One of our goals in this class with critical digital literacies is “[…] concerned with teaching learners to identify and work within understandings of the relations between language and power,” along with moving “[…] beyond seeing digital literacy as technology tools” and begin “[…] making digital literacies a central (rather than ancillary component) of the curriculum” (Avila & Pandya 222).
We have expressed in class that we want to use the technology that is available to our students to create change in the classroom and in the community. As Antero Garcia mentions, we want to help our students “through humanistic practices of critical literacies that extend beyond the ELA classroom, the walls of the socially sequestered school space, and into the liberatory and pragmatically relevant realm of the civic” (121), and we can do this with the technology in our classroom.
However, as we eventually make our way into our future classrooms, or return to our present classrooms, how do we continue to strive to ensure that we are putting digital literacies front and center in our curriculum when technology isn’t always present in our classrooms? How are we going to teach critical digital literacies and social engagement if we are in a classroom that is under-resourced like the alternative high school in chapter 8, or when we are limited by unreliable technology? How will you be able to work around the limitations of your environment to engage students in critical digital literacies?
Good question and post. I look forward to the responses.
Wow this is a tough question. In the past when I taught CO150 in Clark A basement (and if any of you know the struggle, the technology in that part of the building sometimes works and sometimes doesn't), I occasionally had to get creative about how I used digital tools. For example, sometimes the internet just wouldn't work, so I learned to always make sure that if there was something I wanted to show them (like a video clip), I had it downloaded to my computer. That way, I could still show them and I wasn't reliant on the unreliable internet. However, this kind of workaround is really only useful for direct instruction technology. If we want our students to have the technology in their hands, that gets a little more complicated. I would say that if your school doesn't have funding for digital tools, it might be worth it to try and get a grant or some other outside funding. I know that Antero has done some of that. Obviously, there would be things you would need to consider and work through--and it's not a simple process--but we need to be advocates for our students.
I have heard many of the horror stories of basement Clark A and the infamous technological dead-zone. Every time someone in E 607A talks about that room, I get visions of an eerie crypt complete with ominous fog as a classroom, where no technology can work "so you can't call out."
But, I digress. I think that you are right when we need to be advocates for our students. I think that grant writing is definitely an option worth exploring no matter the class we might be in. My philosophy is that if someone is willing to give me money I don't necessarily have to pay back, then I will ask for it. Grant writing is something I hope to learn to do fairly well while in grad school so that I can at least attempt it for my future class that might not have decent technology.
Thinking about Antero's high school class, and Cindy and Antero's summer project, something as simple as iPods--or at least could be labeled as "simple" by today's technology standards--can be an effective tool to provide to a class that is lacking in sufficient technology. Also, I like what Lindsey has posted in which she explains that there is a high probability that most of the students in class will have a phone capable of at the very least taking pictures.
Maybe it is also up to us as educators to be an innovative as the technology is in the sense that we will have to be continuous out-of-the-box thinkers when we find ourselves in positions in which we are lacking in a particular resource. Perhaps shrugging our shoulders is not an option, and instead, as you have stated, becoming advocates for our students in the way of thinking how we can work around those obstacles.
So one of the things that popped into my head when reading this question is the idea of mulltimodal. A great book by Jason Palmeri, called Remixing Composition looks at digital composition, and explains that it is just a 'remix' on old ideas about multimodal composition. Of course, digital critical literacies involves the aspects of interrogating digital media or digital compositions...but does that necessarily have to come from the internet? What about studying commercials, or magazine ads? Most of these types of things are composed digitally, and therefore can technically be veiwed as digital media (in my opinion). The digital composition piece would have to be differentiated of course - creating storyboards, collages, art pieces etc all involve some of the same components we might think of when composing digitally - we just don't get to use all those 'cool tools' that are out there. Palmeri examines all the ways in which we compose non-alphabetically, and I think the cross over to what we do online is just as great when done offline - it takes the same creativity and approach to a different kind of composition.
Newspapers, of course, and magazines (though I know print magazines may be limited compared to what may have been available in decades past) give way to viewing those same social issues that we can easily access on the internet, and we can still critically engage with our communities and/or social issues by using print media.
I think, ultimately, the idea is the same - we want our students to critically engage with the world, address dominant power structures, and be able to put their own voices in the mix - and i think this can be attained through traditional materials as well, so long as our students understand the concepts they are learning with traditional materials apply to digital materials as well.
As these questions have been spinning round-and-round in my head, I keep coming back to the thought- can we engage students in critical digital literacies if no 'digital' part exists? My head keeps telling me no. But I think that’s okay. Throughout reading that last paragraph, it was as though you were talking about my summer.
