CCCC: Confronting Digital Literacy Myths in Theory and Practice

Fri 2 CCCC

Confronting Digital Literacy Myths in Theory and Practice

Don Jones, U of Hartford (CT), “The Digital Literacy Debate: From Technological Determinism to Student Agency”

Printing press
All of these were seen as a threat to print literacy.

Hard to hear. No one wants to use the microphone. The a/c is very loud.

Many students recognize there is a brand new truth. I’ve asked students to write short responses to technology.
One student says she is skimming and skimping on her ability to improve her literacy.
Depth and breadth of student responses.

Pay attention to the conceptualization of literacy and technology.

Polemics -> like sex, they sell, exaggerated claims catch attention. Students react to strong arguments, but they also get tired of it. Misrepresentation and framework of discussion.

Lindsay created PowerPoint slides: short life, Kindle and eReaders
She says PP is a quick way to get your point across. Gives numbers. Graphs. Paper is more convincing. PP limits what I can say and forces me to use pictures rather than words.

Pair of students (Aaron and Ashley) altered assignments: Used an IM exchange they made while writing the paper. Analyzed what was different between the IM version and the paper version.
Argued that he used more planning while IMing. He said that he is doing something with IM that isn’t being recognized.

Another student used Facebook Bumperstickers.
Disappointment! (old fashioned teacher with a bunch of students) no print literacy
Evil! (Apple’s icon) statement about trendiness
Put through a good discussion of digital literacy, trashing digital literacy using digital literacy

“With this amazing access to information, we have to take responsibility for our actions.” –student Dan

Get students to engage in the issue and find their own answers.
They can reject polemical arguments. Can overcome technological determinism. Can learn to use digital literacy more deliberately and more responsibly.

Kelly Bradbury, College of Staten Island, NY, “Myths of Decline and Ignorance: Engaging Writing Pedagogy and Popular Views of Digital Literacy”

Talking about it from perspective with master’s level students.

Rhetoric of digital literacy
Accusations of anti-intellectualism
The Dumbest Generation, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, etc.
Technology positioned as an obstacle to literacy.
Importance of using and critiquing technology… still shapes students’ attitudes.
May support a myth of decline in literacy, when ignoring increase in digital literacy.

Discussions of digital literacy.
Student assignments aimed at:
What is the story we are being told by Am pop cul about the role of tech in lit ed and practices?
What are the consequences of this narrative for writing teachers, students, and ed?
What can we as teachers learn from understanding our own individual dig lit?

National Digital Literacy Narrative = sum of stories of relationship between literacy and technology created by American public
Focus on popular rather than academic examples. “explain how Americans understand technology” –Cynthia Selfe
Naming it allowed synthesis of research. Lent to our discussion the impression that stories are widespread and impacting.

1. Compose a personal digital literacy narrative. (significant event or moment with tech)
2. Research the National Digital Literacy Narrative:
find a pubic article or book (week 5)
find a popular media source (week 8—advertising, etc)
Found these in and posted them in Google Docs.
3. Weeks 11-13 Collaboratively compose a digital media text reflecting the National Digital Literacy Narrative
4. Revise the personal digital literary narrative in light of what they have learned this semester.

Dispersed throughout the semester to frame the discussion.
Theories of composition, audience, discourse communities, etc. was throughout the course. Then the four points framed the discussion.
Most of these 20 folks were planning on teaching high school student.

We agreed that we learned a lot about the NDLN and how it impacts theories of rhetoric.
Fear was a major component of the NDLN.

Overcoming Fear: one student’s journey
An avid believer in nature and reading, her image was flipping a book under a tree. She was apprehensive, routinely mentioned her fear of loss of print literacy. Skeptical reaction to receiving an e-reader.
May have been incited by Frontline’s Digital Nation. Viewing highlighted positive views, but also showed a lot about how young people use tech and lose concentration skills which lead to disjointed writing.
4th week 2 NCTE readings and chapter of Richard Miller’s Writing at the End of the World and an article on digital literacy
Does teaching students to read technology make any difference?
5th week only students supporting were pros and cons
“10 Reading Revolutions before E-Books” by Tim Carmody
8th week chose a comic
“My teacher isn’t qualified to teach spelling! She spells U y-o-u. She spells BRB as r-e-t-u-r-n. She spells BFN g-o-o-d-b-y-e…”

One group created a PSA on why we shouldn’t be afraid of technology. Theirs was five students reading Othello in different media, then each student said “No Fear!” The final picture was of all five students under a blossoming tree reading Othello.

“This class inspired me to put down my opposition… but to see if …” digital literacy could be used well to present literacy in general.

Anna said, at the end of the semester, it was “a fear of the unknown.” Technology is only technology. We are still the people using it. It is in our hands. Thus Anna challenged the idea that technology has the power.

Lessons learned:
The message of the media is complex, over-simplified, constantly evolving
Media said instructors must teach 21st literacy skills to students whose use gives them a prior experience/belief.

Michael Harker, Georgia State University
Kate Comer, Barry University, Miami Shores, FL
“The Pedagogy of the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives: Literacy Sponsorship in Action”

Handing out bookmarks from the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives,

Michael Harker:
Academic view and popular view of literacy are different.
Situating literacy in a local context to be investigated as pointing to something else and looking at literacy as a thing itself is a strong tension.
Our attempts to gain a better understanding of the pedagogy of the DALN.

