Access and Audience: Two Things that Made Us Go Hmmmmm

The DLC kicked off our 2013-14 book study series with Because Digital Writing Matters (which is on sale so check it out!).  The NWP authors gave us much to talk about, and we enjoyed an hour on Google Hangout sharing thoughts about our classrooms, our students, and our own lives as digital users.

Our conversation started with a quote from the book:

“Besser (2001) argues that as we look at the content available on the Web, we see that there is a lack of local, contextual, relevant information, especially for underserved populations; that there are literacy barriers, in that  most online content is written by and for people with strong literacy skills” (p. 31).

As teachers in an urban setting, we talk a lot about access to the Internet and technological devices; this quote, however, gave us pause as we considered that those individuals without access – our students – may not even be the intended audience for digital content.  This thought troubled us on many levels, namely in issues of social justice.  Throughout the book we came time and again to two words of importance – collaboration, social.  These words imply that everyone can take part.  But can everyone take part?  Is it just access to the technology of it all that keeps individuals from participating?

Access is complex.  More complex than simply “having,” or “not having.”  The Digital Divide may be as much about prior knowledge as it is about hardware and software, and this focus on building prior knowledge is one we know well as urban educators.

Interestingly, we also responded to this question of “can everyone take part” from the perspective of introverts (which ironically, many of us may claim to be).  Is digital literacy designed for extroverts?  The fear of “going public” became a major theme in our conversation.  Digital tools allow us to make thinking public – and making thinking public is scary, especially when thoughts haven’t been fully realized.  Making writing (in “final” form) public is even scarier because ostensibly, thoughts have been carefully crafted into words.  The Internet invites critique, and it is this critique of self that inspires fear among introverts.

So what to do as teachers of writing and digital literacy?  Though we initially thought that starting small, inside the classroom, and moving to broader audiences may be the way to build confidence among our students and to scaffold them to public thinking, one member of the group turned our conversation on its head and suggested that we flip that line of thinking.  In other words, might not our students be more comfortable with nameless, faceless feedback rather than from feedback from peers that they see daily?

In thinking from the viewpoint of an adolescent (and perhaps an introvert too), we might agree.

Two questions from our conversation hang in the air:  What does access really mean?  and Small to big or flip the scaffold in writing publically?

And these questions will propel us onward with the work of the DLC.   Our next book study will focus on Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms.

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Author: drkhturner

I am a teacher, a learner, and a writer. I am also the mother of twins. My Wordpress blogs allow my students and I to interact outside the walls of our classroom, and in some cases, Wordpress is our classroom space! My personal blog can be found at http://twinlifehavingitall.blogspot.com.

1 thought on “Access and Audience: Two Things that Made Us Go Hmmmmm”

  1. Reflecting upon the issue of access, both to technology and to digital content itself, reinforces my concerns about my students’ ability to participate and compete in college and career settings. I have students that will type entire essays on their cell phones because they don’t have internet connections at home. Others, some of which don’t even have mobile devices, will go to the library or the homes of friends. I admire their commitment and resourcefulness, and at the same time wish I could do something to make their lives easier. (I myself was without a computer in high school just as the typed essay was becoming a requirement. And I remember running to a friend’s house because she had not only a computer but the Internet as well. Whoa that was a big deal!)
    Ideally, all of my students would have computers equipped with internet access at home; but I’ve found that motivated students will find the technology they need–enough of it, at least, to get their essays typed. But that’s not enough anymore. The bigger concern, for me at least, is teaching them how to use technology to enhance their learning, their thinking, their questioning, their writing, and their creating. This has become a new definition of access for me where my students are concerned. It’s one, quite honestly, I never even considered in grad school.
    My takeaways from Because Digital Writing Matters are these:
    1)There are countless benefits to “going digital”. Not only can we use technology to make students more prolific writers, but we can show them how to document their own thinking, learning, and growth through things like blogs and digital portfolios. We can teach them how to network–which is a skill they will almost certainly need in college and in their selected professions.
    2) Showing kids how to use the internet responsibly can keep them for using the internet in ways that can be detrimental in their futures. It’s vital for us to communicate to kids that, for better or for worse, what they make public on the internet, stays on the internet.
    3) Going public is hard. It’s hard for me. I expect it will be hard for them. It will take time, trust, and maybe a gradual-release approach before some students are prepared to share their work. Perhaps the decision about whether to “go public” or keep it in the class is a one we should make together?
    4) This one is more of a question: Digital writing is collaborative, most working environments are collaborative. Yet testing (namely high-stakes state testing) is solitary and independent. Although I think BDWM tries to address this issue, It’s not reconciled for me.

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