This summer I was able to teach in China for about a month at a well-known university there. The amount of learning I had there, surpassed anything I could have imagined, from teaching, to learning extremely broken Chinese to cultural differences, which were only made aware to me when I was in that context. That being said, even though I was at a “Harvard” of China -- it did not have the resources that Harvard here would have.
Going into class every morning, I would arrive before most other teachers, so that I could make sure that the computers were still working. Yes, still working. The sheer lack of technology amazed me for the reputation that this school had, yet I still had to and wanted to encourage students to think more critically. The way in which I tried/did this was through class discussions, initially with small groups and then to the whole class, since most students were shy or lacked confidence in their English speaking skills. One discussion that sticks out in my mind, that I was talking with Devyn about last week, was the discussion of different types of romantic relationships that one could have. Pushing my students to think about why they believe something then to questioning where these reasons are valid enough was how I decided to start to get them to think critically. Keeping in mind that the context of this situation was China, there were hardly any options to continue this discussion via an online platform outside of class (since the resources inside of class were practically useless). I think taking those initial steps with students is the way one can begin to start with critical literacies. And although we didn’t have a digital medium to do this over, or continue with, taking those first steps of critical literacies was the only real option I had.
It sounds like you have great pedagogy and really care about your students and their success. I'd be very interested in hearing about your experience in China. Not a lot of people have been there or understand their culture. Nice response and I look forward to hearing from you in class.
I think that it's great that you were able to have this awesome teaching opportunity. I'm not going to hide it and say that I'm jealous of you, and those who were able to leave the states and teach in a different culture/location. It's on my bucket list.
I also think that you bring up an interesting point and that is when you absolutely find yourself in a situation like yours in which the technology just isn't there--I've heard that because of China's communist culture, and large population, the Internet is all but useless--you still attempt to teach some important parts of what we're learning. Though you were unable to teach the digital aspect of digital critical literacies, you were at least teaching the critical part with the hopes that these skills could be transferable to the moments in which they might be using digital tools.
If you found yourself in a situation like that again, whether in China, a different country, or here in the USA, what would you do different in that situation?
Kathleen, I think you did a fantastic engaging students in those critical literacy skills that are so important. It is incredibly important that our students have access to technology; however, critical digital literacy is not just about learning how to use a tool. It is about using that tool to enhance learning and question dominant narrative. You were able to help your students to think about and question such discourses even though you did not have the technology. We just have to get creative and not give up. Knowing all we know after taking this class, it is our responsibility to try something, right!
Kathleen, I hope you'll expand your experience more in discussion! I'd love to hear about what you were able to accomplish!
Class discussions can be so powerful and so enlightening, as we get to know our students better and start to understand them better.
I think the reality of having no access tot he digital is a very real circumstance we still face. If we do not advocate for change will it still happen? With technology overtaking the world, will all school eventually have access to the digital? How long will it take?
I know you don't have the answers, Kathleen, but sometimes I wonder if something like that will just happen; we will wake up one day and everyone will have technology? What does education look like when everyone has access to not only digital resources, but the BEST digital resources? What would have been your next step, or your alternative lesson if you had more digital/technology access?
"How will you be able to work around the limitations of your environment to engage students in critical digital literacies?"
That is a great question, but one I'm not sure has an answer. Are the ways of rectifying this situation beyond an educator's control? It seems like the solution involves a complete revamping of the current curriculum, not to mention more money to go into funding educational resources. It's sad that not every student has access even to a library, perhaps due to transportation issues or other responsibilities outside of school.
This is a random shot in the dark, but how much can be accomplished with just one computer, with the screen projected onto the wall so everyone in the class can see, just like Cindy does it in our class? Is it feasible to ask students to use the available technologies they do have, and make accommodations for the students without?
That a good question, and one I am not certain I can answer. I know I have a class in the basement of Eddy that provides three views of the media on the walls, so you can see it wherever you are sitting. Granite, this is the only class I've ever had this, but it has got to be hard to be able make accommodations if your school does not have good technology and you depend on technology to get through your lessons.
I think that this is a great example of how to work within a limited classroom. I agree that a school that lacks some fundamental resources like a library is doing a level of disservice to the students, and I think that your "shot in the dark" is feasible to have students work with the technology they have available to them. This reminds me of chapter six in our book in which Antero used iPods. Though he had a grant to gain access to the iPods, the same could be done with the cell phones that students might have. They could pair up, so that those who don't have cell phones could work with those who do.
I can say that I am in the process of implementing more digital technology in the classroom, and once I have one job and am strictly devoted to teaching, I will look at the multiple ways I can use digital technology. I have learned a lot so far about digital literacy and media that I never even thought of or imagined. There are many things out there for teachers to use, but again we talk about the issues of some schools or students who may not have technology at home.
