Identity and Technology

In the research article “Becoming Literate in the Information Age” Gail Hawisher and Cynthia Selfe identify how and why people in the United States acquired and developed the literacies of technology between the years of 1978- 2003. From the research, specific themes emerged. Literacies have life spans; they accumulate and change when a culture is undergoing transition. In times of cultural flux, social systems, institutions, socioeconomic status, and access shape the acquisition and development of literacies. Despite what many people may believe, schools are not the sole source, but education, family and home, community and public access, and work place literacy requirements, training, and expectations are also contributors of technology and digital literacy.

In the article “Introducing Identity” David Buckingham provides approaches to understanding identity and its correlation with youth, digital media, and learning. Identity, a relationship with a broader collective or social group of some kind that an individual identifies with, is fluid and negotiable. During the stage(s) of adolescence, individuals go through a critical period of experimentation with different potential identities: social identities, group identities, self-reflection, and self-realization. According to Buckingham, social actions during this time are a performance, which is relevant to the ways in which young people construct their identities. It is important for adolescents to use technology because it provides multiple opportunities and facets to explore, express, and discover their true self that may be confined by adults and or previously denied or stigmatized in other spaces. For example, many adolescents demonstrate their social identity and interact with their world and community through the use of avatars, email signatures, IM nicknames, personal homepages, and blogs.

The youth of today, to clarify youth with access and privilege to access, are known as digital natives, having grown up with technology. As learners they crave interactivity, value graphics before words, and want options and access to technology. These learners are dissatisfied with old styles of instruction based on exposition and step-by-step logic; their learning can go beyond the teacher-dominated, authoritarian approach of old style education, and can venture into more complex activities and expectations. Many teachers of these students are digital immigrants, adults who came into technology later on life. The article argues that schools have a role to play with their students and technology; not only do they have to address the inequalities in access but these teachers and academic institutions also need to build on the forms of creativity, technology, and resources students use outside of the classroom. It is proven that when teachers use such student centered approaches and technology, students become more inquisitive learners, motivation increases, and new styles of achievement and learning take place.

In the article “ ‘New’ Literacies: Research and Social Practice” Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel explore integration of new literacies in the classroom and how they are beneficial to, as Buckingham terms, the digital natives’ learning and demonstration of knowledge. The ever-evolving technology creates new possibilities of reading and writing and new literacy. These students can use their digital literacy to create fan fiction, manga, weblogs, and chats. These forms are tied with students’ culture and identity and therefore inspire and motivate but also help acquire the English language, collaborate with peers, and experiment with rhetorical audiences and purposes. For example, in the chapter “Online Memes and Affinities, and Cultural Production” the use of the popular cultural memes to display and create knowledge in the classroom is highly effective. Not only are students reading, writing, viewing, but they are also manipulating images and sound, making connections between different ideas, and using words and symbols to convey a commentary about their world and society.

An important note, Walter Ong stressed that high technology cultures require and expect literacy in its natural state of affairs. “The term ‘illiterate’ itself suggests that persons belonging to the class are deviants, defined by something they lack, namely literacy” (Ong 1). People have argued about the pencil, the typewriter, the computer, but the one thing that has been consistent is the need for expression and communication despite the tools used to do so. The students of today need to be literate in digital technology because it is representative of the culture and society we live in, as educators it is our responsibility to provide access to that literacy to create and maintain competent citizens that have options.


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