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.