Working at a residential treatment center and not having any technology was tough, but I guess I also grew up in an era where email accounts were around, but teaching consisted of the teacher and an overhead to use. Everything was turned in by hard copy, and technology was not an issue back then, or even when I first stepped into the classroom 8 years ago. Now, many people and the younger generations cannot live without it, but saying that, how would one teach if they did not have technology and had to go back to the old school projectors? Internet goes out all the time, but do teachers have back up plans, and how do you keep kids engaged if they are used to technology and digital media?
My mom who is a principal in South Dakota has to deal with a lot of students who live on a reservation, and many of them do not have technology. It seems if lower performing schools, schools that are in lower income neighborhoods, or schools with other problems are not getting the same resources as the other schools in the same town, we have a huge problem. Equal access and resources need to be looked at by the districts, and the state and local officials who have something to do with Education.
I agree that there shouldn't be these large disparities of resources between school districts, especially those that might be in close proximity to each other. It is disappointing to hear how those that live on reservations are still being discriminated against in the guise of public education and there lack of resources. This seems like one of many groups that need digital critical literacies, but even more so, it seems as if this group are a prime example of needing to have at least critical literacies taught to them, and showing them how the lack of resources that they have available to them says something about how the dominate discourse views them as a whole. Though the digital aspect might not be there, there is still room for the critical part of literacy.
Seth, you bring up some really good points. I feel like technology can became a crutch for many of us. I'm trying not to get comfortable with the access to technology I have as a teacher at CSU because I know I will not probably have these luxuries when I teach high school in a few years. Technology is so important for our students, and I will do everything to try to make sure my students have access. However, I absolutely need to know how to teach them these critical skills even if I don't have that access. I feel like we can prepare to a certain point. For the most part, we will have to figure it out as we go and with each new learning environment.
That was me, not Seth ^
I wanted to get a statistic that touched on this concept of access to digital technologies, and found this from Pew: As of January 2014, 90% of American adults own a cell phone...
When we think about how to implement digital literacies, even outside of the technology oasis some students can participate it, we have to consider that in 2015, a large majority of the population has access to some form of communicative technology (via a mobile device). While we can't conclude all of those are smart (internet assistive) phones, but I would safely presume that most of these devices have a camera at the very least, lending the user space for documentation. In a classroom without technology, educating around the simple importance of capturing and telling a story of merit could become a stepping stone for students to then seek out the means to publicize those. Empowering the voices of students to utilize the spaces they already actively engage in as a platform for creating digital literacies. When the tools are absent in the classroom, the focus I think must shift to managing the resources that are present, and that is generating interest in acquiring and using the power of knowledge and voice.
I think that is a great point. It does seem more and more likely that students will have some form of technology that can be used to teach digital literacies just like you've mentioned with the camera on a phone. I think that your example of digital storytelling through photographs is still a great way to teach digital literacies. Thinking about my book club book, Disconnected, and the Social Praxis book we are reading, there is a space to teach digital critical literacies to have students reconstruct the dominant social narrative simply by taking pictures with their phone.
Also, there is a space to talk about what privacy looks like for other when we talk Snapchat pictures, or simply pictures, of other in the world and post it online. What "story" are we telling about these individuals who might not want to have their "story" told by us, and what dominate discourses do we uphold when we do this?
Technology might be basic sometimes in our classroom, but there is a good chance that at least some, if not all, of the students are familiar with this digital practices in which we can critically discuss them.
Honestly, wouldn't we look at our phones as the FIRST place we construct digital literacies? Simply ask a room full of students if they have ever composed a text message and I imagine a room of people who could say yes. What about here? This would present a great opportunity to discuss the perils of word choice and misunderstanding--or meaning, tone, etc. Wouldn't instruction in this domain at least in some way get students thinking about what words they use to communicate? Seems like this could equally be pursued.
The idea of digital storytelling via a cell phone camera could also be stretched to video making: PSA, mini-documentaries. What if students explored their neighborhoods through this project.
One think I heard this morning during a PLC meeting at school was a woman sharing her ideas surrounding the "single story." Often times we can make assumptions about students (and subsequent lack of technology or connectedness) by imposing "our" stories onto them. In this regard, thinking technology in the classroom is limited to the advanced forms of technologies we are familiar with in our own story--computer, smart boards, document cameras, etc., we can sometimes limit our creative opportunity to integrate the technology that IS available. In the 21st century, in this country, one would be operating in a vacuum not to have some form of access to some mode of technologically enhanced interface. #phonesdomanythings
You guys are right. There has to be a common ground somewhere. I'm so glad you made this point and looked up this statistic, Lindsey. At this day and age, there are things we can make work. Likely, our student will have cell phones or something, and we can work with that.
