This week as we reflect about language and identity, the readings provide food for thought as to how technology as the medium can provide the opportunity for students to reflect their identities and shape different types of conversations that lead to building and sharing understanding.
Students take on many identities on any given day; child, sibling, student, athlete, etc. In all of these situations, a student may transition from their "core identity" to various marginal "identities". In a traditional classroom, however, there are scheduled instances where students are able to express only some of these identities, be it in Gym class, or during a special language arts projects or in the computer classroom. The language use in each situation shapes how identities are expressed. The reciprocal relationship between language and context dictates how identities will be presented and at the same time will define the context. For example, the discourse of the classroom used to be one in which the teacher held a very authoritative role; standing at the front of the room lecturing students and engaging them in "skill and drill" style lesson plans. Students would stifle spontaneity by raising their hand and speaking only when called on. As curriculum changes and new methods and teaching and learning approaches emerge, this dynamic is slowly shifting. With the integration of instructional technologies, students are able to merge social networking forums in an instructional setting, integrating informal and more comfortable spaces of self expression into the formal venues of learning, lessening the threatening atmosphere that may stifle their true self expression.
For instructors, the use of disruptive technologies in the classroom maybe innovative yet uncomfortable, especially if they themselves were exposed to traditional methods of learning. But in the process, instructors become learners. As they discover and familiarize themselves with the language that students use in these cyber arenas of social networking they are exposed to their students various identity facets. Another thing to keep in mind with "language" and "identity" are the disparities that occur among differing cultures. Verbal and non-verbal cues can have drastically different meanings from one culture to the next. The internet has the power to eliminate or serve as a buffer for all those non verbal cues that may lead the conversation elsewhere. However, this filter may also hinder the clarity of identity as the audience may miss inflection and body language that can dictate meaning. This leads to the seven building tasks discussed by Gee. We continually and actively build and rebuild our worlds not just through language but through language used in tandem with actions, interactions, non-linguistic symbol systems, objects, tools, technologies and distinctive ways of thinking, feeling and believing. Connecting to the discussion on Discourse versus discourse, Discourse here includes socially situated identity (whos) and activities (whats). From Gee (p. 27) " If you put language, action, interaction, values, beliefs, symbols, objects, tools and places together in such a way that others recognize you as a particular type of who (identity) engaged in a particular type of what (activity), here-and-now, then you have pulled off a Discourse."
In the past, traditional teacher's identity is as a giver, knowledge-producer, lecturer; student's, of course, is as receiver, knowledge-consumer, and listener. Nowadays, with disruptive technology applied in class with sociocultural environment, teacher needs to have awareness that their identity has to shift to a facilitator, collaborator, or even a learner. For example, when teacher decides to give a lecture with Internet, s/he needs to know s/he is not a central-controller anymore, the learning environment will be flexible and coordinated. Students will have their own "private space", from which they could get information via different mediums, such as Wiki, Google, Twitter, etc. The more understanding of the change of the learning process, value, beliefs, tools, etc., the more clear identity a teacher/student would have. Given this situation, both teacher and students know who they are engaged in what activity. It will facilitate effective and efficient learning.
We also find interesting the notion of how identities do not exist frozen in time, but that they require the context of the activity and other peoples' interpretations before they are truly defined. With this new context of formal merged with informal, the development of disruptive technology leads us to return to an older concept of identity: that of actions and relationships. It may be a new context and a new set of actions, but as both instructors and students adapt to these environments and interactions, our identities are expressed through both language and action.
The McLuhan and Fiore reading, published in 1967, predicted much of our current realities dealing with technology, the media and instruction. They illustrate their message of accessibility of information to the masses in the way they present their book. It has a collages, visuals, art and text displayed in so many different ways as to reach diverse audiences. It is translating language into forms that can be understood by many...challenging the rational linear models of language. Even referring to education then, it reflects the sad reality of today's educational system: "today's television child....is bewildered when he enters the nineteenth century environment that still characterizes the educational establishment where information is scarce but ordered and structured by fragmented, classified patterns, subjects and schedules. It is naturally and environment much like any factory set up with its inventories and assembly lines." Sound familiar? NCLB?
As McLuhan and Fiore explain the medium is the message and how media touches every part of our existence and "leaves no part of us unaffected, unaltered" we need to look at our cultural and social evolution as informed by the media. And of course what is media but the translation and diffusion of language, information. Their book intends to challenge the status quo of westernized linear and perscriptivist manner of defining what is rational and logic by challenging the ongoing principle that logic and rationality depend on sequential flow of connected concepts (as presented through conventional forms of language expression such as writing and speaking). Yet the media brings forth a new form of language expression through multi-sensory devices that expand our perception of the world.
Technology today is taking this to the next level it allows accessibility to the masses to use multi-sensory platforms of self expression. Language is translated into sound, text, art, clothing, food and it becomes a fast paced sometimes illogical "flow of concepts". This colorful diffusion of the many messages allows our multiple identities to come through in various realms. A new world order of shared information, opinions and art is today's legacy. It is getting increasingly difficult to ignore, and as such our individual identities are now much more intertwined.