lot of it also has to do with the room I was assigned. I have one of those TVs, but it would be so nice if I had a projector. But at the same time I feel like I’m making a lot of excuses. I do want to teach students what they need to know for the world, and “new media” literacies has a lot to do with that, so I need to get it together! Luckily, the Writing New Media book has some great practical activities to use.

    On a side note, I think you did really well with this post. It was a good length, and you connected all of your sources well. I liked it!

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