Although my district has not only encouraged but trained me to use technology as a daily part of my lessons, I struggle with the the fact that I have some great digital tools, but my students don’t always have access. I tend to use a mixture of student talk, mini-lessons, projects, writing writing , and more writing in my classes. These experiences and activities can be done individually and in small and large groups, collaboratively or independently, or they can be done digitally or in real life, in real time. I like what Gee said, “”Digital Media should extend, supplement, complement, or augment deep real-world experience and interactions…Digital Media are not ends in themselves. They are best when they can extend us." What do you think?
What did this training look like? I am curious because my own course at CSU about technology was a total flop and I would even go as far to say it was a waste of time....Will I get another chance to have technology training, and if so, what does it typically look like?
I am part of a cohort called DIP...I think it is Digital Innovators Pathways, and for the most part the training has been very good. PSD has an excellent IT department. I have also created relationships with some of the IT trainers who come to my school to work with me and my students on projects ( involving fun apps) or on learning how to use bigger more complicated tools.
I definitely agree with you. I think we as teachers should be very intentional about what digital tools/media we use in the classroom and critically examine why we use them. I think the danger is that we just use technology because it's cool and it's new, but we don't think about why using it is better than traditional tools. I agree with Gee in that it needs to be more transformative if we are going to use it, otherwise it ends up being a lot of hassle for not much gain. I also struggle with the reality of access, so it was good to see how you are trying to go about tackling that issue.
I could not agree more! I think your point directly ties to what Gee concludes with that humans are smartest when they use tools. The digital tools we use in our classrooms can promote student's learning in different ways, even though they might not always have access outside of the classroom. That being said, in your classes, when you are using technology, you are able to provide them with the knowledge and digital skills they will need, when they do have access to technology.
Although this may be a bit grim, I have a feeling that someone will always be left out of access to proper technology. What I mean by this is that technology is always growing, evolving and it continues to progress and seemingly become "better." Therefore, the better or best technology might always be too expensive for certain districts or households. But I truly commend Kelsey with her point of needing to be an advocate for our students. Grant writing or other means to demand proper equipment for our students is a great way to counter that harsh possibility.
JANE*** not James, sorry!
Here's what I was just thinking about with James (25 minutes before class):
I think sometimes we lump electronics and technology together. They definitely go hand-in-hand AND I know we are talking about digital practices in this course, which means electronics BUT I seem to recall a school project at one of the Quest 2 Learn schools that really only dealt with hands-on projects. In these projects, students were given a group of tools or items to make something and this supported a lot of the connected learning principles we have discussed thus far.
Maybe it can be "back-up" activity or maybe you can really focus on doing something like this, but ultimately it promotes the foundations for connected learning which happens to be a large part of digital learning.
They need those foundations in order to get to that next step of critical digital literacies. Is this making sense?
And I know we cannot simply rely on those sorts of projects only, so [insert comment about advocating for our students' learning here].
I think that you bring up a great point about what technology might be defined as in the classroom. Though it might not incorporate a fancy touch screen, there are still many different modes of technology in the classroom (like Seth had mentioned with the overhead projector, and Kelsey mentioned in her Clark A basement room) that maybe we could teach critical literacies that could also be later transferable to technology (which is something I commented on Kathleen's post) that does have a fancy touch screen and Internet access.
We've discussed the importance of learning how to use digital tools because the "real world" expects basic efficiency when it comes to jobs and communication with a supervisor, but if students lack access to those tools, is it realistic that they might be more inclined to seek alternative career paths? If some students can't afford the technology, is it realistic to expect that they might go to college, where they will need a certain level of technological knowledge?
Is the point learning the technologies, or rather being able to critically engage with them, and the world on a larger scale? Is it about not taking things at their face value, but rather learning to question and push back against what we consume every day? Critical literacy (digital or not) is really wanting citizens/students to engage actively in their surroundings, whether that means thinking about a problem in the workplace and trying to solve it through new ways of thinking, or reaching out to a community issue and trying to take a new perspective on it, or simply walking down the street and having a greater respect and engagement with your surroundings...thinking about the world through new perspective to undercut the dominant powers...not passively consuming what is being offered
It makes sense.
This week, one of my students mentioned--while reading my feedback--"I have hard time reading your handwriting." I carefully mentioned back to her, "reading various forms of writing is a skill worth having."
Maintaining the balance in a classroom between the digital and analog world is still a necessary component of a well-structured classroom. If we were to depend completely and solely on digital media for information and understanding, I fear we may be setting students up for a future in which they are at a disadvantage to disaggregate and distill information from non-digital texts, making them LESS if not critically ILLITERATE. #keepthebalance