How are teacher-researchers using the DALN

What is it: national archive of autobiographical narratives of how they learned to read and write, how that continues, and can be tagged. “historical record of the literacy practices and values of contributors, as those practices and values change”

How do I use it: the new literacy studies, attitudes and definitions
UG seminar in introduction to composition
Use Norton Anthology and the DALN. I get to the DALN through literacy studies. It is an overarching approach to understanding literacy, usually interdisciplinary and qualitative and quantitative. Understanding of literacies is primarily ideological.

Teach students of connection of attitudes they have and the definitions they have.
Autonomous conceptions of literacy: stable definition, not being connected to social context
Ideological understandings of literacy: defines literacy in multiple contexts, presupposes social construction
One of my aims is to teach the students that in large part the definition of literacy they hold can limit or delimit the opportunities in the classroom.

Literacy sponsorship and literacy myths -> comes from new literacy studies
Sponsorship= support or deny and gain power from it in some way, abiding belief in literacy as leading to economic improvement (is one example)

Showed video by Grace Brown from DALN
“especially in taking a class about composition and rhetoric… I have learned a lot about the stereotypes of literacy… I had the right teachers. I had small classrooms. … All the things that stereotypically are seen as sponsors of our literacy… I internalized all of these things and they became inhibitors. I became obsessed with grades. … I had to be perfect. I still have those tendencies… because of the pressure, these things that are wonderful and were meant to aid in my education… ended up being inhibitors of my literacy. …”

enthusiasm for DALN
but despite my enthusiasm, Grace gets literacy sponsorship in a way that I am trying to teach…
so often when I am teaching, the host of the language is owned as vocabulary and as a way to discuss
He says that Grace Brown shows that she understands literacy sponsorship. (However, he says it is a sophisticated response and I am not sure it was.)

Kate Comer:
I was research assistant the first year.
We targeted the deaf and hard of hearing.
Want to show one clip that really stood out and became instrumental in my teaching.

“Personally, I don’t want to be able to hear. … That’s okay, right? … I was given the gift of deafness. … You all have not given me the access to literacy.”
Really? A deaf person can’t be literate and it is the hearing people’s choice.

Exigency and angles…
Increase their reach. Asked my students to study rhetorical narrative and used narrative theory. Then I asked them to write to influence how their audience would perceive their presentations.
“Public audiences” but they knew that we (as researchers and teachers) were their audience.
Thought about the site as a dialogue. For me, it became a tool that I could use to get my students to think about literacy and audience and…

Michael: Became curious on how colleagues are using DALN?
1. What are the defining characteristics of DALN pedagogy? (organic)
2. What latent attitudes about literacy inform DALN pedagogy? (what presuppositions? What underlying beliefs?)
3. What assignments do instructors design to introduce students to the DALN?
4. What are some “best practices” for employing the DALN in the classroom?

3 sections in the survey
Context: do you use it, in what courses, What role did the DALN play in the course?
Assignment: Please describe, learning objectives, how did they fit into overall course design
Evaluation: How would you evaluate usefulness, How did students respond, How likely to use it again

DALN contacts, so Selfe and Ulman (Ohio State U) gave them contact lists
Various listservs, including
Writing Program Administrators
And another that was at OSU

Report results at CCCC
Then write it up for general distribution.

Opening Results:
71 respondents
21 actually used in class
8 were thinking about using it

Fyc 50%
Digital media studies
Intro to rhetoric
Adv comp
Other= disabilities, pedagogy, basic writing, various special topics

Were using it primarily for readings.
Supplementary readings.

Secondary use: research database

Tertiary use: teachers did not require, but often students published on the site.

Using the site to evaluate…

Wide variety in DALN used:
Minieyes—used to represent
For creating literacy narratives
To get students to reflect on technologies
To be a gateway activity, to get to know each other
Some surprising: business writing courses (helped develop promotional work)
Training videos for new GA/TAs (to learn more about student body)

What were your learning outcomes:
Wordcloud -> dtata, understanding, learn, primary, media, research, goal, based, digital literacies,

Affordances and constraints:
70% said they would use it again in same way in same class
40% said they would use it in another class in another way
Great way to break the ice in class.

Primary constraint was experience:
Keywords change for every video. Challenging for students to find videos they wanted. (gender, women, female, etc)
Would changing the interface fix the problem? It was built on an archive system.

Research and relationships
Ethics and representation
IF we are asking the students to use these as data, what kind of relationship are you promoting if they don’t support and add to the DALN?
How can we make sure the research is ethical and contributes?

The thing-ness of the DALN… it is its own thing. It’s an archive. They have to be able to understand intellectual property rights. They have to understand multimodal composition. To use media and to use editing software.

Promising directions for the DALN:
Create exhibits on topics (might be promising for students)

How to define DALN
How to define literacy
How to define digital literacy

I’m wondering if you see the National Literacy narrative discussions, do they have an effect on the students? Do they respond negatively?
–I can see that at the undergraduate level.
–A way to get students to think on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge