As I complete Week One of ILT5340, one particular theme continues to emerge through the reading and participation in the various activities embedded throughout the course. This is the idea of community. While I have been steeped in research about digital storytelling and my own practice in this area has intuitively led me in this direction, the idea of situating learning and understanding within a community continues to repeat itself and I continue to be fascinated by how this happens and what creates the culture in which it happens with such fluidity in cyberspace. When I first dabbled on the internet, it was 1993 or 1994. I had young children at home and a newly found AOL account--very expensive dial-up. I joined AOL specifically because it had a very active homeschool forum which was connecting homeschooling mothers together. I quickly found a group and we started sharing information and learning about each other. Twenty years later, I still enjoy close relationships with members of that group even though most of us are well past homeschooling our children who are now grown and have children of their own. I quickly became literate in new technology which I now cannot imagine living without. Though most of the people in this course will never know the unique sound of a modem connecting through a phone line and the expense of paying by the minute for a dial up internet connection!
C.S. Lewis wrote, "We read to know that we are not alone." While reading is one piece of literacy, the key to his observation is the relational element of reading another's writing and responding to it in an interpersonal or intrapersonal way. As the authors of Chapter 1 state, "Hence, there is no reading or writing in any meaningful sense of each term outside social practices" (p. 2). We don't create an experience which is fundamentally social in isolation. Instead, we create shared experience-or an experience which we hope will be shared. While I am still attempting to understand Gee's definitions of discourses, which I am finding a little convoluted, it seems to me that the essential understanding of literacy is to be able to use multiple levels of many different types of literacy and to identify "literacies as social practices is necessarily to see them as involving socially recognized ways of doing things" (p.4). This implies more than reading, comprehending, and writing--the traditional definitions of literacy. It implies an application which includes interacting and understanding relational activities.
As a secondary piece of research this week, I explored a chapter authored by Alan Davis and Daniel Weinshenker, “Digital Storytelling and Authoring Identiy.” One of the themes of this particular chapter, in fact the stated purpose is to explore “how the processes of authoring these stories and their distribution to audiences become a resource in the authoring of identity and changing the relationship of author and audience” (p. 1). The interesting elements of the Davis & Weinshenker explore are specifically around memory, creating identity and understanding ourselves through our own narratives and through the understanding of others. Essentially, we solidify our identities when we tell our stories. In my current research this extends not only to identify formation, but identity re-formation as when we work with students to understand themselves in different ways, we may be able to help them re-frame their stories in more positives ways. For example a student who has created a negative identify and who believes that he is a “loser” may be able to reframe that narrative and create an identity which allows him to understand that the situation of his earlier experiences make him a ‘survivor’ or even a “thriver” with the re-telling of the story.
The work this week has allowed me to dig a little more deeply into ideas of identity, belonging, community and how digital narratives can contribute to those far beyond more simplistic ideas of literacy. For example, how literate are we if we can read, comprehend and express ourselves but have no ability to relate to what we read, comprehend or write to the discourse around us? Again, I am still grappling with this idea of discourse and working my way through a better understanding of that—but it seems that this work is so highly relationship oriented and situated in a social context that literacy simply must be understood in an expanded dimension given the multiplicity of ways it is expressed across many mediums.
Davis, A., & Weinshenker, D. (n.d.). Digital Storytelling and Authoring Identity. Constructing the Self in a Digital World, 47-74. doi:10.1017/cbo9781139027656.005
Lankshear, C. (2007). Sampling the "new" in New Literacies. In M. Knoebel (Ed.), A New Literacies Sampler (pp. 1-24). New York, NY: Peter Lang.